Cultivating the `Martial Mindset`

How do we cultivate a martial mindset? People are struggling right now and our industry has been one of the hardest hit. For instructors who’s sole ambition and aim was to run a full time martial arts facility – these are exceptionally testing times. We can of course, move our classes online, but nothing will ever replace the feeling of training at a gym or academy with people, and let’s face it – we teach martial arts, we require physical contact!

I’ve spoken to a lot of people over the past year or so, both personally, and through the blog and chats for the podcast and I have to say – things feel a little different at the moment. At the start of the pandemic there was some uncertainty, but there was also some optimism and ingenuity going on. Some instructors I spoke to were feeling slightly fatigued from running their academies, and used the closing down as a kind of reset. Others used the closing of their academies to focus on other projects such as building an online academy, or filming and publishing online courses they had been putting off for a while. No-one was glad we had to close, but there was opportunity and excitement to try something new.

This was nearly a year ago, and the optimism is slightly drying up with instructors I speak to now. I have to admit – I feel the same. I used the first period of lockdown to focus all my efforts into an online academy and film a few online courses which I then proceeded to do nothing with… idiot. Only recently have I started pushing these course such as my Breakfalling for Martial Artists course! (Shameless plug).

Teaching online was a new skill to learn and something new for my students. We revisited the basics, kept things fun and active and set challenges. This has been going on for a while now and everyone is beginning to feel that lockdown and zoom fatigue.

Every instructor I now speak to (and I speak to a lot between general chatting and the podcast), simply wants to be back at their classes, with people and doing what they love to do most – imparting their knowledge and training martial arts. This is where the martial mindset comes in…

But what exactly is the martial mindset? Instructors speak of it all the time in various forms – whether it is black belt attitude, or never back down ethos etc. It’s the thing we try to impart to our students – don’t give up, stay positive and keep moving forward no matter what.

This sounds great – but I think the events of the past year have shown just how hard this can be sometimes. The constant uncertainty, the moving of goalposts, the glimmers or hope, then that hope being extinguished. Do we still think having a martial mindset is always possible?

I know at least 3 academies that have been forced to close their doors permanently due to the financial constraints put on them during this time and my heart truly goes out to them. However, these 3 academies also offered nothing to their students during the pandemic other than a quick check in via Facebook live once in a while. No online classes, no online courses, no community – they just waited for a time that they could reopen. A time that kept getting pushed back.

We often speak about the martial arts showing determination, perseverance and development of character and past year has been the most testing time anyone in the industry has ever faced. This is where the martial mindset kicks in.

It’s important to stay positive, to focus on things to work on, to constantly try something new, even if it fails. But it’s also important to recognize that we are all human and that sometimes that martial mindset needs to slip or we come dangerously close to becoming a martial robot. It’s okay to have an off day where we feel unmotivated, or struggling with the current circumstances. Setting the example and leading from the front is crucial, but self care is also crucial. Take the time to vent, yell, cry and do whatever you need to do to unwind. This is all part of cultivating the martial mindset too – accepting you are human and being humble enough to admit you are struggling.

However, have your worry time – then bring yourself back to reality. This is the reality we find ourselves in. This won’t last forever and we have done nearly a year. The longer we go on like this, the harder is becomes, true – but if you are communicating with your students and providing them as much as you can – they will support you just as you have supported them and continue to support them at this time.

Chin up guys, we are hopefully nearing the end of this dreadful era of our industry. Recognize it’s okay not be okay sometimes, but remember you are a martial artist and focus on something that is in your control – your reaction to the current circumstances. Think about the advice you would give your students if they were struggling – then take it yourself! Easier said than done I know, but let’s focus on the future when all our classes will be packed with smiling, happy people who are loving the fact they can socialize and punch each other in the face again…

If you wish to control others, you must first control yourself

How are you cultivating your mindset during this testing time? What coping strategies would you share or how have you grown?

Talking nutrition with `The Body Engineer`

Today I am interviewing Casey Marshall A.K.A. The Body Engineer. It’s Friday so that means interview release day – I hope you’re all excited! Casey comes from a martial arts family, and her father is a good friend of mine and honorary coach at my Empower Martial Arts Academy. David Titch Marshall used to be a professional kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter before he got old… but the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree with Casey!

Casey has competed in martial arts from a young age in all sorts of categories including MMA and weapons. If it’s martial arts related – she’s there! She’s now translated this into coaching while studying for her MA in Sports Nutrition and building her brand The Body Engineer.

