Empower Martial Arts Academy Lincoln Raises £2000 for Charity

Well last weekend was a pretty crazy one with my Empower Martial Arts Academy Lincoln team! A 24 Hour Live Virtual Class – all for charity.

Like many other instructors around the country, and indeed the world, the Covid-19 pandemic hit hard! I was forced to close my academy down in a matter of days and move it online. My system is a kind of mixed martial art style with a lot of close quarter training from my previous experience – something that is hard to do online and shadowing for any prolonged period of time!

I, along with the vast majority of martial arts instructors, had to adapt. We moved all our Empower Martial Arts academy classes online with a full timetable to keep people healthy and active, both physically and mentally! Zoom workouts 3 times a week, kids zoom classes twice a week and adult classes twice a week. As well as pre-recorded classes, family classes and a weekly stretching class by my super talented girlfriend all the way from India who saved my butt by mixing it up a little!

I, and my Empower Martial Arts Academy Lincoln team were in constant communication with all our members who have been amazing supporting us during this difficult time. We found that challenges were a great way to build the community even more, and also keep people motivated in a time where motivation was at an all time low!

We started with a 5000 rep challenge. 10 exercises. 50 reps each, every day for 10 days equaling 5000 reps! After this, we upped it even more to 10,000 reps so doubled the reps each day. We all smashed it and it was time for the next challenge.

This one, we felt, would be nice to do for charity and so I came up with the idea of a 24 hour live martial arts class via Zoom. 24 classes, 24 hours starting at 10am Saturday 18th and finishing Sunday 19th July at 10am. All for the PAPYRUS Charity which supports young people struggling with thoughts of suicide – a cause I know means a lot to quite a few of my members.

Originally, we were going to cycle the lessons between myself and my team, but then the idea hit to include other instructors from around the country. All instructors have had to move their classes online, so why not involve different styles too to keep it fresh?

So I reached out on social media groups asking for anyone that would be willing to give up an hour of their time, and I was overwhelmed with responses. So much so that we had filled all the sociable hour slots in one day. Everything from MMA sessions, to Tai Chi, Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing and Filipino arts.

I was, and am, still so overwhelmed with the level of response and how many people were willing to get on board. The martial arts industry can often be pretty insular, with people thinking the style they practice is the be all and end all. However, a host of amazing instructors came on board more than willing to take part.

What impressed me the most was that a number of instructors actually stayed on to learn other styles, watching, listening and taking part after or before their time slot. An amazing act of humility and something I always stress with my academy – never stop learning and never stop improving.

8 of my students from Empower Martial Arts Academy Lincoln completed the whole 24 hours with high intensity workouts at 2am, knife drills at 5am and all sorts of craziness. Over 30 other students from my school and other schools hopped in and out for varying hours throughout and I am pleased to say that as of 23rd July 2020, we have now raised £2000 for the PAPYRUS Charity.

I want to extend a huge thank you to the instructors and students who took part, as well as everyone that donated for such a worthy cause. I haven’t ached as much as I did on Monday morning for years, but seeing the amount we raised, and getting to experience so many different coaches and styles was more than worth it.

Our Just Giving page is still open until Sunday 26th July if you are able to donate with the link here.

Suck It Up Or Go Home… The toughest martial arts course in the world…

Today I’m writing about Simon Gray’s new book Suck It Up Or Go Home and his time in Senshusei Yoshinkan Aikido course in Japan.

Whenever I write about Aikido, I’m always slightly careful with what I type. For a long time, it was a huge part of my life. I began training at aged 9 and stopped training when I was 23 after achieving my 3rd Degree Black Belt. I spent a month in Australia training full time as a dojosei or live in student and loved it! However, I also cross trained in MMA, combatives, boxing, jiu-jitsu etc and saw some of the shortcomings of Aikido.

