Friday, 31 December 2010

George Kerr, British judoka, receives CBE

George Kerr, top judoka and president of the British Judo Association, has been recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours list.

The 73-year-old was given a CBE for his services to judo, coming soon after being awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor of Japan.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Winter run

YouTube Video

Happy holidays!

The Shorinji Kempo closing ceremony went well and sake was drunk. A time for reflection on this year's achievements and the goals for the coming year.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Mind power: keeping clarity when others are trying to spoil your game

"The essence of good cricket is having a clear mind, so the strategy for the fielding side is to get the batsman thinking about other stuff - whether it's the runs he has or hasn't scored in the past, what his feet might be doing, what his head position might be, what the selectors might be thinking about him, what the crowd might be saying," explains Justin Langer, former (excellent IMO) Australia cricket opener.

"As soon as you start thinking about those things, you're away from having clarity in your mind. That's what sledging is for me - sowing some seeds of doubt in a player's mind. But if you're playing well, with that clarity, it can't touch you."

(Taken from:

Interesting take on mind power: keep a clear mind when there is around you trying to put you off. This shows great self awareness too: confidence in your own abilities.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Cold floor, seminar and moustaches

Even real men feel the cold. Even real men with moustaches for Movember feel the cold, wintry, November floors of dojos. That's what me and fellow Movember bandido felt when we went down to the Bristol winter seminar for some extra tuition.

As ever with Shorinji Kempo the folk were friendly and we had a good time and picked up a few learning pointers along the way.

Sparring practice and eager to score

A tiring session tonight started with some light randori to warm up and also to see what issues fell out of these encounters with which to work upon. On of the things that sensei TO mentioned was the concept of winning before the engagement. An idea which involved trying to stack all the cards in your favour before the conflict even starts: something which can involve many elements but on the physical level it can mean making the opportunities for yourself without getting hit too much.

It occurred to me as we were discussing this that all my martial arts career I've always been eager to win the point. In sparring I tend to take the fight to my opponent always looking for opportunities but hungry for those occasions to arise. Wanting to land the kick or punch so much that I'd spar offensively. I wouldn't say I was impatient but I certainly usually look to put pressure on my opponent, chasing him or her down. The trouble with this strategy is an experienced opponent can simply wait and pick you off.

So this evening's lesson was simply that I should look to make the opportunities without the rush into conflict. Hold back, see the lay of the land and react to the opponent's techniques. Sounds rudimentary but I have to confess that it's something I still need to work on.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Shorinji kempo as self defence

Last night I was battered by a woman and it reassured me.

Sensei set up a sequence of attacks or approaches which could easily be seen as self defence moves and my partner (a woman of much slighter build) and I started practising. We both took turns as the aggressor but it was quite obvious to me she was executing good technique and obvious to others that she was throwing me around the dojo. This made me feel pretty good. I knew I wasn't faking it (not being easy on her-in fact sometimes I was quite awkward) and my partner, SD, had to make the technique work within this self defence framework. It gave me a good feeling of reassurance that what sometimes seem as quite formal techniques can be effective as self defence moves; all this as she bounced me off the walls.

I'm not saying that this is 'Woman's Self Defence' (a term I find incredibly condescending) nor that I'm pleased a *woman* can make these techniques work, simply that I felt a smaller, slighter person can be effective on a heavier aggressor who acts with feeling and with intent.

What is not considered in this format, of course, is street environment or street clothing. Any dojo 'self defence moves' are really no more than an approximation of the physicality of what might happen in the street/bus/tube. We walk into a dojo with sports specific clothing, bare feet, clean flat floors and bright lighting. None of these elements are guaranteed on the street.

This does not mean practising the self defence technique is worthless. If it's never used then it can never be conceived of or tapped into at a subconscious level when needed.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Aikido, Judo and Iaido throws

Just a quick look at some 'nage' or throws in Aikido, Judo and interestingly an iai form with a throw (although this is possibly an Aikido waza with swords-anyone?). The obvious similarity which runs throw all of these different techniques is the use of the opponent's momentum: body movement or tai sabaki. In the sword form it's much more subtle as the movement of the opponent's body is his flinch against the strike as the instigator capitalises on this and carries the movement down to the floor.

Irimi nage - Aikido

Tai Oshi - Judo



Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Kata, Hyung tonifies the body

I was asked to do Pyung Ahn Oh Dan yesterday. In fact, I offered as it's a hyung I need to practice, so I executed it three times: once to the count, twice without a count and boy did I know about it! I'd forgotten how many different stance changes there were, and of course...the jump.

In any case, I felt like I'd had a real workout by the end of it! A martial arts lesson for us all I think: kata or hyung can really tone up our bodies if practised assiduously.

As I searched for Pyung Ahn Oh Dan I came across the shotokan equivalent (or vice versa you may argue!) pinan godan and found it interesting to juxtapose the videos of the forms.

The first one is classical Tang Soo Do hyung. The second one seems almost shotokan in its delivery but still intended as Tang Soo Do. And the third one is definitely karate Japanese (Okinawan) style kata. But all in all, similarities run through them all I find.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Sumo wrestling in Mongolia

Interesting article on the BBC website about sumo in Mongolia and the training that these women undergo for their martial art.

"Sumo wrestling has taken Mongolia by storm. Its male wrestlers have reached the peak of the sport in Japan, from where it originates, and in recent years, more and more women have been entering the ring."

Friday, 15 October 2010


Good sparring session last night so I came away tired and feeling good, having dispensed of some energy and learnt a lot. As we don't use sparring gloves my knuckles came away a bit red and sore but this, at least meant I scored a few hits and blocked what otherwise would have knocked seven shades of stuff out of me.

