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Keep Your Child Safe!

Cerys guard

VERY IMPORTANT!

This is the time of the year that children are going up a school, from Infants to Junior and importantly from Junior to Senior and Senior to University.

Parents in their infinite wisdom decide that their children will have more homework and often drop their martial arts training and teenagers going to university often move away from the area of their club and don’t bother to find a new one.

THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE!

Why? The children going from Junior to Senior school will need to move up in their martial arts club to the adult training; because the bullies they will invariably encounter will be adult size and age. Their training needs to change to be able to deal with it emotionally and physically. They will soon be going out on their own and with friends and going to nightclubs and will encounter  nasty weaponised violence, their bodies are rapidly changing and they are likely to suffer attempted sexual assault, they will be changing friends and likely to befriend people that will try to introduce them to drugs. If they are able to keep their friends and be training in a healthy, challenging environment in a martial arts club and learning how to deal with all these new dangers they will have a MUCH better chance of staying sane, healthy and safe.

Homework and study can be challenging, the biggest enemies to academic success are distraction and laziness, the ability to be able train in a club and at home to learn to remain aware and focused are essential skills. you can only study for so long and need an activity that will correct posture, breathing, awareness and focus – what better than martial arts that will also keep you safe and can be practised anywhere, at any time without any special equipment?

Universities are the target of many different kinds of criminal, young, naive, distracted vulnerable targets make for easy pickings, muggings, rape, sexual assault and home invasion are most likely to happen at this time. Emotional intelligence, awareness and good training is essential to deal with these problems.

Schools and universities have become number crunchers and box tickers, they don’t like to admit they have these problems, at the end of the day the only person to keep youngsters safe at the time is inevitably the youngster themselves. They need good training.

The best thing parents can do is to keep their children and youngsters engaged in their martial arts wherever possible, make sure they are getting the right kind of training and give as much encouragement as possible – failure to do so can result in a very heavy price indeed.

 

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Direct Knowledge Is Different

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I used to get my knowledge and wisdom from others at lectures, in books and lecture tapes.  I would meditate for ages on the wisdom of the Buddha, Lao Tsu, Ajhan’s Chah and Sumedho, Alan Watts, Kahil Gibran and many others, I studied Buddhism, Zen, Chan, Taoism, Wicca, Paganism, Ritual Magik, Spiritualism and all their associated arts, but when the breakthrough occurred, I stopped.

No longer did I need to refer to others, because I was able to look inside and find my own ‘wisdom mind’. When I sat or stood still, I could access the part of me that I never could before and I found the true purpose of meditation.

Before, I knew a lot about these subjects and could quote a host of others and what they thought about them, but I didn’t really know what I was talking about because I didn’t have the direct experience. I thought I had because I had the knowledge, but it hadn’t changed me as a person. A big difference!

When a Buddhist monk lectured, they would sit quietly first and when they spoke it was like something spoke through them, they could answer questions with frightening honesty and humility but I never quite got what they were doing until it happened to me. In the Martial Arts I would see true mastery when a teacher could just respond with whatever someone threw at them with ease and never have to bully to impress. Eventually I realised that when you had absorbed the knowledge properly with the right kind of mind – you became it.

Meditation became my study instead of reading, instead of acting the part I became it.  My martial arts training became a meditation. Whenever I needed help or advice, instead of going to a book, I sat still, when I had a problem, in that stillness I always found the answer.

I could teach and lecture without notes, all I had to do was go to that place in my mind and everything came out in a well structured approach sensitive to the audience and students needs.

I had found the difference between knowing about something and actually knowing it.

There are many that know ‘about’ various subjects and can quote just about everyone, but those that really ‘know’ directly and are it, live it every day.

And they truly are like diamonds on a beach of pebbles.

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Stop Bullying!

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Stop Bullying!

I get very worried looking at a lot of social media posts by martial art instructors who have never undergone the holistic training of traditional martial arts and are still stuck in the neanderthal, excitable and violent mindset that the only way to deal with bullying is to become like the bully and hit them.  I grew up in that mindset on a South London Council Estate and would probably in prison for violence now if it hadn’t been for traditional martial arts.  For the past 45 years I have taught extensively in the education system, to police and security operatives of all kinds, in the UK and internationally and many social groups, from that broad base of experience I have drawn a few simple rules to start with.   Let me explain…..

