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Being A Good Student


We often talk about what makes a good Instructor and what makes a good club, but what happens when we turn that on it’s head and ask what makes a good student?

The one thing that I discovered was that if I knew how to be a good student I could get far more out of my Instructors than anybody else and that as an Instructor I am far more inclined to teach a good student thoroughly than a bad one.

The inescapable facts are that many Instructors don’t get to choose their students, sometimes they teach because they feel it’s wrong to favour students and therefore ‘stick it out’ with what they consider a bad one and sometimes the reasons are financial, but either way I quickly discovered that there are ways to get far more than anyone else was getting and I didn’t have to compromise my morals to achieve it!

You don’t have to like a person to teach them well, a student doesn’t have to like an Instructor to learn from them, all it takes is a bit of patience and tolerance on both sides to get there. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with many students in the past and I can understand that they hate me for being blunt with them and for making them do things that they didn’t want to, if you don’t push them beyond what they think are their limits, how are they going to improve? If they don’t have that basic faith and trust in me even if they don’t like me, or what I’m making them do they can never grow as a martial artist. I never worried about popularity, just results.

What can a student do to make the relationship work better? This is the magic formula that I used to get that extra tuition and information that the others never got.

Always pay your fees. Seems obvious but isn’t to many. Never barter on a price. Always pay for your lesson whether you turn up or not. If you want that regular spot, book it with money, then it’s always yours and a bond of trust is formed. There is nothing worse than a student that books an instructors time, cancels and doesn’t pay. If someone who does pay regularly comes along they will naturally give the time to them and you will forfeit yours. The Instructor will also not be inclined to teach an irregular person well because they will see them as untrustworthy and think that they are wasting their time. If you are a long term student, raise the fees yourself, it is unlikely that the Instructor will do it and when you show that you value their time and consider their well being it will be appreciated.

Always make notes. Learn a training shorthand of matchstick men, arrows and keywords so that when you get home you will remember what you’ve been taught. Ask the instructor to film you doing what you’ve just learned on your phone and if you’re lucky he will give advice whilst doing it. If he doesn’t want to do this get someone else to do it as soon as possible afterwards. Between lessons train continuously on what you’ve been taught and think about it all of the time. Every time a question arises, write it down to ask on your next lesson. There’s nothing more encouraging for an instructor than a student who pays attention, makes notes, trains hard between lessons and then asks questions on the next lesson.

Listen and pay attention to what you’re being taught. Don’t give your opinion. Don’t talk about what you’ve done or what you think because you’re paying the Instructor to give you the benefit of their experience. There’s nothing more boring than a student who pays the Instructor so they can talk to them for a couple of hours about what they think and have done. Every minute is important not just from a financial point of view but that instructor could be dead tomorrow and you’re wasting precious time with your own ego. If you’re asked, “what do you want to do?” the Instructor is being polite, answer “whatever you think I need to work on”. You are likely being taught a system and it’s best to learn it in the right sequence put together by the expert, not randomly by your own desires.

Develop respect and care. If the Instructor is doing their best for you and you are for them, mutual respect is earned naturally. If there’s anything you can do to help or support in their home life, club and association development do it, because it means that your teaching environment is less likely to be affected by outside influences and it’s good to care. I’ve represented my Instructors on Governing Body Committees, helped them to write books, shoot videos, buy houses, helped with legal problems, opened clubs for them, taught on their seminars and helped them bring over their Instructors to the UK.

Every time you reach a milestone in your training, like a grading, winning a tournament or opening your own club, always thank your instructor before doing anything else and always give them credit for what they’ve taught you. Nowadays that courtesy has all but disappeared and you can see students prancing around with their new grade or trophy and everyone patting them on their back whilst the Instructor sits quietly in the corner. It’s not inappropriate to buy them a small thank you gift or at least give a thank you before celebrating yourself.

It’s easy to teach just the surface of a system and the student would never know. Often that’s done as a test to see if they’re worthy or capable of receiving deeper instruction. Courtesy is a given, respect is earned both ways. When the student and instructors ‘chi is in agreement’, respect has been earned and they are capable of working through the hard times together; the ‘hidden levels’ can be taught. Nothing is being held back, it’s just that the environment has to be right. The surface teaching is known as ‘eating sweet’ and the deeper levels as ‘eating bitter’. ‘Eating sweet’ is full of flashy moves and certificates and ‘eating bitter’ is made of sweat, blood, pain and a system that gradually alters the body and mind.