The sparring session was built up well by sensei TO and we investigated some key points of distance and timing and assessing how your sparring partner reacts to your movement. In addition I was prompted by MH to relax more (easy for him to say: he's bigger, stronger and more experienced!), but I don't think he meant for me to stop being more jittery. I took from this remark that in order to move in sparring with speed and deliver meaningful and strong attacks, this has to be done from a fluid and relaxed state (with obvious power at the end of the technique).

Point duly noted.

I wish we had worn sparring gloves though...ouch!

Thursday, 14 October 2010


Here is a video of a student and his BJJ teacher 'sparring'. What's interesting in this video is the cool way in which the teacher and student work through ideas and attempt different locks, all seemingly calm and aware of what's happening. See if you can work out which is the BJJ teacher!

BJJ is fairly popular these days due to its integration in mixed martial arts training.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Jake Adelstein exposes the world of the Yakuza

Jake Adelstein is flogging his book, albeit five years after his research. But there seems to be good reason to do so. His initial research into the Yakuza in Japan lead to him offering dubious sex acts in return for information and ultimately a death threat. this was enough to convince him to pack up and leave the country. Maybe now, after some time, he feels more comfortable publishing his findings but with names and specifics missed out. Looks like an interesting read... (listen to the interview clip)

Full interview with Adelstein here:

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Aaron Cook injects optimism into team GB Tae Kwon Do

Aaron Cook wins in the 80kg weight class at the British Open Tae Kwon Do Championships and ranks him number one in the world.

I do find it strange that competitors can lose so much composure following a point score though. It seems to me more like gamesmanship than martial art. They also seem to not follow up if they themselves are convinced of having scored a point, appealing to the judges often and crying and moaning. Oh dear. I think I'm getting old. Or at least am I old fashioned?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Don't just sit it!

As I'm sat here, skipping Kempo class, I feel...well, relaxed. I need a night off to crack this cold I have and hopefully I'll be back on form soon and training with gusto. I need to as the only way to learn a martial art is by doing it. Learning the key principle behind techniques is useful but it's in no way a replacement for doing it.

Knowing that martial arts training techniques are governed by principles such as "changing a small force into a larger one", "applying rotational motion", "transmit more force by adding momentum" are pretty fundamental when studying a martial art. Put another way, using some principles of physics and knowledge of the human anatomy including vital points can go a long way but it just can't replace feeling it.

I often read the mantras spun out by teachers about this principle or that and I understand it. They are often well put and I have no problem grasping the base idea of how to move a person in a certain way or how to immobilise a joint because of this or that physiological principle but really the only way to learn and appreciate is to do it. This means feeling your opponent and sensing where the right spot is to plant a fulcrum, or move them to the floor. Don't be mistaken though, this is in no way magical or mystical. It's sheer hard work and perspiration. Trying the technique on others (lots of others), and experimenting in a dynamic way is the only way to true mastery of a technique. I say this not as a master but a student who keeps trying.

I once made, what I thought, was a compliment to a super skilled, guitar-playing friend of mine saying, "Wow, you're really talented! You've got a gift!". Instead of delight, though, he replied in a level voice that it wasn't down to talent but sheer hard work; trial and error and hours and hours of practice. You can understand how to read music and how it's supposed to work but without hearing it, playing it, practising it, it's just theory!

Don't let your martial arts become a theoretical past-time... feel it!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Spartan's from Cambridge Shorinji Kempo Dojo come back *with* shields

Today a bunch of Mad Badgers ran in the name of the Cambridge Shorinji Kempo Do

jo (CSKD) at the Spartan race (, Bassingbourn. This was a gruelling (otherwise it wouldn’t have been ‘Spartan’, right?) 5 kilometre race at the military barrack assault course with some interesting additions.

On top of a LONG dark tunnel to crawl through, streams to splodge through, burning bales to jump over and mud to crawl through we had a very cold swim (about 30 metres) in the lake and a succession of hills to run up…and down!

But we survivied! Crispin, Sarah, Chris and honorary CSKD member Ian all rejoiced at the end at gaining our medal (and an additional bloody nose for Crispin who seemed to forget all ukemi skills). The pugil stick wielders felled Crispin, onto his nose (I simply screamed, "Not the face! Not the face!".) He took it in good sport though and after tea and sausage sarnies we felt warm enough to ..go home!

Nice one everyone. Especially Crispin who ran it all in his dogi…

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Nage Practice

Ok, so this may seem tame to experienced throwees but it was a first for me!
(I'm the one being 'thrown'.)

Monday, 2 August 2010

Obituary - Pauline Laville Bindra 8th Dan

I received an email shot from Blitzsport with an obituary: Pauline Laville Bindra. This woman had an impressive martial arts record and had founded Blitzsport (the martial arts supplier).

She started martial arts way back when, I guess, it must have seemed an odd past time. Now, of course, it's almost mainstream or at least well known and understood.

The danger of a drunken punch

Two bones broken in the face and jaw and possibly concussion from (seemingly) one unprovoked punch from a drunk bloke.

Main self defence lesson learned: stay away from drunk blokes.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Teaching children martial arts

I've taught children as part of regular Tang Soo Do practice for about ten years. As with lots of other martial arts, higher grades are expected to take small groups of lower grades to instruct them on syllabus as part of the class. This is done under the auspices of the presiding black belt who will instruct on which aspect of the syllabus should be covered. This way the students can work towards their next grading, filling in gaps where necessary.

Since November 2009 I've been helping out Master AC with the children's class: something I really enjoy. I take the entire class of juniors (including some dads) for an hour before the senior class starts. This means I can focus on giving the children appropriate instruction tailored to little minds and bodies. The age range varies greatly, which makes the job difficult, but half way through I regularly get help from adult black belts who arrive early for their class and who are willing to help out.

