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Do You Train To Fight?

cropped-steve-sepia.jpg“The end result of martial arts training is to fight” – is it?

Mine isn’t.  Mine includes the emotional intelligence to deal with confrontation in all it’s guises, to be able have resolve, determination and courage when needed, along with the patience, kindness, tolerance and compassion and their associated requisite skills when needed.

To keep the peace.

The calligraphy for ‘Budo’ and ‘Wu Shu’ is ‘to stop the spear’. The ‘Wa’ in ‘Wado’ means harmony and balance, as does ‘Aiki’ in Aikido, ‘Goju’ in ‘Goju Ryu’ and ‘Tai Chi’ means ‘Grand Ultimate’ as in the harmony of an enlightened mind.

‘Fight’ is contrary to all those ideas.

The 3 treasures of form and kata are ‘health’ as in both mind and body, brought about by good posture, breathing and an aware, focused and meditative mind. ‘Skill’, the construction of the form or kata is designed to combine ideas and movement to improve the skill level of the practitioner not necessarily in a combination that they would find in an everyday confrontation but would make them more than capable to deal with the lower level required at the time and ‘boxing’ being the physical application of technique in every centimetre of movement all the way through the form or kata.

It’s a fundamental difference that separates martial arts and thuggery.  If you just want to learn to ‘fight’ you wouldn’t go to a traditional martial arts school, if you want to learn self defence of both mind and body along with the emotional intelligence to cope with all of life including ‘keeping the peace’ in all forms, a GOOD traditional school is a good place to start.

Martial arts is an alchemy that works on all levels. There is no quick fix, but each day you should be better than you were the day before.  Transformation requires continual postural, breathing and mental training and daily technical study of the Art. Day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year with 99% input from student and 1% by instructor, the alchemy takes place.

Like I said, no quick fix, but like everything that takes effort, it’s life changing.

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What Is ‘Natural’ In Martial Arts?

zTT Shuuto

I remember saying to Toru Takamizawa my Karate Sensei that martial arts were ‘natural movement’ and he answered “no they’re not, they’re trained, skilful movements done naturally.” A big difference!

We have to really understand this. Right from the start we have to learn how to stand, walk and run, how to breathe and train our emotions, this requires a constant mindful state.

We have to learn the right ‘martial’ exercises to free the body and enable the strength, flexibility and mobility required.  These have to be trained daily.

We have to learn the ethos behind our art and the principles behind the strategies and movement and all of these have to be put into the techniques of the system and trained unerringly until the skills become ‘natural’ to us.

If we don’t get this and don’t train in this way we cannot ever get to be a martial artist. It is a lifelong pursuit of mindfulness and skill training.

I meet many 30 year + martial artists that have only repeated the first 3 years 10 times and have failed miserably. They learned enough to teach the basics to others but are not mindful and are still sadly lacking in any consumate skill. Time served and lineage mean nothing without mindfulness, resolve, determination, the courage to improve and the intelligence to find and utilise the right resources.

Each part of a system is like a piece of the jigsaw, just a shape and a small part of the picture, it’s only when it’s put together in an intelligent way until it ‘fits’ that we can see the entire picture.  I can’t count how many people have a jumble of pieces with many still missing!

Many systems have been put together from the bottom up, with the instructor deciding what do for white belt, then yellow, then orange and so on and the problem is that there is no synergy to an end result and that cannot possibly work. The only one possible is invariably a jumble!

When devising a system an Instructor should determine what he wants from his dan grades first and then map it backwards to beginner, that way everything points to the destination and has synergy. I often ask Instructors what the end result of their training system is and their answer is a predictable jumble.

I wanted good health, emotional intelligence and the ability to validate the learning in all areas including self defence.  That was my starting point and I worked backwards from there, nothing in my syllabus is vague in any sense and every skill can be followed through from white belt to the highest black belt grades.

If you are going to train in any art or skill to become ‘natural’ to you, make sure it’s worthy of the effort and will enhance your life!


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Internet Tough Guys



Whenever anyone starts telling me what they are I wonder who they are trying to convince – me or themselves?

Social media in the Martial Arts is awash with “I’m really hard I am, really tough, you’d better not upset me because I’m a ‘hardnut’…. I am, I really am, honest to God I am, I’m so hard, I’d rip a tissue or stamp on a dolls house!  All you lot are useless, what you do is useless, your martial arts are crap, in a real fight I’d muller the lot of you.

There’s some mysterious place called a ‘McDojo’ where all these other weak, feeble people abide, where the Instructors with shiny teeth driving Porches have their hands in your pockets stripping you of all your assets and passing off country dancing as martial arts.

On social media it’s easy to ‘friend’ the real martial artists and pretend they’re like them by association. To go to the ever increasing events where they either don’t train or it’s a ‘media’ training event where they can collect certificates and have their photo taken with a real martial artist whilst holding up the fist they abuse themselves with when typing with the other hand. The term ‘selfie’ could never be more accurate.

We should know that words mean nothing, it’s easy to say anything and put up moody photos, certificates and memes to convince anyone but of course in the real world (and that’s not their ‘real’ world that still only exists on the internet but where people actually meet and physically do things) actions are what really count.

The questions I ask myself are –

Do I really know this person outside of the internet?

Have I ever heard of them from others?