In the martial arts world, Aikido is often seen as the weird uncle at a party… and I say that in the most affectionate terms. The uncle who tells you all about his younger days chasing ladies, getting in scraps outside pubs and downing 10 pints… of whiskey…. You like him, he’s nice and there’s nothing wrong with him, but you take what he says with a pinch of salt.

Aikido can be seen as kind of similar nowadays. No doubt, Aikido has it’s place as a martial art, but as a combatives system or self defence system, there are some serious shortcomings – the main one being a lack of pressure testing and sparring. Some, due to this, question to relevance of Aikido nowadays as a practical martial art and I’ve written about this topic here. This is not true in all Aikido schools and I’ve been fortunate enough to train with some incredible instructors who were not only genuinely incredible people to be around, but also knew their stuff!

If you teach Aikido for fitness, health and studying a martial arts and budo, Aikido is a great choice. If you want something fast and effective for self defence, or want to competitively fight, it isn’t for you.

However, someone who has a wealth of experience competitively fighting in Muay Thai, as well as training in BJJ is Simon Gray – the author of Suck It Up Or Go Home.

Simon and I actually met years ago in around 2004 training at the Shudokan Academy in Nottingham and he took his 1st Degree black belt test the year before me! I recently interviewed him about his book and why, after studying Muay Thai and BJJ, he chose to undergo what has been called the hardest martial arts course in the world. You can check the full interview out here.

Simon traveled to Japan to undertake an 11 month course in Yoshinkan Aikido, designed to create black belts and foreign instructors who can spread the Yoshinkan system around the world. 11 months of training 5 days a week and being treated as the lowest of the low in the dojo. Drop out rates are high and only a select few who start the course actually complete it due to injuries and general attrition.

As Aikido is often seen as a soft martial art, it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of this with being labelled one of, if not the, toughest martial arts course in the world.

The course was first bought to the public’s attention through the book Angry White Pyjamas by Robert Twigger. This recounted Rob’s 11 months in the senshusei course taught to the Japanese riot police in the early 1990’s when arguably Yoshinkan Aikido was in it’s prime. The founder, Kancho Gozo Shioda, was still alive and the top and most notable Yoshinkan teachers were all instructors at the Honbu Dojo.

Mike Tyson visits the Yoshinkan Aikido headquarters with Kancho Gozo Shioda.

Although Simon’s book is similar in terms of his journey in the course, it takes a different approach, focusing more on Simon’s ability to suck it up or go home attitude. When thing’s get tough, you either deal with it and carry on, or give in. This, as Simon has said, is something that was instilled in him from the senshusei course, and something he has carried with him after.

Simon sent me a copy of Suck It Up Or Go Home, to have a read of and asked me to write a few words for the start of it, and after reading it in 2 days, I was more than happy to do so. This is a great book and I honestly couldn’t put it down. As a martial arts blog, I’m sure the vast majority of people reading this are martial artists, but I will also say that you don’t have to be a martial artist to enjoy the book. This has something for everyone and the lessons and essence can be applied to anyone regardless of martial arts background or not.

From dealing with the daily struggles of living in Japan, to adjusting to a new way of training as the lowest of the low in the dojo, Simon candidly speaks about his time on the course, doesn’t pull any punches and you can tell he is writing from the heart. He talks about continuing to train in Muay Thai and BJJ while in Japan (even though it was forbidden to train in other styles on the course) and as far as an ambassador for Aikido as an effective martial art, I’d rate Simon pretty highly!

I’d highly recommend Suck It Up Or Go Home to anyone interested in martial arts, and even those with a passing interest in Japanese culture or self development – there’s something in it for everyone.

The book is available on Amazon now in Paperback form and also kindle and you can grab your copy here.

The quick and easy break falling system.

Let’s face it, if you study any form of martial arts, there is an element of break falling involved. Traditional arts place heavy emphasis on the need to break fall such as Aikido or jiu-jitsu, but these principles can just as easily be applied to MMA or Thai Boxing when being swept or taken down.

Break falling is one of the most crucial aspects of martial arts to learn, especially as a beginner for a number of reasons.