What I like to do is use half an hour of warm ups and games and exercises to convey some principles of the art. The kids like this as they don't think they're learning as such but do exercise broad principles such as balance, body awareness, spatial appreciation, striking in a particular way with correct posture and energy direction. At half time I use the idea from Shorinji Kempo where we sit and I'll chat to them about philosophy in very broad terms. It also gives them a chance to drink (I oblige them to bring a bottle of water with them). this 'philosophy' moment is also ideal for talking about physiology, why we are training and guiding them in ideas about martial arts generally. It might sometime involve a 'classic' martial arts story.

The second half is more technical and focuses on combinations, partner work and hyung. It's here I need the help of other black belts so I can split the class into age groups.

Recently, though, I found I have a problem. Master AC assessed the class for the next grading and found they most of them didn't know their syllabus well enough. It seems I'm good at imparting general principles and keeping the children excited and interested in Tang Soo Do but not so good at drilling them on syllabus. I've over focused on giving them what I think of as a good martial arts experience without training them in the more technical aspects which I thought would be more boring for them.

So this is my new challenge! Trying to maintain a more traditional syllabus and keeping the children involved and interested. Everything we need to learn can be found in hyung (kata) so I need to look here again and start breaking it down for them. That's how karate was originally passed on and there are so many interesting applications within the hyungs that I'm sure I'll find a way.

I have the summer to think about it and turn a failure into a success...

Sue's article on teaching children:

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Long beach and sand dune run

This 5 mile run cleared my head and helped my knotted shoulders relax.
Extremely enjoyable with flora and fauna bouncing around like a Disney film.

This little fella was smaller than my little finger nail.

Shame about the power station....

View Blue Lagoon run in a larger map

Monday, 12 July 2010

Last night a groin guard saved my life!

I took a good solid kick in the lower abdomen tonight so I'm glad that I consider the box or groin guard as an essential part of my kit. Don't enter a dojo without one.

Having said that I suppose some arts which are based less on striking or kicking might just recommend using an elastic support without the hard plastic cup as this might nip a little.

Shorinji kempo is both hard and soft style so hitting and kicking is pre-requisite so I really need the cup.

I've always worn knee pads too (volley ball ones are more than adequate) and lately have taken to wearing small ones for my elbows too).

I prefer the comfort to the body 'conditioning' approach...

Am I getting old?

Friday, 2 July 2010

Guarding against dementia

Reduce your chances of developing dementia by 20% by making some lifestyle changes:

  • Exercise
  • Not being obese
  • Reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Stop smoking
  • Stay within weekly guidelines for alcohol consumption
  • Follow a Mediterranean style diet
  • Have an active social life
Apparently there is no proof brain training will help so much....

Everyday bokken practice

Sadly I don't practice bokken *every* day but rather this is bokken practice in an every day context, that is to say my garden. With the cat mooching around my feet.

No animals were hurt in the making of this picture.

I mostly executed some suburi practice focusing on ki ken tai (don't we always!?)
Fun, hot and relaxing.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Hot weather training

With the demise of my dogi I have to start wearing a very good quality BJJ gi I bought. It's comfy and as someone pointed out looks like a dressing gown (owing to the extra padding that BJJ practitioners need for gripping the collar and the gi itself). The only drawback is that it's heavy and makes you warm!

So, advice on heat stroke and heat exhaustion below.

"The Mayo Clinic says that heatstroke is the most severe of the heat-related problems. Like heat exhaustion, it often results from exercise or heavy work in hot environments combined with inadequate fluid intake. Children, older adults, obese people, and people who do not sweat properly are at high risk of heatstroke. Other factors that increase the risk of heat stroke include dehydration, alcohol use, cardiovascular disease and certain medications. Heatstroke is life threatening because the body loses its ability to deal with heat can't sweat or control the body's temperature. Symptoms of heatstroke include rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, elevated or lowered blood pressure, lack of sweating, irritability, confusion or unconsciousness, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, headache, nausea, and/or fainting."

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Reasonable force?

Doesn't look like reasonable force to me. Looks like he lost his rag (albeit under some pressure from the women. They seem to be resisting arrest...?).

Wotcha reckon?

Story here:

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Gain a degree in judo!

OK, so you're a martial arts enthusiast but all that's on offer at University are boring subjects like History or Astro-physics or Business studies. How you wish there was a degree in martial arts...

Dream no longer! Anglia Ruskin University is now offering a degree in judo accredited by the European Judo Union (EJU). But before you pack your gi clutching a single ticket to Cambridge you should know that Bob Challis, course leader, says that this degree will be open to only world class coaches, he says "We’ll have around 30 to 40 judo coaches from around the world here at Anglia Ruskin University. The degree will require coaches of the highest level."

Ho hum.

Well done PMY for finding this article.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Contact Improvisation

In response to Cat's amazing post on dance and martial arts; movement and contact improvisation I'd like to share a video:

It's slow motion kendo illustrating how two bodies can interact with timing and power in relation to an opponent's body movement (intended and actual).

The music is beautiful but not the main feature I was 'struck' with here. Even though these men (this is the men's final) are a metre or more apart they feel each other's energy and movement impeccably. Check out Koiso's 'men' strike against Inage: like a wave rising up, feeling Inage not taking the bait and continuing on to 'men'.

Uchimura's kote on Teramoto is also sublime. Here he feels the air with his shinai, tempting Teramoto to raise which he does for a men strike. Uchimura then closes distance fast for kote.