Fear is contagious and violence begets violence. In traditional martial arts we start with the person and work outwards. Our first 3 commands are ‘stand tall, breathe deep and focus the mind’ – body language, calmness and a focused mind are the essential places to start.  We call this neigong – ‘inner work’.

Body Language
Child or adult, the first lessons are how not to be a victim, drawing yourself up to your full height, looking everyone in the eye and using an authoritative voice, moving with confidence and not looking hunched, vague or dithery means that you are unlikely to picked on in the first place.

Emotional Intelligence
In our Zan Zuang ‘standing post’ practice we work on getting a connected strength and also the yin and yang aspects of emotional intelligence training the emotions to be patient, kind, tolerant and compassionate alongside resolve, determination and courage. This teaches students courtesy, good manners and how to be helpful and function well with others but if pushed will not be afraid to stand their ground and deal with aggression and negativity without becoming aggressive and negative themselves. The last thing you want is a child or adult who becomes a bully to deal with a bully.

Personal Space
We teach that your body belongs to you and no-one child or adult has the right to touch you without your permission. Your ‘reach out and touch space’ is your personal space and inside that is the ‘red’ zone where you will be actively defending yourself, the perimeter is the amber ‘highly aware’ zone where you are ready to act and further away is the ‘yellow’ zone where you are aware and watching mindfully – we are never in the lazy or distracted ‘white’ zone.

Traditional martial artists are ‘peacekeepers’, the law says that anyone is allowed to use ‘reasonable’ force to defend themselves and this requires all the skills listed above. First we teach how to not get bullied, body language, emotional intelligence and social graces are essential, then how not to get hit or held, use of distance, angle and principles like the ‘wedge’ and ‘spiral’ are essential to make it work. We teach strategy for all occasions in school and personal life so everyone has a toolbox of ‘street savvy’ appropriate to their age and environment. Finally we teach the ‘last resort’ techniques of punching,  kicking locking, throwing and restraint to be used with the trained resolve, determination and courage rather than negativity and aggression.

Traditional martial arts is a lifetime study and contains all the depth and knowledge to keep you studying over the years, no ‘quick fix’ but a bank of life skills built over the days, months and years of study put together by people that learned in the same way.

Being a ‘peacekeeper’ gives you a life of health, happiness and social skills, far better than immersing yourself into a world of negativity and violence.

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Giri

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Steve Rowe talks with Doorman and Martial Artist Dennis Jones…

 

Giri:  a debt of gratitude, duty, justice, obligation, a sense of honour

 

SR  Dennis, we were discussing the concept of “Giri”  within the book  “Hagakure” by Yanamoto Tsunetomo and the following story…..

 

“Among Takeda Shingen’s retainers there were men of matchless courage, but when Katsuyori was killed in the fight at Tenmokuzan, they all fled.  Tsuchiya Sozo, a warrior who had been in disfavour for many years , came out alone, however, and said, “I wonder where all the men are who spoke so bravely every day?  I shall return the master’s favours to me”  And he fell alone in battle.”

 

And you were relating it to Giri amongst Doorman, can you explain this to the readers?

 

DJ  Well Steve, I’ve worked with many Doormen in my time, some of them were high grade Martial Artists, others Body Builders and so on, and in the “quiet time” on the door most talked a great fight.  To listen to them you would assume that when “push came to shove” on the door, they’d be right there with you backing you up, or in front dealing with the problem.

 

But I found, as you’d expect, the best talkers just seem to disappear at the time that you need them most.  But I’d like to talk about a guy we’ll call Robert, he was neither a Martial Artist or Body Builder, in fact he didn’t train at all, but he did say to me “Dennis I can’t fight like you but I’ll tell you one thing…”  he put his hand on his heart…  “I give you my word that when it “goes off’ and you’re surrounded, I may not be able to fight like you, but I’ll always watch your back and at least take one of them out, and if you’re getting a kicking; I’ll be on the floor tasting the leather boots with you.”