Safety first

The first and most important reason to learn how to break fall safely is obviously safety! In most martial arts, traditional or sport based, at some level you will have to learn how to take a fall. This could be from a sweep during sparring in kickboxing, or Muay Thai, to a single or double leg in MMA. From a wrist lock in Aikido, to a hip throw in jiu-jitsu, break falling is a crucial aspect of the martial arts to learn to prevent injury and keep you learning and on the mats.

The idea of the break fall, is to do exactly that – break the fall. We land in such a way as to absorb the impact, reduce damage and prevent any long term injuries. Break falling can start simply – with a simple back fall to protect the head, neck and spine, but quickly progress. At the most advanced levels we have silent break falls or high break falls, gymnastic in approach, but also functional in controlling the impact you receive off the technique or takedown.

Progression

In many martial arts, break falling is crucial in order to feel how the technique is done. Arguably, the best way to understand a technique is to feel it first hand from the coach, sensei, professor etc and if you can fall well and safely, you are more likely to be able safely feel how the technique works.

A single leg takedown can be drilled over and over again, but 1 demonstration of the single leg where you feel how it is meant to be applied is worth 100 drills on your own or with a partner who is also figuring it out.

If you get good and competent at safely falling, your skill level will increase. You’ll be able to feel how the technique works, and you’ll also be able to safely train, meaning less time off the mats for any niggling injuries! Win, win!

Drill development and principles

A lot of the principles found in learning to break fall occur in learning a martial arts. We learn the form, we learn the main points to consider, then we figure out how it fits best for us. I’m of small stature, so my break falls are likely to be quicker and more compact than someone who is 6ft tall and 18 stone. The way we teach the break fall is the same to ensure safety first, but the way it is applied and made your own differs.

The same can be said of martial arts. We teach the jab, the main points, get the range right, rotate the hip and shoulder and retract it with speed. Then we play! We experiment with the angles in light sparring, we try to improve our success rate of hitting it. My jab again, will be different to a jab of a 6ft tall practitioner simply because they have a longer reach! Therefore, we learn and adapt, same as in break falling.

When we figure out these core principles we can develop drills to help with agility, speed, flexibility and cardiovascular and muscular fitness – all important for martial arts.

The Break Falling for Martial Artists video series.

Time for a shameless plug now! As a 3rd degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido, break falling was instilled into me from a young age. Say what you like about the efficacy of Aikido (I may even agree). but one thing they do do well is break falling! This has served me well during my time cross training in other styles both in terms of the practical break falling element, and also the principles it teaches.

I’ve packaged what I’ve learned about break falling into my own course this lockdown! Starting with the simple basics of how to do a simple backfall, then progress to slam backfalls and angled ones, then moving to forward and backward rolls. Then finally flip falls and more gymnastic, but less practical break falling. With this I’ve added some drills and skills you can train yourself, or alternatively use in classes if you instruct kids/adults and want to add some break falling in. The basics, up to advanced, with some drill ideas to implement into your class. Super simple, but also super needed!

I’ll be launching this course at a 50% discount rate at the end of June, so be sure to subscribe to The Martial View to receive this discount if you want to take your martial arts training up a gear, or want another element to add into your classes.

The starter system to building explosive power.

The ability to generate explosive power quickly, and efficiently is arguably one of the most important aspects of the martial arts. From quickly sending out a powerful low leg kick, retracting it and following up, to sending out a mystical chi ball from 10 feet away – explosive power is crucial.

Disclaimer: I’m kidding about the mystical chi ball… Though given current circumstances an social distancing…

Delivering the big knockout punch is ultimately what many martial artists aim for. Whether this is for one hit stopping power for self defence, or K.O power for competition, explosive power is something we all strive for.

But what exactly is it….?

Simply put, it’s exerting more power, in less time. There are some AWESOME examples of this in all martial arts, hard styles and soft. From board breaking (boards… don’t hit back), to kata, all are examples of explosive power.