I was taught in both kendo and Western Fencing to touch blades with your opponent in order to feel the energy, or indeed to fool your adversary into striking or parrying in a particular way. These guys seem to have extended that out and are doing a similar thing without even touching blades. They're simply using the air around the blades! This interaction is much more subtle than sticky hands but I think just as relevant as a form of 'contact improvisation' where two energies interact and work around each other.

Nobody likes Tae Kwon Do (or everybody hates being kicked in the head)

Well, the commentator certainly found this kick "impresionante" but what I found interesting was that the guy was falling over and still had the presence of mind (or was it just an intense, drilled, fighting mind) to kick as he went down...

Incredibly shabby handwork! These guys were within hand striking distance but didn't even look like they'd be prepared to swat a passing fly, let alone hit each other with their hands. They didn't seem to block with their arms either. It has to be said though that I have trained with the University Tae Kwon Do squad and those guys are really sharp with their legs: rapid and strong so *if* you can get past their legs and through their leg guard you can be effective, if not you get thumped on the way in.

But you know what, I'm not going to churn out all the old chestnuts about Tae Kwon Do because it seems that many other martial artists look down upon it anyway, so I don't need to.

Surely though, all 'games' (or disciplines if you prefer) have rules? You wouldn't pick the ball up in football would you?

More on Aaron Cook, British Tae Kwon Do Olympic 2012 hopeful, here:

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Bad news for sausage lovers

"Eating processed meat such as sausages increases the likelihood of heart disease, while red meat does not seem to be as harmful, a study suggests."

One person's solution (not very complicated idea, but nicely put):

Monday, 10 May 2010

Death of a pair of good friends

It had to come to this one day...
The soles were gone, the sides ripped and my feet finally felt flat and unsupported running in them. Goodbye faithful Karrimor trail shoes... Into the bin you go...


Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Green exercise aids mental health

Just five minutes of exercise in a "green space" such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Bartlow Challenge: 9 mile run

I had never run 9 miles before so I was a little apprehensive. More so when I saw that there were only about 40 runners, most of which looked like pros...I was going to be at the back or even last so I had to accept it, relax and run. Before the run PP advised me to start at a slow pace, saving my energy and this helped immensely. It helped me also get into a steady rhythm.

92 minutes 23 seconds through wind and rainy conditions in beautiful undulating Cambridgeshire countryside...

View Larger Map

PP and I about to enjoy a breakfast roll, cuppa and muffin. The spoils of victory.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Grading day, Shorinji kempo

I had to stop and check out the boats as they clunk-whished past me on the river Cam. It was a nice settling noise which eased my nerves a little…

After having met up with the other grading candidates we chatted on the train to London and tried to remain focused. We each had our ways of handling the nerves but mostly we didn’t try and swot up, but simply relaxed. Jonathan’s cast iron concnetration was broken by a “silk” finish on a car he saw. From that moment on he couldn’t hink of anything else. I think he’s in love.

The grading went without hitch but during the warm-up I thought Iwas going to expire! This was when the nerves really kicked in. Luckily my grading started fairly soon and I didn’t have too much time to wait and think about gaps in my knowledge. As it happens the other two kenshi in my group seemed to have more gaps than I! At first this seemed like a blessing and boosted my confidence (even though I wanted them to do well too) but soon it became apparent that grading with others not so prepared can be a challenge in itself!

The grading flashed by with only a few hitches for me but we helped each other through and I felt good when it came to an end. The train journey home was full of relief and I wished we’d had a couple of beers…

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Actor guilty of offensive weapon charge

So it seems that the Scottish courts have judged that the kubotan that Darren Day ('entertainer') was carrying when found drunk was an offensive weapon.

"the sheriff was told by two martial arts experts from Lothian and Borders Police that the kubotan was designed in the 1970s for use by the Los Angeles Police as a self-defence weapon and in a worst case scenario could be used to kill someone."

So there you have it. I'm guessing thought that the same martial arts experts could have argued that owning a pen or a credit card could also be judged offensive if used in an offensive manner. I guess their argument is that the kubotan was developed as a weapon in the first place.


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

How a key ring can be an offensive weapon

A British 'entertainer' is currently in court for possessing an offensive weapon. The weapon in question is what he uses as a key ring and is a kubotan: a five inch metal rod developed as a self defence system in your pocket.

The 'entertainer' in question maintains that he wasn't aware of this aspect to what he maintains is simply his way of not losing his keys. I am somewhat intrigued to see how this develops and to see if this is seen as a weapon. Is carrying some offcuts of dowel home from the DIY shop an illegal act? Or indeed a six foot curtain rail in the same form and weight as a bo staff going to cause legal problems?

Admittedly the kubotan is directly advertised as a self defence weapon and as well as being able to be used to strike, and to gain leverage in locks and pins, when keys are attached can be used as a flail. But the kubotan is a development of the traditional 'yawara' weapon used in many martial arts which is simply a short stick. Just as the kubotan was used by police forces in the US in the mid 1970s it seems that the yawara was introduced some 40 years previously to the Californian police force by Professor Frank Matsuyama. Matsuyama's yawara use was seen as 'humane' as it "enables a man to overcome his opponent before trouble can really begin" (ref).

This following video shows a modern take on defence with the kubotan by some krav mga practitioners:

And another showing how effective and somewhat viscous this little stick could be in a self defence situation:

So I can see how these small sticks can be brutally effective but surely the intent has to be to use it as a weapon. Or is this a cop out? After all, if it's classified as a weapon, then there's not much to say in its defence. It'll be interesting to see how this current kubotan court case pans out here.

Can anything be used as a weapon? What about a magazine? Surely not...

