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 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!

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.

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!

`Brutal Bouncer`- The Martial View Interviews Russell Jarmesty!

We’re starting off with a bang for our Martial View videos blogs now. We’ve set up our Martial View YouTube Channel! Have a brand new shiny Facebook page as well as our group and are full steam ahead for some fantastic interviews in the next couple of weeks including Peter Consterdine, Bob Breen, Joe Thambu and Matthew Chapman!

Our first interview since the relaunch is with a man who doesn’t really need an introduction! One of the main men in the self defence scene, a man who honed his skills on the doors of Manchester’s nightclubs. It’s Russell Jarmesty.

Russ began training in Karate when he was younger, before seeking out something that was more functional for him and finding the fantastic Trevor Roberts. After breaking his neck training, his fight career was put to an end, and so he instead tested his skills on Manchester’s doors. 1 year turned to two, which eventually turned into 15 years of experience in real life violence. He now runs Jarmesty Martial Arts Academy, based in Atherton, Manchester, teaching applied martial arts and MMA.

Never one to shy away or speak his mind, Russ is well known in the martial arts industry and in the interview below we discuss the state of martial arts, his history, times on the doors and much much more! When this man speaks on personal safety and self defence, we listen! Enjoy folks and be sure to subscribe to us on YouTube and email as well as giving us a follow on social media!

New Martial Arts YouTube Channel and Interview Time!

I am really excited to be relaunching the martial arts blog in the midst of all this Covid-19 chaos and it’s been great to have support from some fantastic martial artists, instructors and individuals who have agreed to be interviewed by moi! We’ll be posting these interviews on our new YouTube channel – and once things get moving again hopefully doing some home visits, training and video blogs too! So get subscribed to us at The Martial View on YouTube!

This week I’ll be interviewing:

Russell Jarmesty – Jarmesty Martial Arts and Brutal Bouncer
Matthew Chapman – MittMaster
Joe Thambu – Shudokan Aikido Australia.

Their names should be familiar with many, but here is a run down of their martial arts experiences for those that aren’t aware!

Russell Jarmesty

  • Russell was featured on the cover and pages of Martial Arts Illustrated “Self-Defence Special Editions”
  • Winner of numerous awards at the British Martial Arts Awards
  • Interviewed previously for Martial Master Volume 1
  • Inducted into the Martial Arts Illustrated Hall of Fame in 2012, 2013 and 2014 due to his continued work and commitment in the field of martial arts.
  • Worked as a doorman in Greater Manchester for 15 years, which has influenced his training methods incorporating ‘applied’ self-defence into his training syllabus.
  • Has taught in the local area for over 20 years, with over 200 students actively training each week.
  • One of the UK’s most sought after Self-Defence Coaches, looking after many celebrities including the one and only Frank Bruno
  • Holds Dan grades in Karate and Jujutsu
  • Teaches practical applied Jujutsu and street techniques and coaches kickboxing and MMA competitors
  • Teachers include the great Trevor Roberts (8th Dan Hanshi)

Matthew Chapman

  • Training in martial arts over 30 years
  • Undefeated ex-MMA competitor.
  • Experience in JKD, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Ghost among many other systems
  • Coach and author
  • Owner of MittMaster
  • Owner of Teach your Passion Online

Joe Thambu Shihan

  • Began training in 1972 under his Uncle in Yoshinkan Aikido.
  • Studied Kendo, Jodo and Ju-Jitsu before establishing the first Yoshinkan Aikido dojo in Australia.
  • Tested to 5th Degree black belt in 1993 under Soke Shioda Gozo, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, and was the youngest non-Japanese to receive this grade at the time.
  • Worked as a doorman in Melbourne nightclubs for a number of years.
  • In 1997 received the Blitz magazine Hall of Fame Aikido Instructor of the Year award.
  • In 2005 received the award for the best demonstration at the 50th All Japan Yoshinkan Aikido Demonstration.
  • Awarded 8th Degree black belt in November 2015 by Inoue Kyoichi Kancho, 10th Dan and founder of the Aikido Shudokan.

RELAUNCH!

Okay everyone! So apologies for letting the blog slide a little as of late! Between running a full time martial arts school, getting in as much training as I can, training people up for instructors and getting the book Martial Masters Vol. 1 up and running at the beginning of the year, it’s been busy!

I am now back on track however and ready for a relaunch of the blog. However….

I need your help! What do you guys and girls want to see more of?