 

I looked in his eyes and could see that he was sincere.  Many of the other Doormen would put him down and call him useless, but they were also the ones that talked a good fight and were not there when it really counted.

 

Well, one night it’s “gone off” with what seemed like everyone in the Nightclub fighting, bottles, and glasses being used as weapons and glass ashtrays (why do nightclubs still persist in using them when they are used so viciously as weapons?) and women screaming everywhere.  I’m right in the middle of this melee, god knows where the other doormen had disappeared to and I’ve looked down to my right and there was Robert being true to his word.

 

He’d leaped on this guy from behind and dragged him down to the floor using a technique I call “the octopus” with both his legs wrapped around an attackers waist and his arms around his throat and he was choking him and biting his face!  Bless him, he was true to his word – bound to me by obligation –  he had taken one opponent out of the equation!  The other Doormen with all the talk had run away….

 

When I read that story in Hagakure I think of Robert.

 

SR  I can remember someone saying to me that when you choose your friends, imagine yourself in the trenches of the first world war and about to “go over the top” and think would I like this person next to me?  When I was in the Fire Brigade many years ago your life did depend on the guys you were teamed up with and the trust and camaraderie was an important part of the job.  The security world is very similar….

 

DJ  You’re right!  It’s important on the door, but you often just end up with people that someone else has employed and you never really know how someone’s going to react until it actually “goes off” bad.

 

SR  “Giri” is an interesting Japanese term as in feudal Japan a Samurai owed his life to his Master and “obligation” meant something quite different.  The term has been quoted many times to me asking for blind loyalty to a Japanese Sensei and yet I feel that it’s meaning for us in the Martial Arts that respect has to be earned in both directions between Instructor and student.

 

DJ  Another passage from Hagakure reads:

 

“Lord Naoshige once said “There is nothing felt quite so deeply as giri.  There are times when someone like a cousin dies and it is not a matter of shedding tears.  But we may hear of someone who lived fifty or a hundred years ago, of whom we know nothing and who has no family ties with us whatsoever, and yet from a sense of giri shed tears.”

 

Funakoshi talks about taking his children to meet his Sensei Azato and Itosu and how they bought his children sweets that he couldn’t afford, and how: “… the two generations of us, have all benefited enormously from the teachings of these two Masters.  Where shall I find the words to express my gratitude?” That story strangely bought a tear to my eye because I could understand that it’s more than just a Martial concept.  You can even have “Giri” towards a respected enemy, the Chinese say that “if two tigers meet, one will surely be maimed and the other killed”.  Often seasoned warriors have mutual respect for the effort they know each other have had to put in to develop their skill and character.

 

I felt “Giri” and respect for Robert because of his actions and eight years after this event I found out that he had died all by himself in a flat of a heroin overdose and when I looked back, he had given me his word and when faced with a really bad violent situation that made most of the other doormen “lose it” and run away, he did exactly what he had promised to do.

 

I don’t know why or how he got into drugs, but when I think of him dying on his own in that flat I feel sad and empathic towards him, because in his own way he was a real man.  You remember in our first column when we talked about the guy who stole my pen at school dying of a drugs overdose and I felt nothing towards him?  Strange isn’t it that the death of Robert can bring a tear to my eye…..  I think in my world that is “Giri”….

 

SR  One of my reasons for writing the EKGB column is a sense of Giri toward the people who started Karate in England.  I feel that we never give credit to the people who were there from the start and put in so much work.  New generations of Martial Artists are coming through and might never know the history and names of their Founding Fathers.  In the Medway area it was people like yourself, Mick Gooch, Norman King, Roger Wilkes, Pauline Bindra and so on who made the Martial Arts known to the general public.  There are so many people with extravagant claims around nowadays that are benefiting from all the work put in by others and not giving credit where it’s due.

 

DJ  I’ve known Roger for 26 years – and yet I’ve probably only spoken to him 6 or 7 times, yet I have respect and “Giri” toward him because of what he is and for what he has done.  Our paths have been linked all the way through that period of time.