Go to 1 minute 30...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter run

What a beautiful day! We all had lamb roast dinner (made by yours truly) so, much later, when I felt like going for a run I was well fuelled up and had a lot of energy. It's often a struggle to get out of the door to go running and today, despite the lovely cool Spring breeze and blue skies, was no exception. So instead of putting it off, once I had the idea in mind, I set to and didn't stop getting ready till I stepped out the door.

Mostly rural run passing along the river and Baits Bite Lock.

6.5 miles with a time of 1 hour 5mins. Not so great, could do better.

View Butt Lane run in a larger map

Friday, 2 April 2010

Martial arts movement and dance

Whilst watching a video recently I was prompted to revisit a theme I've pondered on in the past: the relationship between dance and martial arts.

Funakoshi said about karate, "No matter how much time you devote to practice, no matter how many months and years pass, if your practice consists of no more than moving your arms and legs, you might as well be studying a dance. You will never come to know the true meaning karate". He was effectively saying that karate had an additional motive to simple body movement and that is application within conflict.

I'm not trying to equate dance with martial arts performance but I am intrigued by its sometimes balletic movements. Do we use dance or rhythmic movement within martial application? Particularly, of course, in randori.

Rhythm can be seen often in martial applications but mostly we aim to break the rhythm of opponents and many karateka would blanch at the idea that I'm proposing that these two disciplines could be related, or perhaps intertwined.

My interest was raised when I first heard of fencing being the direct ancestor of ballet. Fencing moves were practised in single form (like kata) when fighting was not convenient and they were ultimately set to music and performed in court for purely artistic reasons. Fencing is now divorced from ballet just as karate is from modern dance but the expression of one's body movements within a framework is, of course, a common theme.

Dance does not have any attacking or fighting principles: it's an artistic expression. Can it be fair to say that martial arts training leads to an expression of intent through the body? Or even that we simply use rhythmic movement in order to achieve martial principles.

Check out the following video. Although this seems like randori, I admit it may be a drill sequence and the dance-like quality could be deliberately manufactured.

Taekkyun (or Important Intangible Cultural Asset No.76) is a Korean martial art with distinct dance-like qualities. Not the smashing of feet into partners' heads but the initial preamble of a bout which seems similar to the Capoeria 'Jinga'. In the following video this is clearly demonstrated. Not sure that the cheesey pop music is obligatory though).

Furthermore, Dr Dae Yung speaking in the BBC 3 series, Mind, Body and Kickass moves clearly states that Taekkyun's movements are based on traditional dance. He says, "Also, Korean dancing move like this. Move like dancing" (showing the Taekkyun formal footwork). He goes on to explain that this happy type of movement also helps his mental state rendering him happy when he fights!

The following is, however, purely dance (amazing gymnastic dance albeit) and as far as I can see not related to martial arts but for the fact that it mimics certain martial formulas (blocks, kicks and punches). Even though these techniques are performed with speed and flexibility, I doubt the accuracy and power. Certainly the intention is not to show fighting skill but dancing (body movement, no martial intent) and choreography.

Maybe one last thing to mention when thinking about the relationship of dance with karate is randori. Randori can of course be chaotic, but at its simplest isn't it locking onto another beings rhythm in an attempt to disrupt it? The best randori I ever have is with an opponent who can feel my rhythm of movement and whose rhythm I 'get' immediately. Although this makes for tough randori (in order to point score) it means there is a connection of the two fighters. The most unconvincing of randori consists of when I feel the other person is jittery, or ungrounded and certainly not flowing (or when I get knocked on my *rse). This doesn't mean it is wrong, just not as 'easy' for me to tap into.

The closest I could possibly put forward as an example of connection of adversaries through conflict is pushing hands in Tai Chi. This is essentially a flowing action to feel the opponent's energy/physical state and to take opportunities in weaknesses therein to imbalance it. It's not dance at all but there is a connection of rhythm in the practitioners and a sense of feeling the sensitivities of the opponent in order to effect a change.

Dance is defined by wikipedia as: "An art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting.

Dance may also be regarded as a form of nonverbal communication between humans, and is also performed by other animals (bee dance, patterns of behaviour such as a mating dance)."

Am I way off?

Just plain insulting?

Check out Cat's post on dance and movement:

Learning with a clear mind

Last night's Shorinji Kempo lesson turned out to be a good, sweaty session with lots of refining technique and learning formats ready for the grading. Unfortunately as I entered the dojo I had a few things on my mind and I was in a dark and painful mental state. These, typically (for me, at any rate), can be difficult to shake and the first 20 minutes training (warm-up and kihon) were not easy. Interestingly the light randori I did with sensei TO to warm up was easy. I find randori really helps clear my mind. Sadly, just after I finished warming up with the randori I descended back into my dark mood and I could see the black dog was following me.

My main worry was that I was more concerned about my mental state than learning. This is a crucial lesson for me as it's the run-up to the grading and I want to fill in any gaps of knowledge I have so I needed to buckle down. During this period when I was preoccupied I wasn't learning effectively. At times when sensei explained something to us in detail, I glazed over and ended up thinking about my preoccupations. "Clear?", he asked. "Hai!" I replied, then thought, "Uh oh...what did he say?". I'm sure lots of people encounter this but it struck me how it impacted on my learning last night. By the end of the session I'd shaken it and was focused on techniques, especially my kumi embu, and was learning well because my mind was clear(er).

Interestingly sensei TO pushed me out of my mood without realising it simply by creating an atmosphere of determined and focused repetition of the kumi embu. The determination and focus on the techniques meant I had no space in my mind for other worries. Excellent!