  • Videos
  • Interviews
  • Techniques
  • General blogging
  • Experiences running a martial arts school?

Let me know and I shall do my best to provide!

We are also expanding the team and looking for some writers! So if you feel you have a knack for writing and have some stuff to say on anything martial arts, fitness or training related. Get in touch through here, or through Facebook! We’ll get you up and running on a successful(ish) blog!!

Look out for the next post and a little relaunch coming very soon!

The Defence Lab Virtual HQ!

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It’s no surprise that as Lead Instructor for Defence Lab Lincoln, I’m a pretty big fan of Defence Lab. I like the style, I like the evolution and I like founder Andy Norman’s motto of “work hard, be nice and be honest”. As a result of this I was pretty excited when I heard Defence Lab would soon be releasing their Virtual HQ! Well, that time has now arrived and on Tuesday 18th October, the Virtual HQ will be going live!

What is the Defence Lab Virtual HQ?

Simply put, the Virtual HQ is an online training resource and introduction to Defence Lab from Andy and the crew. The HQ is broken down into various folders and sections including weekly investigations, architectural framework and primal reactions. All of these areas are shown and explained by Andy and his elite team. New videos are added every week, giving you time to rep and drill the previous week’s material and giving you an overall feel and sense of the professional, yet effective system of Defence Lab.

Who is it for?

Honestly – The Virtual HQ is for anyone with even a passing interest in martial arts, self defence or fitness training. No matter what style or background you come from, there is something here for you. The beauty of Defence Lab is that is never stops. It is constantly developing and evolving with the times. 1 on 1, Defence Lab cover it. Multiple attackers? Covered. Sticks, knives, bats? Covered! You name it, Defence Lab cover it and this is why the Virtual HQ is going to be such a fantastic and ever developing resource for the martial arts and wider community.

What makes it different?

Defence Lab are not the first to release online videos or courses, yet they are the first to do it in such a professional and well developed manner. The videos are shot in high definition and thorough explanations are given by Andy as to why Defence Lab do what they do. Andy provokes you into thinking for yourself, questioning the system and therefore opening your mind to new information – something that martial artists are not always too willing to do! The overall look, feel and content of the Virtual HQ is something I have never seen before in terms of professionalism, content and general style and this really will be something that will revolutionise the martial arts world and make people stand up and take notice.

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When is it available?

The Virtual HQ from Defence Lab will be going live on Tuesday 18th October and Defence Lab have already started releasing sneak peaks and teasers through their social media channels of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To register your interest in Defence Lab’s Virtual HQ, please head over to their main site to keep up to date with the latest information and follow them on social media at the links below.

www.defencelab.com/VirtualHQ

www.twitter.com/DefenceLabHQ

www.instagram.com/defencelab_hq

www.facebook.com/DefenceLabOfficial

The Virtual HQ is going to be something very special and you do not want to miss out. I cannot put into words how awesome the Virtual HQ is in terms of look, feel and content and this is a must have resource for anyone interested in martial arts or personal safety. So go ahead, follow Defence Lab and sign up for more info on the resource centre that will revolutionise Martial Arts.

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Martial Masters Interview

Myself and Lucci were lucky enough to be interviewed by the awesome Vic from MA Roadshow at this year’s Martial Arts Show for our upcoming book Martial Masters! The book will feature some of the best martial artists from the UK from all realms including sports, traditional and self defence! There are just a couple more interviews to get done, the some editing then it’s off to the publishers and ready for you guys to enjoy!

Check out our interview below!

Martial Masters Volume 1

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So those of you that follow the facebook group, or me personally on Facebook will know that myself and my good buddy Lucci Del-Gaudio (Martial Artists Supporting Children with Cancer founder) have a book out this year! What’s it called I hear you ask! Well folks it will be called `Martial Masters Volume 1` (That’s right there will be more than one volume! The idea of it is to bring out some of the best martial artists in the UK right now and basically have a lovely chat with them! We have reality guys, sports guys and traditional guys so there’s a fantastic mix of characters all with brilliant stories to tell!

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Martial Masters will be out Spring/Summer this year so keep an eye out and for now check out a mini interview with myself and Lucci on some more details for the book! Follow us on Facebook too at `Martial Masters`to keep up to date with all the latest and get sneaky peaks as we work on the project! It’s going to be a fun few months getting to speak to these amazing people about my favourite subject! Martial arts and Self Defence!!