 

SR  Nothing gave me more pleasure than to get you all together teaching at my Medway Summer Course this year!

 

DJ  I’d like to end this month’s column with a little poem that epitomises “Giri” to me.  When I was a child my Father was in the S.A.S and he would come to me before going out on special operations and would give me a kiss and say “I’ll see you”…  of course we both knew that maybe he wouldn’t…  as luck would have it, he did, but some of his friends didn’t come back and I’d like to also dedicate this poem to them and Robert.

 

“The sound of the bell of Gionshoja echoes the impermanence of all things.  The hue of the flowers of the teak tree declares that they that flourish must be brought low.  Yea, the proud ones are but for a moment, like an evening dream in the springtime.  The mighty are destroyed at the last, they are but as the dust before the wind.”

 

From The Samurai  by S R Turnbull

 

 

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Back To Front Martial Arts

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I think I live in an alternate universe.

Or everyone else in the Martial Arts does.

I see Instructors putting together their training/grading syllabus…

“Erm, for red belt we’ll do this… for yellow this…. for orange this….”

They do one set of techniques for basics, different moves in a form that don’t relate to the basics and then different pairs work that doesn’t relate to either basics or form.

And I’m like…..”That’s not only back to front – it doesn’t make sense!”

I ask, “what’s the end result you’re looking for at black belt and above?”

And guess what…. I get a blank look because they haven’t thought about it!

“Erm… good basics?……”

“Is that it?”  I certainly wouldn’t want to train in a club where even the coach doesn’t know where we’re all going!

So how did I do mine for Shi Kon?

I started with the end product.  What kind of student and Instructor do I want to produce?

I want my students to develop emotional intelligence, compassion, patience and tolerance, along with courage, resolve and determination.  to have good health, mental and physical.

I want them to be competent ‘peacekeepers’ to be able to defend themselves and others. To be able to neutralise anything an opponent throws at them, to competently punch, strike, kick, lock, throw, choke and strangle.

How am I going to train that?  They need progressive meditation and neigong for the mind, posture and breathing, then qigong  to prepare the body by softening and connecting the myofascia, opening the joints and learning how the body gets connected power.

I put the 8 principles in place that MUST be within every technique to make it work and mnemonically brought each principle into one word. Put the 13 strategies in from the Yang Family system that dynamically flow through combat and respond to whatever an opponent does these too mnemonically into one word for each one.

The major forms from brown to black had to contain those qualities, Sanchin for the internal system manipulating spine and core with breathing and connection, Tensho to add the core work powering the 5 Animal Boxing and Naihanchi for the fajin  and different ways to power the techniques.

Then I continued to work backwards listing all the techniques that can express these principles and strategies and grouped them into a principle for each grade.  Then each grade would have the techniques as basics, that had to be demonstrated against a range of attackers as pairs work, strung together for combinations and all put together for a mnemonic short form for them to remember what they have to do.  That’s obvious synergy!

I used allusion, mnemonics and application, right from the start they are learning towards a goal at higher grade without realising it, they had an easy way to remember everything and the grading was the ability to make it work!

A white belt is already training to be a black belt, everything has to be practical towards that end and used without any ‘fluff’ or ‘padding’, all training is synergistic with a specific goal in mind and everyone knows where they are going, why they are doing it, what they are doing and how it relates to the end product and what that end product is!

It makes me a genius in the martial arts world but normal everywhere else, if you wanted to be a top athlete you would be taught this way, or a musician, or dancer, or taking a university degree and so on….

So it ain’t me that lives in that alternate universe!

 

 

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Compassion

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Compassion

The human race cannot survive without compassion. It’s what joins us, makes us work together to resolve our problems and evolve.  As the World is becoming more insular, as we separate ourselves from and demonise groups of people, becoming inured to their suffering we are evolving in the wrong direction and ensuring our mutual destruction.

Compassion is to be able to see clearly into the nature of suffering and not be separate from it.  Compassion is itself untainted, it cannot be attached to an outcome, it’s enemies are pity, moral outrage and fear – it transforms suffering.