For those interested, the kumi embu for 2nd to 1st kyu is as follows:

1. Uchi uke zuki - ren hen ko
2. Soto uke zuki - ren hen ko
3. Sode nuki
4. Sode dori
5. Kusshin zuki - ren hen ko
6. Soto oshi uke zuki - ren hen ko
7. Kata muna otoshi
8. Eri juji
9. Ude maki
10. Chidori gaeshi - ren hen ko

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Are lower stances the way forward?

We drilled low front stances tonight during Tang Soo Do. Specifically low and deep front stance. This fairly simple 'walking' stance can be notoriously difficult to teach to young children. It's a paradox I find. So simple: from ready stance, step forward or back, maintain feet forward and flex the front leg, keeping the back leg straight (acting like a buttress). There is a lot more to it, but in essence it gives a good stable base from which to apply techniques.

But...I'm forever correcting the children's front stance. My biggest gripe with them is they stand on a tightrope. Turning left into front stance requires stepping out and back to give a wide and deep stance. Working on this is essential as kids tend to turn into it and end up with feet aligned.

It was, however, my training in the senior class which gave rise to some internal questions concerning my front stance. Master AC emphasised deep front stance, making us push hard into it, gripping the floor and straining muscles. I was tired and hot and grumbled at the prospect and didn't want to tip my pelvic bone out of alignment so reluctantly sank down. There is a good article here regarding front stance and pelvic alignment at fighting arts. I've often had this in mind when practising my front stance and actually, I believe, used it as an excuse not to explore it more. Tonight when pushed to produce a lower, grounded stance I had excellent feedback but bore in mind my pelvic position. It was possible to produce a low stance, gripped to the floor with my feet in correct position without tipping the base of my spine.

My conclusion is that it's good to revisit base techniques and be open to trying stuff out. It's all well and good to intellectualise training but the only way to the heart of one's practice is through doing... Trying it! Practising!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Rotary Martial Arts Festival

Sunday 16th May, 2010, from 1.00pm to approx 4.30pm

Featuring demonstrations from 12 different Martial Arts
Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kung Fu, Kenbudo, Krav Maga
Ju Jitsu, Stav, Capoeira, Aikido, Systema
Combat Jutsu & Mixed Martial Arts, F.A.S.T. Defence

Friday, 12 March 2010

Kirishima Kazuhiro: sumo wrestler in action

Here is a great video of Kirishima in action. He's the smaller, muscular wrestler.
The information on this Youtube video says that the match was disputed three times till Mitoizumi won in the fourth bout.

Points of interest from this clip:
1. Although Kirishima is somewhat smaller than his opponent he is initially not outplayed and certainly in two of the bouts seems on the point of winning in an aggressive and offensive manner.
2. Don't sit in the front row of a sumo match! (Unless you really want to be squished)
3. Kirishima wrote an interesting autobiography but as far as I can see its only translation is in French... (Picquier Poche)
4. Sumo live and train within different 'Heya' which is translated into English as 'stable'. In the above mentioned book the French choose a more sympathetic term of 'Confrérie' which means brotherhood.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Techniques and principles

Shorinji Kempo ended up being a thoughtful, but tiring and (for my wrists) painful lesson. It was interesting as sensei TO took us through a series of fundamental techniques but executing them in a slightly different manner. Sometimes this can lead to confusion as the new ideas might clash somewhat with the official technique. This time it seemed different though and I felt we were exploring the core principles in each technique rather than walking through the movements step by step. For example gyaku gote (the mother technique) can be executed against most people by following a series of steps: take preparation stance, feel for the off balance, take up wrist, release, press down on back of hand and turn. That's pretty much how a beginner might learn it. Last lesson sensei TO emphasised more the result which was needed: attacker needs to be dispatched to the floor in this direction. It was much more instructive than this but we certainly had food for thought and were less concerned about the 'mechanics' and more about the feeling which is also an important aspect in learning martial arts techniques.

Gyaku gote-the mother technique.

Okuri gote-the tough nut to crack...

Both killers on the wrists.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sword Play

Two contrasting styles of fencing (with different weapons).

First the two handed sword, showing techniques from Lichtenauer's style.

Interestingly these fellas are going at it full tilt with swords but their tai sabaki is excellent. Note how they attack with their *bodies*, always pushing into the centreline of their opponent. When attacking they force forward and finish with feet pointing towards their partner's centre (not always). Solid parries and attacks with the body is essential-they're not relying on their weapon even though it looks formidable. More is needed and in this case you can see how everything comes into play: body, feet, sword and (probably) breath.

Check out the intriguing ways the Fabris fighters turn around a linear attack. They curve and circle in an almost grotesque way. Equally other times the parry is very small: just enough to knock the opponent off the line of attack. At about 1m 50s you see the active agent take the initiative to attack and also protect himself from the line of attack by turning his blade up, deflecting any forward momentum. Mind you, a couple of times it looks like the passive agent was so passive he was asleep!

Great hip movement and rotation for extra reach.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Karate Kid 2010

I came across this trailer for the Karate Kid 2010 the other day whilst surfing youtube... Looks fun. I'm intrigued by the fact that Jackie Chan is playing a wizened old martial artist teaching a youngster the tricks of the trade in order to beat the 'bad' guys... (Same old story, huh?). From the clip I saw this suits Chan: older mentor, unassuming ordinary bloke. Or maybe he just plays it well (after all, he is an actor).

What intrigues me most is that it's called 'karate kid' and it's set in China! Now I know that kara te originally held the meaning 'China Hand' but I think this is pushing the link between Chinese and Japanese arts a bit too far. (Interesting article here on the history and meaning of Kenpo/Chuan fa/Karate)

I haven't seen the film yet, but maybe it should be called The Chuan Fa Kid?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Brain health

Singing helps repair damaged brains and naps boost brain learning power!

Teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists.