So how do we build this? Stand under a waterfall? Break chopsticks with your fingers? Grow a white goatee and name yourself Pai-Mei?

All valid and indeed I would encourage this… however there are some other ways too..

Martial Artists aren’t the only ones who need explosive power. Look as baseball players, American footballers, curlers…

Okay, maybe not curlers….

But almost all forms of professional sport require explosive power and there are a number of exercises we can do to build this type of power and improve our ability in any given sport – especially the martial arts.

Top Exercises for building Explosive Power!

The Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebells are awesome for developing raw and functional power. Relatively cheap and easy to transport around, you can get a whole body workout in using just a kettle bell so they come highly recommended on my list of equipment.

To perform the kettlebell snatch, stand feet shoulder width apart, kettlebell on the floor. Squat down to pick it up, ensuring good form. Drive up using the legs and pick the kettlebell up through your centre and extend your arm straight above your head. Then lower the kettlebell down. This is one rep!

The explosiveness from this movement comes from pushing from the ground and extending the arm, using the feet, knees, hips and shoulders especially. A fantastic exercise to work multiple large muscle groups and develop explosive power.

Box Jumps

Another fantastic exercise to really get the legs burning, the cardiovascular system fired up, and a great way to build EXPLOSIVE POWER! Which is something we would all like right?

To perform…. Find a box… Jump on it…. Repeat….

Okay it’s slightly more technical but not much. Awesome for plyometrics and developing fast twitch muscles (crucial for those genuine K.Os, not so much for the no touch…).

Find a raised surface, or a study, preferably weighted down box, the height of which will be dependent on your ability. New people, try a curb or something… athletes… a double decker bus, you get the idea.

Stand shoulder width apart again. Bend the knees and get your body ready for some air time! Swing your arms in the air like you just don’t care, drive up from the floor and (hopefully) launch yourself onto the box. Either you’ll make the jump and if so repeat.

Or you won’t make the jump, so ensure you film it first because that shit goes viral. Then go for a smaller box until you can complete it. Make sure you land softly, bend the knees and keep good form throughout so as to reduce injury.

Plyometric pushups

Ah the good old push up! A great exercise for building multiple muscle groups again, and also one fantastic for building the explosive power we are all looking for.

The focus here is to perform your push up as usual, but really focus on pushing up as hard as you can, like you are pushing the ground away from you as you push your body up. Again, great for developing fast twitch muscles meaning you’ll be faster AND more powerful.

If this is just too easy and you’re too much of a pro for this amateur shit. Add on some clap push ups. Push off the floor, get some air time and clap your hands before you land!

Still too easy?

Double clap push ups! Clap in front of you, then clap behind your head before you land. Requires more air time, therefore more explosive power, therefore more chance of face plant.

Side note – want to be featured in a Martial View video? 100% guarantee of fame if you send me a video of you face planting while double clap push ups.


B

The Burpee

Because no fitness article is complete with a bastard burpee! Hated by many, loved by few, yet kind of usual as well, the burpee can be easily be compared to our current government, yet I digress.

Start standing, crouch down and hop back into a push up position. Perform said push up. Jump forward to a crouch, stand up. Jump in the air. Complete.

Lots of jumping. Lots of plyometrics, lots of cardio, lots of pain, lots of swearing, lots of explosive power.

A workout build around any of these exercises done consistently will build explosive power. Combine it with technique, pad work and bag work and you’re speed and power for martial arts is bound to increase.

Start slow if you’re a beginner and build up. For example

x10 Kettlebell snatch left and right

x10 Box Jumps

x10 Plyometric Push Ups

x10 Burpees

Rest for 1 minute and repeat 5 times, three times per week. As this becomes easier, either increase the reps, increase the sets or decrease the rest time and see your explosive power increase!