We talk about why nutrition is so important for everyone – not just elite athletes. Casey offers some quick and easy tips for staying healthy during lock-down when the temptation is to close the curtains and go face down into a chocolate cake. Something I’ve always struggled with is meal prepping too – how much to prep? How long does it stay okay in the fridge? What are the benefits? Casey answers all these questions and more so you can be a meal prep expert in no time!

You can contact Casey through Instagram and Facebook for hints and tips on nutrition and training. Just search for The Body Engineer.

Check out the interview below via YouTube or if you would prefer to simply listen to it – just head over to our Podcast feed or Spotify and the interview will be live there!

I’ve got lots of content planned for the podcast, YouTube channel and the blog, so make sure you subscribe to the site to never miss an episode! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram at The Martial View and don’t forget to join our community group where the discussions take place!

As always – if you’d like to see something or have any questions. Get in touch!

New Interviews on YouTube and Podcasts Channels!

Did you know we’re on YouTube and Podcasts now?

Hey everyone and I hope you’re all keeping safe and well at the moment! It’s certainly been a testing time for the martial arts industry, but the way we have come together to help and support one another is awesome!

It’s also given many the chance to get projects set up that would otherwise have been postponed…again!

This can certainly be said for myself for instance! During lock-down I have re-released Martial Masters Volume 1 available now on Amazon in paperback form, and I can now happily say that Martial Masters Volume 2 is now written! 16 interviews with some truly world class martial artists from all around the world – it’s going to be something very special! Release date for this is looking to be around Spring 2021 so keep an eye out and subscribe to The Martial View to get first glimpse when it drops on Amazon!

In addition to this, I’ve been busy interviewing all sorts of other top martial artists, health professionals and generally interesting people for the YouTube channel and Podcast channels.

New interviews will be released every Friday from now on leaving me enough time to get some truly awesome names involved and not rush anything, so check out a few of our most recent interviews below 😀 all of which are now available on YouTube and Podcasts.

First up we spoke to Fight Dad Harry Flexman on his online courses. Check out his fantastic online courses here
Our next interview was with Andy Gibney of Unified Fight Systems. A master instructor in Jeet Kune Do under Richard Bustillo and 6th Grade Black Belt in Doce Pares Eskrima! A very interesting guy for sure!

Podcasts and building the YouTube channel has certainly kept me sane and busy this lock-down, in combination with the book and keeping my academy treading water! So thank you everyone for the support for The Martial View – I hope it continues to build and grow with the help of all you lovely people. My email is always open if you wish to see something, or have an idea for an interview or topic – so get in touch! I am just one man so give me some ideas too! I have limited brain power!

I have some great ideas for future content for the YouTube channel too so make sure you subscribe to us and never miss an episode! Trust me it’s going to be cool!

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 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!

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

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.

`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.

Has Covid-19 changed the Martial Arts forever?

I’ll be honest everyone… I’m a little concerned right now and the reason for this is Covid-19…

I’ll be the first to admit that 5 or 6 weeks ago, I was definitely in the “corona-what” camp. The mindset of it’s no worse than the flu, it will all blow over in a few weeks and we were making a big deal out of nothing. I’ll also be the first to admit that I was proven wrong as time went on…

There is no doubt that the Corona pandemic will go down as a moment in history. This is the biggest world problem since the end of the second world war and those who are not a little concerned, no matter what the reason, must be living a different day to day life than the majority of us.

The health risks are for sure, very real, and potentially very scary, but the economic uncertainty is also at the forefront of people’s mind – and rightly so.

Nearly everyone has been affected by Covid-19 in some way. This could be personally, through contracting the virus, or knowing someone who has, or financially through the furloughing or jobs, or closing of non-essential business. The topics, debate and implications of Covid-19 could easily be a never-ending blog site in itself, but this is a martial arts blog and so the topic must obviously be how this industry has been affected and may even be in 2 parts! Let’s see how badly I word vomit all over this blog post!

Covid-19

On Friday 20th March 2020, the UK government announced the closure of all restaurants, pubs, non-essential shops and gyms in order to try to contain the spread of Coronavirus. For some martial arts instructors, this was a shock, for others, it was only a matter of time.

In my own academy, we had been expecting this and so had made every effort to film our pre-recorded content, establish our online members group and keep all our students in the know about the next steps. Some instructors however, were most definitely caught with their pants down when this happened.

Regardless of this however, as an industry, I feel we should be incredibly proud of ourselves in how we have managed our schools, adapted to the situation and in most cases, made the best out of a really crap situation.