Meditation builds compassion, it joins us to our environment and others, it teaches empathy, to experience what others feel. Compassion also transforms us, we evolve, it hooks up all the parts of our brain, it enhances our immune system and makes us healthier. Many people turn away from empathy and compassion through fear, the modern zeitgeist teaches us to be selfish and unnaturally attached to those things that wisdom teaches us we cannot hold on to – in trying to hold on to them or aspire to have them we fear those that we are told will take them away from us – and yet ensuring the welfare of others is to ensure our own survival and evolution of the human species.

Compassion requires fearlessness, strength, resilience and an undefended heart. We need ‘a strong back and a soft front’ and that takes training. Truly compassionate people are definitely not weak. This is the ethos of traditional martial arts training. It trains the whole person. We often hear and read that ‘martial arts makes you a better person’ and it’s clear to see who has followed that path and who hasn’t.

We should teach compassion in schools, as very few people fully understand what it is and how it works.  We should teach it to our healthcare workers, our social workers, our politicians – and we should vote for compassion and compassionate politicians.

Compassion reaches out to everyone and all things, it bridges all differences. A compassionate martial arts instructor will have a diverse club that help each other and work out in the community to help those less fortunate than themselves.  You don’t have to agree with others to act compassionately towards them or love them or even like them! Compassion is pure in itself and joins and evolves people – try it!

Meditate developing compassion towards yourself, spread it out to those you love, then those that you like, then those that you feel ambivalent towards, then to those you dislike and eventually to those you hate. See how it frees you and rids you of anger and greed, the more you share, the better person you become.

Learn about it, read about it, listen to lectures about it, meditate on it and act on it, it has to grow upwards from the populace to change our society, politicians and media as they are the people that need to respond to our wishes and not the other way around – power to the people!

 

 

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Winner Or Loser?

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Winner Or Loser?

So many people just don’t get it.

If you want to be a winner, you have to learn to win more than you lose.

Firstly you have to decide who and what you want to be.

If you want to be a good traditional martial artist then you have to do more work in that direction than in any other.

It’s your choice. Draw a line in your life and call it ‘Zero’. Every moment you are mindful, in good posture, breathing properly, caring, polite, courteous, determined, resolute, courageous and working with emotional intelligence  you are in the + zone, every moment you are doing the opposite, you are in the – zone. at the end of the day, how many hours did you spend in which zone?

Obvious really.

People tell me they want to be good at Tai Chi, then I see them working on how they look to others, worrying about how others perceive them, becoming arrogant and boastful, doing exercises and techniques that stiffen their body and require aggressive, external, muscular force, and when they come to see me, they’ve got worse not better, they’ve done more work in the – zone than in the +. It’s all a question of balance and direction.

Tai Chi requires good posture, breathing and the right ‘Taoist’ attitude toward life and others, this is developed by constantly working with neigong (inner work) with meditation and standing postures and then development of the neural system, bodycore, spinal flexibility, open joints and myofascia, this is developed through the qigong (energy work) these skills are the underlying principles that are preparation for the dynamics and strategies that are then expressed through the techniques using kung fu (time and effort) with persistent practice in the + zone.

A Tai Chi body and mind is unique and cannot be trained in any other way than the prescribed method unless you want to become something else. So few people ever get around to learning the whole system.

Private, personal study is essential and this needs enough mentoring from someone that is able to pass the complete perspective along. If you don’t have sufficient ‘corrections’ to keep you on the right path, your training will degenerate without you realising. It’s too easy to miss those vital mentoring sessions because life gets in the way and there are always financial, business and family pressures, but the price of not taking them is also very, very, expensive and good mentors are very few and far between, have pressures of their own and are not there forever. Lose one and for the rest of your life you’d wish you made those sessions.

So every day be mindful of staying in the + zone, understand that this will determine your success or failure. The term ‘Buddha’ means ‘one who is awake’ – you need to become  your own Buddha and stay awake and in the + zone and never drop into the – one. Every night before you lay your head on the pillow, ask yourself the question and count the hours of + and – and the answer as to why you are or are not successful will be self evident.

It’s simple, but simple is not always easy.

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