The Martial View – Tom Barlow BJJ Interview Part 1

This is one of my favorite interviews I’ve done so far! Got to be honest. Super interesting and great to chat with Tom who is a gent, but arguably one of the best BJJ grapplers in the UK today. He has been way ahead of the curve and has been teaching online for a number of years now, so it was great to talk all things martial arts with Tom!

We hear about Tom’s background and how his eclectic mix of martial arts training eventually led him to brazilian jiu-jitsu. Through training with Erik Paulson, to sparring Ken Shamrock, we hear about Tom’s experience in martial arts in a time when MMA was on the rise.

We speak about some career highlights in competing, travelling for hours to train with Braulio Estima and a hectic schedule in the days when BJJ wasn’t as popular as it is today. We also speak on the coveted Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Tom’s thoughts on the current state of BJJ in the UK and abroad.

The first part in a two part interview, we hope you enjoy as always and subscribe to The Martial View on YouTube to make sure you catch part 2! Also be sure to check out Tom’s BJJ School Escapology BJJ for some training while we’re in lockdown, as well as his academy when we can get back training together!

Are you too old to train? The Mike Tyson comeback…

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

I’m excited. Amid all the doom and gloom of Coronavirus and the fear in the world today, I saw something to potentially get excited about… The return of Mike Tyson to boxing.

That’s right… THE Mike Tyson!

Sure it will be for some exhibition matches raising money for charity, probably for 3 or 4 rounds, but hey! This is exciting stuff and got me thinking…

At what age should you hang up for gloves for good?

Tyson is now 53 years old and has his last fight 15 years ago at age 38. His return to the ring for some will be exciting and even inspirational, yet others, most notably George Foreman, have warned him to stay out the ring and that he has nothing more to prove.

So what do you think? Is there a time when a fighter should just retire, never to step foot in the ring or cage again and when is that time?

I’ve heard a few times martial artists say that the difference between martial arts and combat sports is that combat sports often have a peak. An age where you are as strong, fit and agile as you can possibly be.

After this peak has been reached, there is a steady decline where the body simply cannot take the same amount of punishment as it did before. Skill diminishes therefore retirement happens.

With martial arts however, the peak doesn’t reach as early as skill level increases consistently. A fine example of this would be Dan Inosanto – aged 83 and still hosting seminars around the world (pre-corona) and as skilled and talented as he ever was.

This may be due to a number of reasons:

The punishment the body takes…

Professional fighters put their bodies through so much on a daily basis. From regular hard sparring sessions, to fitness building that takes you to the edge and pushes you both mentally and physically – combat sports are tough man! That’s not even counting the fights themselves! Repeated kicks to the legs, punches to the body and head and general wear and tear take their toll and this for sure is a reason why combat sport competitors reach a peak.

Martial artists on the other hand – by broad stroke and not all, tend to train a little less intensely. Many don’t fight competitively, preferring to train for their own reasons such as fitness, health and personal safety perhaps. When and if they spar, it’s technical sparring which doesn’t kill you at the end and the level of punishment the body takes simply isn’t the same.

The martial art you choose…

Some martial arts are built with health and longevity in mind. If we look at some of the more esoteric martial arts such as Tai Chi or even some forms of Aikido (I know, I trained Aikido), the movements are more flowing and graceful. Many cite martial arts as a fantastic way to stay healthy, but this really does depend on the martial art you choose!

Enter the shark tank in an MMA gym, have an hour rolling session in BJJ or a hard sparring session and ask yourself at the end if you feel healthy! I’ve even had Aikido sessions where I have thrown up from exertion and the next day every inch of me has been bruised and achy – Thanks Joe Thambu Sensei…

The martial art you choose and it’s main function will often depend if you hit a peak. You don’t see many active 60 year olds in a kickboxing gym, but will see that age practicing Kung Fu or Tai Chi perhaps. Certain martial arts hit a certain demographic and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So to bring it back to the original point… Should there be an age where you can no longer fight competitively?

Are you fighting competitively now and what’s your plan for the future? Will you do a Tyson and fight until you can’t anymore?