After all, is this not what being a black belt is about? Is this not what we try to teach and instill in our students? Overcoming adversity, adapting to change, staying positive and focusing on solutions rather than problems. Time to practice what we preach perhaps!

In a matter of maybe a few days or a week, the vast majority of professional martial arts academies had moved their schools online. Needs must. We all love being at the academy, we love interacting with the students face to face, and we love the atmosphere of a busy class. This is no longer possible right now though, so what do we do?

There is no other option. Either give up and wait for it all to pass, hoping on the goodwill of the students to keep you afloat. Or up your game and serve your students the best you can – online.

Online training is something I have been looking at, admittedly for a number of years, but have never really prioritized, preferring to build a physical academy before focusing on a virtual one. I also questioned to what efficacy martial arts could really be taught online and I know this was (and for some still is) a major concern.

Before the crisis, virtual/online training and academies were almost sneered at within the martial arts community. Words like “selling out”, “mcdojo” and “lowering of standards” often came up, not all the time, but definitely some of the time. I admit that, I myself even struggled to see how people could effectively learn martial arts online.

Respected martial artists I knew were heading for the online platform model or were already well established – most notably Matthew Chapman, who sold his bricks and mortar school and now runs completely online through his fantastic Mittmaster courses – several of which I have purchased and regularly use (insert shameless backlink to a review I did of his stuff…here). He is now helping other instructors launch their products online with great success through his Teach Your Passion Online page – something I’m sure we are all very grateful for during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And so my question is – will this pandemic change the face of Martial Arts forever?

For some – online training is a tool to be used at the moment when there is no other option. As soon as they get given the go ahead, they’ll be straight back into the dojo/academy and Zoom classes will be a distant and painful memory.

Others however, myself included, are seeing this as a possibly new way of ADDING to our physical locations. I still have reservations that you can learn martial arts from scratch as a white belt – purely online. I think as already experienced instructors/martial artists, online training can supplement our own training. It can give us new concepts or ideas to work with and new material to teach, but to learn purely online, from white to black grade, may be a stretch I personally feel.

Adding an online element to our existing academies however, I feel is a fantastic way to provide value to our students and also show we are moving with the times. The owner of G Force Martial Arts Academy, and business coach Gordon Burcham is world class at picking up on new trends and establishing them in his business to great success. Online training is a great example of this. He has a PHENOMENAL full time academy, which he has now moved online, booking new 1-1 intros online, providing value, and ensuring people still benefit from the many benefits of martial arts.

I think that now is the time when martial arts are needed the most. Kids are at home, bored and perhaps needing some structure, discipline and exercise. Adults are also at home, raiding the fridge, midday drinking because the sun is out and gradually expanding! This is where our online training can help both physically and mentally during Covid-19 and lockdown.

Physically to release some endorphins or feel good hormones, as well as lose some weight and learn some new skills! Mentally, to feel a part of something bigger than just the confines of your own four walls. Connecting with people has never been more important than it is at the moment and this is a great medium for this – even if it is online!

Can we or should we grade online? Personally, I think not. I know my classes have been far more fitness based than technique in our online classes.

Firstly because even though technology is a great thing and the students can see me and I can see them, some aspects of martial arts, you simply need to feel and be there physically for. Secondly, although a purely technical class can be good and is definitely needed, it simply doesn’t release the same feel good vibes as a high intensity class. You don’t leave a technical class sweating but smiling. You may have learned something, but this is more for the further advanced grades. At the moment, I feel people need to sweat, smile and feel they’ve worked hard.

It’s up to each individual school owner to decide the best way forward for their academy in these unprecedented times and no-one can judge I feel. For me though, a grade needs to be earned in person. You need the nerves, the adrenaline, the pressure which I feel may be lacking in your living room while your mum, dad, brother, partner etc is cooking breakfast in the kitchen next door!

Can online martial arts training have a place both now and in the future however? Most definitely and I would argue that online training is not only viable right now, but also completely necessary. In part 2, we’ll question what will happen when this pandemic ends (and it will end people). We’ll ask some leaders in the field their thoughts on the future and what the next few months hold and who knows, maybe we’ll try for some video interviews too if people are up for it!

For my own sanity I’ll be looking to reconnect with some martial artists I know around the world at this time and relaunch this blog which I let drift a little in the past year or so. The Covid-19 crisis seems to be a perfect opportunity for this so here goes! If you have any thoughts, feelings, ideas or things you’d like to discuss, feel free to get in touch.

We don’t know when, but we will be back punching each other and we’ll remember the Covid-19 Spring of 2020 when we all got told to sit indoors and save the world.

Stay safe everyone.