A nap during the day improves the brain's ability to absorb new information, US scientists claim.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Cafu Santos headbut knockout

So I was watching this video looking at the poor guy in the blue shorts (Gledson) getting belted by Santos and at just under 1minute in it looks like he's treading water. He's tied up by Cafu against the wall and it looks like he wants to create some breathing space for himself but Santos is relentless. His knee digs and punches are getting through. Gledson is using his limbs to defend so he's holding out but Cafu sees this and uses his head. No, really, he uses his *head* to butt into Gledson. Gledson neutralises the potential of a next head butt by pushing Cafu away with his arm, but now he is one limb 'down' on his opponent and can't stop everything and receives a dead leg for his trouble. At this Gledson winces and tries to draw breath. Cafu must feel his opponent weaken, pulls back his head and butts Gledson again, this time sending him to the floor, knocked out.

I suppose head butts can be difficult to pull off as if it's not done well and properly you risk damaging your own head but this guy really pulled it off, fought strategically and used his head to strike hard at the moment when his opponent had eased off.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Spinning kicks

Last night's Tang Soo Do lesson went well right from the off. The children's lesson came together nicely and by the end of the hour we were enjoying ourselves and pulling together nicely, making a good job of technique and attitude.

The adult class was varied and interesting but something that *always* kills me is spinning kicks (I was reminded of this by SueC at I know it's pathetic for someone who practices a Korean martial art but I am extremely sensitive to spinning and after about 5 reps find myself clinging to the floor trying not to fall off it. We were kicking an outside to inside kick swiftly followed by a spinning wheel kick which has a good solid feel to it, especially on focus pads when you can thud into something. usual after 5 kicks I was gasping, fighting back *the* urge... Shame really as I love to kick.

Later in free sparring I executed plenty of spinning kicks which didn't affect me as they were spaced out enough to get my balance/wits about me again. Good sparring session with a young adult and a fit brown belt. One of these days he's gonna 'get it' and flatten me... (in the nicest possible way). I was really choosing my points and fighting strategically. I'm too old to go flat out, all guns blazing and I don't think this is very effective anyway.

Good session leading to healthy fatigued feeling....(and some unhealthy looking shin bruises...)

Gratuitous Van Damme spinning kick compilation.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Scots pensioner awarded Judo's highest rank

Well he may be a pensioner but he looks as hard as nails!
Let's hope we're all training long into our later years...

"A Scottish pensioner has become one of only seven living people to hold judo's highest rank."

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Awareness in modern life

So we were talking about ki no sen the other day in Shorinji Kempo and from what I can grasp of this it's a bit like using your common sense or keeping your wits about you (OK, probably a bit deeper than that but let's work with 'awareness' for the time being!).

And then I watched this following video on YouTube... It made me think how easily we get distracted by all our modern easily we can focus so much on our mobile phone or ipod or whatever and forget about the real life around us!

And then I had an even scarier thought...

Check out this slightly scary/disturbing video (not for young kids) but thought provoking film then see what I realised after I'd watched it!

And so to the rub.... I mean nobody would do that would they!? Let some bloke into their house cos he *looks* like he's going to check the meter...Except I did! Only the other day...

This guy turns up at the door with clipboard, badge and the like and says to me, "I'd like to talk to you about the gas supply" and I, without waiting because I was busy working at the time when he interrupted me, said, "Oh, you want to read the meter? Come in, here it is". Before I knew it he was sat down at the dining table trying to sell me something. I kicked him out as soon as I realised and was a bit miffed at his sales technique but you can't blame them too much I suppose. But I was surprised that I'd been 'had' that easily because my mind was clouded with the project I was doing when I was interrupted!

It's good to have a gap or a pause between moments in our day. Sensei DD made a very good point during kihon the other day: try and ready ourselves between techniques. Very often during an intense and rapid counting one texchnique can very often blend into another. Instead of being techniques: "ichi", "ni", "san", ... they become one long technique, "ichinisan...". It's good to ready oneself between the different techniques, making them separate.

Doing this makes you less likely to be open to nasty surprises...

European Canne de Combat Championships: Cambridge, September 2010

Was checking out Cambridge Academy of Martial Arts' website and noticed an announcement to the effect that they will be hosting the European Canne Championships in Cambridge in September! This is a very cool occurrence. I had the good fortune to train in La Canne with CAMA some time ago and it was great fun, very fast and furious. Of course the French are the masters at this and it will be exciting to see them in action.

Here's a taster:

Funky ass martial art video of the week: Kali

Check out the funky moves n music...

I studied Eskrima for a while and, interestingly, they give you sticks straight away and you progress to empty hand techniques which, I was told, are loosely based on the stick versions (if you can handle the sticks, you can do the empty hand techniques, goes their reasoning).

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Classic Duel between two warriors

I read this amazing account of a duel between two warriors. See what you think then read my notes at the end.

He was someone trying to kill me, that's all.

He addresses me and aims at me and he is ready to kill me. This is frightening but I have no time to be frightened. Later on you may perspire about it but at that moment in the heat of the battle you're too focused.

If he turns quickly I'll be dead-cut down but I'm closing up quickly on him and suddenly we're right back where we started.

All of this is just instinct now. Things are happening too fast to think everything out.

I've had enough of this so I roll the dice. I turn inside of him and prepare to strike. My opponent senses this and tries to evade.

I have him. He knows that I have him.

I strike at him and he falls away. Have I killed him? I do not particularly want to fight this man again.