Are you getting older now and has your training adapted and changed as a result?

Are you young and simply wanting to just kill someone in training?!

Let me know!

The Martial View – Joe Thambu Shihan Interview Part 2

Joe Thambu Shihan is head of the Aikido Shudokan, based in Melbourne, Australia. The last man ever to be graded to 5th Dan by the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, Shioda Gozo, Joe Sensei is now internationally renowned. He has a dynamic style and some say it has more of a practical flavor than other forms of Aikido in terms of self defence. Thambu Sensei has previously released material on restraint and removal and has real life experience working on the doors of Melbourne. We discuss this in part 2 of the interview and why Aikido is in the state it is currently in.

Part 1 of our interview discussed Joe Sensei’s background and his thoughts on the efficacy of Aikido. This part goes into more detail on this, and Thambu Sensei talks on why Aikido has such as bad reputation. He discusses his teaching style and the future of Aikido. He also discusses his current interview series #keeptheflamealive, where he interviews high ranking martial artists and discusses their training.

An incredibly well respected martial artist, Joe Thambu Sensei is someone I look up to (not physically :P) but in terms of his philosophy on martial arts and also life. He is the epitome of Budo in my opinion and it has been an honor to have him agree to be interviewed for this blog. Osu Sensei.

The Martial View – Joe Thambu Shihan Interview

I was lucky enough to be one of Joe Thambu Sensei’s students while studying Aikido, spending 1 month as a live in student with him at his dojo in Melbourne, Australia.

Joe Sensei began training at aged 11 in his Uncle’s dojo in Malaysia. At an early age he was lucky enough to be exposed to martial arts, and come into contact with high level martial artists such as Donn Draeger. After studying with his uncle, Thamby Rajah, he then moved to Australia and after trying other styles of Aikido and finding they didn’t suit him – he set up the first Yoshinkan school.

In 1993 Joe Sensei tested to 5th Dan under Gozo Shioda Kancho – the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido and was both the youngest non-Japanese to test to that level, and the last to be tested by the Yoshinkan founder.

Now an 8th Dan and head of the Aikido Shudokan. Joe Sensei is know for his speed and dynamic Aikido even at 59 years of age. He talks about his history in Aikido, what a functional martial art really is, and the future of Aikido in the 21st Century and why it has such a bad reputation in some circles.

A man I could spend hours talking to about martial arts (while drinking beer), as I say in the interview, if I lived in Australia and trained with him, I would still be practicing Aikido I think! A man that deserves a huge amount of respect, we are honored to have part one of our interview with Joe Thambu Sensei below.

5 top tips for taking your martial arts business online.

The Covid-19 panic has unfortunately meant that many martial arts instructors around the world have been left in the difficult position of having to close their academies and take our business online.

For some, this is an inconvenience – we’re all martial artists, we want to get to the dojo or academy and we want to train with people and pass on any knowledge we have.

For others however, this is a much more serious problem, as their income and survival depends on their academy and students. For the first time ever, well established and successful martial art schools, through no fault of their own, are facing the possibility of never opening again.

A pretty somber thought right?

We are martial artists however, and when times get tough, we tighten our black belts and solve problems. Determination and success through adversity is what we teach right? Time to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Let’s look at the positives. 10 or even 15 years ago, we would have been in a much more dire situation. Why? Because the technology wasn’t around for us to reach our students from wherever we were. Before the rise in technology which was a comparatively short time ago, if you wanted to train with someone, you had to physically drive, walk or even catch a plane there! Now however, we have this wonderful thing called the internet and wonderful technology that allows us to reach out to our students and provide them with tuition, even in the crazy times we are now facing.

Many martial artists are already doing this, moving their physical academies to online within a matter of days – and that truly is incredible. Some however are still a little reluctant, or even scared to learn this new skill, and yes it is a new skill! Teaching online is most definitely different to teaching in person where the buzz of the class and atmosphere can raise you up and give you that drive.