By all means find the right club and instructor, but remember that they are also looking for the right student.
By Steve Rowe

Uncategorized, Articles

Buddha Was A Proper Geezer


Translation by me….
Buddha was a proper geezer.
As a youngster he was a great martial artist.
Despite being a prince he became (in current slang parlance) ‘woke’.
The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘one who is awake’.
He left his wife and child (making sure they were cared for) and went ‘walkabout’ to find himself.
Buddha is not a god. He is not a son of god. He is not immortal. He was not a prophet.
He became a master of logic.
He was (in slang terms) a ‘proper geezer’.
When he found himself he put it in simple logical terms.

Life hurts.
It hurts when you want or don’t want something.
You can stop doing this to yourself.
He then gave 8 pointers to the way of becoming woke.

Here’s the 8 pointers:
Get perspective
Plan with that perspective in mind
Speak the truth
Behave yourself
Earn a living without hurting anyone
Put in the right effort
Stay woke
Stay focused

He gave 3 helpful truths about existence:
Nothing stays the same
This can make you suffer
We are all like waves rising from staying connected to and returning to the sea.

He said it helps to:
Stay woke
Always look for the truth
Have good mates to support each other

Buddhism is the path of logical self examination to discover the truth of who and what you are.

And that is why the ethos of traditional martial arts are steeped in this wisdom.

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2 Triples For Happiness

Photo on 03-03-2018 at 12.03

2 Triples For Happiness

Anicca – Dukka – Anatta

Today wisdom and happiness comes in 2 triples, the first is Anicca, Dukka, and Anatta, the triple gem of existence.

We all know this, but much of our suffering comes from not accepting it. Everything rises and falls without cease, therefore we need to be able to fully engage, to love, enjoy and then at the right time let go. To be able to do this we need to remind ourselves in daily meditation that all things will pass and just knowing this will broaden our perspective enough to give a deep happiness.

Suffering is borne from desire and aversion. When we have an unnatural attraction to have or an aversion to not have, we will suffer. Accepting what cannot be changed and is inevitable is important to be able to get on with life and change that which can be changed to contribute to the world in a positive way.

Not Self
We are not born into this world, we’re born out of it. Our DNA goes back to the big bang, we have always been here in one form or another. Our meditation connects us to the source and we understand that what we think is the ‘self’ is in fact just a wave riding on and fully connected to the ‘sea’ of the source of all things. We are much, much, more than the thinking mind, when that ceases in meditation, all is revealed.

Buddha – Dharma – Sangha

The second triple gem is the 3 essentials of enlightenment.

To Be Awake
To have a mind that is fully aware, focused, sensitive and has the right kind of intensity. Once this mind is developed we are not subject to the mental enemies of apathy and distraction that make many people into living zombies. Others are unable to manipulate us as we can see through the deceptions with clarity and are able to thin k and judge for ourselves.

The Pursuit Of Truth
Truth just is. It is our personal journey, we have to discover for ourselves. Wisdom and truth reside in and arise from the wordless mind in meditation. It’s intrinsic and often cannot be defined. There is a difference between knowing about something and actually knowing and fully realising it. We all know academics that know everything about martial arts but can’t actually do it. A big difference!

The Right Circle Of Friends
A ‘Dojo’ is ‘a place to find the way’ and like a church is not a building but a group of like minded individuals. Part of the pursuit of truth is solitary but the other part needs other people for mutual support and exchange. A ‘Sensei’ is ‘one who has made the journey’ and is able to guide you in following the path. He/she can’t do it for you but can certainly help with a map of how to get there.

So there you have it. Understanding impermanence, suffering and the truth of the self and how to be awake, discover truth and mix with the right people. 2 triples that really can be life changing!

Articles, Uncategorized

Find Your Own Martial Art

Photo on 23-10-2017 at 17.52 #3 copy

Been training for a while and feel dissatisfied? Feel like you’re not learning the right things? The martial arts not meeting your expectations?

Meditate – ask yourself what you really want from your training, I don’t mean all the usual blanket answers but what do YOU want? What are YOUR individual expectations? This can lead to quite a few surprises because you’ve probably been taking on other people’s expectations without realising it and that’s why you have to go deep to discover what it is you REALLY need from your efforts.

Look at what you’re doing – having realised fully why you’re training, is your current path going to get you there? Look at the end result of what you’re training for and start to plot a path towards each bit. You will probably find that you will have take up separate aspects to get them to converge at the right point. I had to study philosophy, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, and my own culture of Wicca and paganism, the healing arts of reiki and massage and the softer and more internal side of traditional Tai Chi to match the Kickboxing, Karate, Ju Jitsu, Judo along with the Chinese and Japanese weapons arts of Iaido, Jodo, Broadsword, Double Edge sword and Spear to reach the standard that I wanted and had to learn from the top Coaches in each field of study.