Do I know anyone they’ve ever fought?

Do they teach and test their skills on international seminars with people from all backgrounds?

Have they ever competed in a proper World class competition?

Where did they get their grades from?

Who were their teachers?

…….and so the truth comes out.

It’s not up to us to tell everybody what we are, if we are it, others will do the job for us.

In the Martial Arts you don’t call yourself ‘Sensei’ or any other title, it’s up to others to give it to you.

Us ‘old timers’ all know and remember each other from real events so for us it’s no problem to sort the wheat from the chaff, but for any ‘newbie’ it can be a minefield.

But if you do your due diligence and use the code above to research – if they have to tell you what they are – they ain’t it!



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Don’t Mess With My Martial Arts



People just don’t get it. If you are a serious martial artist, you won’t let anyone mess with your martial arts.  Training time is sacrosanct. It has to be done every day and takes priority over any other mundane tasks. Lessons and seminars are the same, they go in the calendar first and unless it’s VERY important everything else is arranged around them. Family and friends need to understand this.

Why is this? Why is it so important to us? The reason is that it’s what makes and keeps us what we are. Every day we methodically work on body, mind and emotional intelligence, every day is a progression and this is key to making us a better person. The warrior mentality means that we keep going against all odds, unwittingly or not other people are forever trying to alter our priorities and guiding us towards apathy, laziness and distraction, but we persevere. Exceptional people have to do exceptional things. Others have to accept us this way or walk away. Those that understand this are true family and friends.

Drink my beer, eat my food, take the piss out of my clothes, behaviour and habits – but do not go anywhere near my martial arts. Respect between ‘proper’ martial artists and for each other’s arts and styles is important to us. Those that don’t have that ethos, that haven’t been schooled in the etiquette, manners and respect that are inherent in a traditional system won’t get it. Social media is awash with ‘casual trainers’ and ‘suburban samurai’ who are quick to take the piss out of that which they don’t understand, with the arrogant idea that if you don’t train like them and think like them you must be an idiot and can’t see where the ignorance and idiocy really lies.

Martial arts are based in humility and respect for others. A good martial artist is comfortable in their skin and is able to show patience, kindness, tolerance and compassion alongside the courage, resolve and determination they have trained.

Martial artists are a breed of their own, following a tradition that has been passed down through the ages from instructor to student in an unbroken line, the techniques may change, but the underlying ethos doesn’t.  Because we develop emotional intelligence, we will always take the time to care for others and despite the difficulties we make the best loyal friends and family that anyone could ask for.

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The Magic Key

Steve Sepia

You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth for a reason

First of all you don’t have to like your coach to learn from him (could be ‘he’ or she’ but I’ll use ‘he’ in this instance).  If he has the information you need, suck up your personal opinion of him and absorb yourself into the information. He’s not there to be liked, or entertain, if he’s serious, he’s there to make you a good martial artist and through the process you will probably love and hate him – often in the same session.

A good coach will be forthright and give you the information you need directly and without too much dressing. You need to understand what’s in his head and his way of thinking, so in the beginning, too many questions or opinions won’t help.  Take the information on board and work with it before you question, you have to give it a chance – because I can tell you that your opinions will definitely change as you go along.

If you want mastery you must live martial arts, you will be taught how to stand, sit, walk, breathe and become mindful in everything you do, this MUST be practiced all the time you’re awake.  There are 168 hours in a week and if you sleep for 50 that leaves 118 hours to practice! When you stand, practice standing, when you sit, practice sitting, when you walk practice walking, when you breathe practice breathing, when you think, practice emotional intelligence, this is the perfect meditation and makes you mindful – you don’t have to sit in the lotus position and ‘OM’ to meditate, you will be enlightened before you know it!

If you only practice when in the Dojo – say 4 – 6 hours a week, and you’re not practicing the other 112 waking hours, you’re bound to fail! You need to be practicing more hours than you’re not, otherwise the ‘magic’ won’t work. You either practice martial arts as a pastime or you are a martial artist – you choose which one!

If you have a good coach he will know this and tell you quite bluntly if you’re not doing enough.  He will instantly be able to see week to week whether you’re making progress or not.  Dojo’s up and down the country are full of ‘Suburban Samurai’ who wear the clothes but are lazy, easily distracted, emotionally unintelligent and are being told the same things week after week, month after month and year after year, in short, they’ll never make it. Think about it – is this you?

Once you are practicing diligently and repeating everything you’re taught on a daily basis when you are practicing hard enough, intelligent questions will arise and they’re the one’s to ask. Not when you’re first taught something and haven’t given it a chance. A coach has to teach you how to be a student, how to learn, how to practice and you have to work with it.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but the value of that opinion is directly relevant to the experience and skill level of the practitioner. Better to be watching, listening and absorbing than giving an invalid opinion.

There is no ‘cant’ in the martial arts, only ‘I haven’t practiced enough’!

So the ‘magic key’ to learning martial arts, is watch, listen, think and study, practice every waking hour and the ‘mindfulness’ will improve your entire life. You will cease to be a zombie and an emotional wreck and stand straighter, breathe deeper, and develop a mind that is aware, focused, sensitive and intense giving you the ability to be able take control of your life and learn intelligently!

Learn to respect your coach and yourself.