For those a little bit reluctant, here are 5 simple tips for taking your martial arts business online and making it a success. These tips are based on what I’m doing at my own academy where we are lucky to have a fantastic community. The vast majority of my students have stayed with me during this crisis and are engaging online with us. Yes because our community is strong, but also because we are providing the right content for both now and when we get back training.

Start off simply…

A big mistake I made when we first moved our academy and business online was doing too much, too soon. I wanted to provide everything for my students and was desperate to keep them when the academy closed. After all, this is my job, it’s my passion and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. No students = no academy = no income = no training = no happy Dan. See the progression?

Therefore, I immediately went into overdrive, planning everything from kids activities to last 30 days, to adult 30 day challenges, to social events, to live classes, to pre-recorded material, to Instructor training, to Junior Instructor training, to guest sessions and more. The result? I got a lot of half jobs done and very little full jobs completed.

I realized this, and realized I was burning myself out and couldn’t keep going at this pace for the sake of my health and mental well-being, as well as the quality of the lessons I was teaching. So I looked… What is the main thing I want to achieve here?

I want to keep my students happy, keep them progressing, and keep them training on a regular basis. Right, how do I go about that?

I looked at my timetable while we were at the physical academy – what nights were most popular for adults and kids? Tues and Thurs. Okay, so step 1, let’s put on sessions every week for kids and adults Tues and Thurs, keeping the same times as physical classes.

1 live class each on a Tues, and 1 pre-recorded class each week on a Thursday. This will get people training, get them engaged with us, get them used to moving online and also get me used to teaching online.

Start off simply. Don’t try to do everything. Once the Tues and Thurs were in the diary every week, our students were notified and the classes were planned. Only then did I move onto step 2 – offering more. 1 job at a time and keep it simple.

After our first online workout…

Keep it fun and know your worth

With the current climate as it is, we all need a little bit of light relief and fun in our lives. We wake up, read the news, regret reading the news and then spend the day trying to avoid social media posts about 5G turning us all into mutants because Bill Gates is a reptilian lizard man owned by the super rich 1% who want world domination… or something.

We need to lighten the mood, and your online business and classes can be a great way to do that. Keep things light, keep things fun and realize that you are providing a great service in this time. People are craving some semblance of normality right now. People want to be connected to others and your classes are a way of doing this.

Our kids all got invited to join our online superhero training academy when we closed the physical academy. The world needed them to battle the evil Dr Heisenberg (think I was watching Breaking Bad as I designed it…) but they had to go through the superhero online training first. This consisted of weekly workouts, challenges and jobs around the house. See the angle? Keep it fun and entertaining, the kids loved it.

For those already teaching, how many parents or adult students have messaged you thanking you for doing what you’re doing? Whether this is keeping the kids occupied while they do your classes, to providing some stress relief and fun in your adult sessions.

Know your value and realize you’re doing a great job even moving your business online! Many people and businesses still haven’t and are just waiting for this to blow over…

Plan, plan and…. plan

Plan your classes! Especially as you start out! Even if you have been teaching for 30 years physically, teaching someone online who is on their own is a completely different ballgame. Your energy needs to be THROUGH THE ROOF and you need to over plan! Why? Because you need to account for the fact they won’t necessarily be changing partners!

Some people are lucky enough to live with people they train with, awesome, they can pad feed each other, or work through the drill. What about those that live on their own however, or with people who aren’t interested in training? We need to account for these people too and so we need to over plan. The first few classes, you will think the 45 mins or hour has gone by only to look at the clock and find its 20 minutes into the lesson…. shit! Time to get inventive!

Option 1… Huge magnets….
Option 2…. Online classes!

Plan your classes or workouts and over plan if anything, especially as you get used to the online format.

Also, as a side note – test your live classes before you run them! Our first session I got carried away, forgot to look at my clock and we cut out of a zoom meeting after 40 mins right in the middle of a workout. Oooops. Since then I’ve paid to upgrade so I don’t have to clock watch but it was a lesson learnt.