Be yourself – Everyone wants you to become what they want. Masters want soldiers and blind followers, students and family want you become what suits them. They will put their expectations on you. DON’T LET THEM! Be yourself! Don’t let anyone else put you in a box you are an individual and to be who you really are – and unlike them you have worked it out and plotted a path!

Be discerning – Can these people do what they say? How many top level practitioners and coaches have they produced? people lie, they exaggerate, they don’t put in the work themselves, they try and hide their lack of skill with mystique, secrecy and lineages – don’t fall for it!

Find balance – work at a pace that you can sustain. Become emotionally intelligent. Any path is only as strong as it’s weakest point, so know what your strong and weak points are – discover them for yourself, don’t wait for others to tell you! Other people always have an agenda know yourself inside out and find that essential level of balance.

Stick to your guns – have resolve, determination, courage, patience, tolerance, kindness and compassion and simply don’t give up. This is a lifelong quest! Fall down 7 times and get up 8. That’s the rule of thumb for life. That 1 step forwards through all the trials and tribulations is worth it’s weight in gold – it’s the winning step, it’s what sorts out the winners from the losers.

Do it – do it now – don’t put it off. Get your arse in that chair or on that cushion NOW, sit straight, breathe deep, calm your mind down and focus your attention – then ask yourself “what do I REALLY want?”



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The ‘Empty Force’ Of Tai Chi


Photo on 23-10-2017 at 17.52 #3

‘Empty force’ sounds nebulous and difficult to understand, but it isn’t. The body is a spring, when the posture is correct and the joints unlocked, when the soft tissue carries no unnecessary tension – the compression and release of a combination of the joints, including the spine, bodycore and soft tissue is a skill that can be trained in a multitude of ways.

The first level of skill is to unlock the body and keep it unlocked, start with good posture and then unlock the ankles, knees, hips, back and chest with the mantra ‘soften and connect’ when you can drop your bodyweight into the arches of your feet and feel them spread to the floor with the weight you’re ready to pump.

If you were to then jump in the air you would bend the joints and spring upwards, making the body ‘float’ upwards with an emptiness – and that’s what we’re looking for. Then try it without leaving the ground making the arms raise and float upwards with the Tai Chi technique at the beginning of the form called ‘raise hands’ although the hands float up they should still be connected to the feet so it they contacted the opponent at any point, the power would still come directly from the feet.

Then practice a series of exercises, (the Yang Family qigong is specifically designed for this purpose) making each part of the body float in every range of movement with that ’empty but connected to the feet’ sensation constantly unlocking and springing through the joints and soft tissue.

The next stage is the Tai Chi form with every technique practised in the same way so that you ‘float’ through the form with that characteristic soft, smooth, spiralling but still powerfully connected manner where at any point you can repel an opponent and also send an additional pulse in the same manner of a dynamic ‘pinball’ of energy into an opponent without overextending into them or collapsing from their pressure or your own technical failure.

This can then be applied to push hands and application work in a variety of skillsets.

The idea is simple. The action takes considerable training, but the skill is layered in at each stage. The purpose of this blog is to give you the vision of where to go and be able to recognise the training plan to get you there.

In Karate you may recognise the same process as ‘sink, swallow, float and spit’.

It’s an old internal skill that is rapidly getting lost as martial artists move from principles to technique only and a gym style of muscular development, throwing the baby out with the bathwater as they do so.

It wasn’t called ‘Soft Cotton Boxing’ and ‘Deceptive Boxing’ for nothing!


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Direct Knowledge Is Different

steve profile books


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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If I die tonight


Dedicated to my good friend the late Graham Wendes.

If I die tonight will the universe stop?
If I return to the Tao it will be like a wave returning to the sea;
No more ‘being human’ and only ‘sensing’ the infinite;
From whence I came, I will return and be it once more.
My ‘place of refuge’ becomes my home again.

In the infinite, all time exists all of the time, the theatre of life exists because the pot is stirred;
When stirred, one plays off against the other in a binary fashion, simple appears complicated as the picture of life is created;
Pulsing continuously into an ever changing picture like a TV signal;
With each part not realising that that they are all joined, made from the same binary code that itself joins to form the unrecognisable infinite.

The universe creates the unfolding drama to satisfy itself, we unwittingly keep recreating a similar drama for our amusement with theatre, films and TV –
When we wake up, we see it.

By Steve Rowe