I have paraphrased this to try and hide the time of this duel and the weapons used but what struck me was the grim focus on an act of killing the opponent. This sort of sharpened 'fear' must make your awareness keen and your actions take on a life of their own as your will is clear but your body acts automatically. This is down to an intimate knowledge of your arsenal and abilities in moving, turning, brandishing weapons, using your hands and feet. When the chips are down it seems it's best not to 'think' too much. By this I don't mean seek openings and create opportunities, but if your mind is clouded by thoughts of which technique to use here or there then your body and mind can't act as one unit, seamlessly. Often my Shorinji Kempo teacher says when I ask if the technique was correct, "He's on the floor and you're standing-it worked". I can see what he means.

But within this tale are lessons for us all: work out and train the basics and fundamentals diligently and consistently so that when they are needed you're body feels how to move. Be clear and decisive and don't think that fear is something you shouldn't be feeling: this great warrior did. Your mind should be clear. Maybe it will be clear in any case! Body and mind acting together for a sole purpose.

The duel above is a modern one and sees how a man and his weapon can come together as one unit in the extreme battle between two warriors intent on killing each other. The victor above was a P-51D pilot over Europe in the Second World War, shooting down and killing a German in a Bf109.

Friday, 29 January 2010


I'm in pain. Wrist pain to be precise, but not all the time.

I'm having trouble working through some of the attacking Shorinji kempo wrist techniques. I realised quite quickly that Shorinji Kempo attacked the wrists a lot but recently I'm getting frequent pain in my wrists. I just don't know whether it's my inner wrist muscles getting used to the twisting and turning, me being a wuss or worse. Thankfully I've been introduced to the Powerball! The marketing blurb says...

I was recommended this by a real tennis player friend of mine and reckon that it's worth seeing whether building up core muscles in my wrist and forearms will help.

Watch this space.

Bassai Dai with explanation by Sadashige Kato, 9th dan.

Brief bio of Sadashige Kato here.

Man tries to karate chop a moving train...and fails

Oh well.... He probably wasn't using a deep enough stance...

"A 33-YEAR-OLD man has come off second best after trying to karate chop a moving train at Eagle Junction station in Brisbane last night."

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The power of feet

Just in case you didn't catch Conskeptical's comment I've decided to post a main article regarding Vibram's fivefingers....! An amazing piece of footwear that seems to allow the toes to interact with the running (or exercise) experience. When toes are squished into a shoe they only really have one range of very limited movement but these shoes could help you grip the floor better helping with balance.

I wonder whether they would be better than traditional martial arts shoes for outdoor practice? Why not.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The most beautiful samu I've ever seen

I was careful to say *I*'ve ever seen as, if you look closely at the photo, you'll see that these diligent karateka are in fact my children and therefore this is special to me...

The act of cleaning the hall before training is a great way to make sure everything is clean and tidy and hopefully reducing the likelihood of splinters or at the very least making for a more pleasant experience. We don't have a dedicated martial arts hall so this is fairly necessary - I was scolded after one week's lesson when we hadn't been able to sweep the floor and had done some floor exercises and everybody's white do bohk's were filthy! But to be honest the kids love doing samu. And so do I!

I like the idea of devoting some time to cleansing (nurturing) the place where we'll train. It's almost a pre-training meditation. After all you're lost in the act of cleaning and making sure the floor is free from splinters or miscellaneous objects which may injure (in the past I've found-as I'm sure others have- thumb tacks on the floor, paper clips and small lego blocks which are REALLY painful underfoot!...). Of course this time can only be achieved if you turn up nice and early without being rushed-that's what I like. It may be considered a calm before the storm (especially when I'm teaching the little ones!) but I do have a job getting the brooms off the little ones who love to do it partly to play with the brooms and partly they like to help dad out.

I don't think they should do it out of obligation to me, but one day they'll see that it's nice to do it for their own benefit and for that of the others they train with. Doing this simple chore puts us against ideas of servitude if we're not careful. It's not only about serving others (although the word samu may allude to this) it's about working through a concept of diligent application for each and every one of ourselves.

This cleansing ritual is very useful. My opinion is that it's about helping others through a simple task as well as helping ourselves through applied and continued service to the hall and our co-students. This helps us retain a sense of ourselves-we're a member of a club: black belts masters, 6th gup all perform cleaning tasks. This helps us all see that we work together to help each other grow through martial arts.

The Martial Arts Show, Birmingham, NEC, May 22nd-23rd

So it's that time of year again...more martial arts shows. This time it's at the NEC which means it's gonna be bigger (and better?) than last year! Last year's was pretty good and I got value from going just from the demonstrations which were great! It was good to see other martial arts styles practising. I like to see different flavours of martial arts so for me it was fun. Plus I'd talk the hind legs off a donkey so beware contributors...

As well as demonstrations there are free seminars and suppliers' stalls. Last year I got to chin wag with Iain Abernethy so I might see if he's going along again and catch up.

I was going to embed the promo video but it's so cheesey I didn't bother. If you're desperate to see it go here:

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Martial artists have better will power

Or Zanshin is good for you.

I was listening to the Today programme the other week and a piece on will power struck me as quite relevant to the martial artist. Listen again here:

Scroll down to 0721:
"According to neuroscientists, having a lack of willpower isn't a character flaw, it could all be down to the physical make-up of the brain. The American science writer Jonah Lehrer explains an experiment by a psychologist at Stanford University."

Being self aware constantly can help build up the frontal cortex which is the area of the brain which handles willpower. Scientists found evidence that subjects who were trying to be aware of their posture throughout the day also built up their willpower. Also exercises in self-awareness or pay more conscious attention will help improve it too!

More cake anyone?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Shoes may have changed how we run

Wearing cushioned running shoes may have changed the way in which many of us run, new research suggests.

Using slow-motion footage, scientists have discovered that experienced barefoot runners land very differently from runners who wear shoes.