Mix it up!

Mix it up and keep it fun! Add some new concepts or skills you haven’t looked at in class before. Take the time to investigate areas you don’t usually have time for. Go back to the basics for everyone. This is exactly what we did when we first started our online sessions, we went back to the basics.

This meant not only did I as an instructor get to ease myself into the online format, but the students got to revisit some fundamentals on stance, striking, covering etc that perhaps we hadn’t looked at physically for a while.

For the kids, add games, props and activities both during class and after that they can do. Think of a 30 day challenge they have to complete every day. Use props in classes such as a sword they have to virtually jump, duck and bob and weave out the way of as you slash towards the camera. Keep it engaging and it’s not only fun for you, but fun for the students.

Keep the students guessing and interested and engaged. Have a technical session, then next session have a fitness session, then have a grueling pad work/shadow boxing session, followed by a theory session. Mix it up and engage with your students….

Engage with your students!

See how well that followed on!

We need to engage with our students at this time and make sure they are getting what they need from the classes and the sessions. Do they want more fitness? Do they want more technique? Do they want to see less of your face on camera (It’s was a legitimate request)?

Ask them what works for them and what doesn’t. Some of my students wanted more fitness. So we added 3 half hour workouts into our timetable a week. No we have family members who previously had sat and watched classes, actively involved in the workouts with us and helping the kids with their punches. Therefore, guess what, we’re keeping the online workouts when we get back to physically training in the academy!

We now have a full weekly timetable including intro slots for new members to come in for a private 1-1 session. We run live classes for kids, adults and families as well as 3 workouts a week and a stretching class every Sunday taken by my very talented girlfriend all the way from India! Think outside the box and use your imagination.

To sum up…

These can be really difficult times for a number of reasons, but don’t let your online business and academy be one of them. Keep it simple and built up. Don’t overthink it, just get your students moving and having fun. You are all amazing at that I’m sure, so just translate it to online. Once you’ve got that sorted, think outside the box as to what else you could do at this time. How about social events for the adults who are no longer at work, but are at home with their kids all day? Maybe they need some adult time so suggest a virtual night at the pub for your members! Quizzes, or video challenges work great and really engages people. Think what you would find fun, and do it! Chances are your students will find it fun too.

So go, enjoy and let’s hope it’s not too long before we’re back training at our physical academies but keeping some element of online business maybe! The man to talk to on moving your business online is Matt Chapman and you can see our interview with him on online training here

The Martial View – `MittMaster` Interview

Okay then folks! Here we are, our 2nd official interview since relaunching this blog with the MittMaster himself, Matthew Chapman.

When the Covid-19 reared it’s ugly head, a lot of businesses were caught with their pants down – martial artists included. We were suddenly faced with the prospect of having to close down our physical locations indefinitely!

What to do? There were 2 options. Get online and offer remote training, or wait for it all to blow over and rely on the goodwill of your students to keep paying their fees – not ideal.

Luckily, the majority of people have now moved online – interestingly even some who have previously been so vocal in their disdain for online training! Needs must right?

One man who has been advocating the need for online training for literally YEARS is founder of MittMaster, Matthew Chapman. We’ve reviewed MittMaster products before, and are a big fan and I’ve trained with Matthew a number of times. A completely legit martial artist with fantastic skills and undefeated MMA champ, Matt has now moved his martial arts completely online! He offers training for students and instructors in a number of different areas including:

  • JKD
  • Boxing
  • Kickboxing
  • MMA
  • Self Defence
  • Filipino boxing

He is now helping other instructors get online through his community – Teach Your Passion Online and I know that many instructors, myself included are incredibly thankful for his help and support in this difficult time.

Therefore, who better to talk to about online training and the future of it?

He’s always been a big supporter of the blog and it’s always fantastic to catch up and chat with this man, so thanks Matt and enjoy everyone!