So good to be writing again! It's been 3 long months.
What does ‘self defence’ mean to you?
To most people it means being able to defend themselves or their loves ones in the event of a violent attack.
And yes, that’s a pretty good reason to learn self defence.
But there’s another part to the equation, that’s just as important. Want to know what it is? Read on!
Belt tests and gradings are a source of much fear and anxiety, as they are for anticipation, excitement and joy.
Having to perform in front of a panel of experts can be daunting. Having people watch you and scrutinise your performance is intimidating and can be frustrating, as is not getting the results you want.
At the same time, passing a grading successfully is an incredibly rewarding and empowering experience. Personally, my black belt grading in Krav Maga is by far the most powerful, positive, empowering and memorable experience in my life so far.
Gradings also build a strong team bond. Having to go through something tough (and a grading should be tough!) together with others builds a strong and lasting connection, and memories that will be shared for a lifetime.
If you are anything like me, then chances are you stress over these for months, and I wouldn't stretch to say 'year's in my case, in advance. So how do you prepare for a grading? What do you need to work on? What should you remember while you are doing the grading?
Yiddish is a fantastically wise and funny language. It has the accumulated wisdom of about a 1,000 years’ worth of Jewish grandmothers’ wisdom, expressed in sharp, funny, cheeky and witty proverbs. One such saying is:
‘Di oigen zollen nit zen, volten di hent nit genumen’ - ‘If the eyes didn’t see, the hands wouldn’t take’.
Jewish grandmothers obviously know a lot about self protection… How so, you ask?
I’ve had a few conversations recently with fellow school owners and martial artists about certification and rank, and about participation, talent and effort.
Especially in light of the recent inspirational Krav Maga and BJJ gradings that took place at CAIA I feel that it’s important to explain what those things mean to me as a martial artist and teacher.
Criteria for grading changes from style to style, instructor to instructor, school to school. And so it should. That being said, I have been, and continue to be, openly critical of things I see in the martial arts world that I feel ultimately hurt the industry and the art.
Chief among those things is the focus on the acquisition of qualifications or awards over skill. This is not directed at anyone in particular, but rather my own assessment of things I have seen and experienced.
Is it bad to have many certificates and qualifications? Of course not!
Is it wrong to celebrate your achievements? The opposite is true – you must celebrate your achievements.
This becomes a problem, however, when there isn’t a clear understanding of how effort comes into the equation. Here are 3 bizzare, funny and, I think, sad stories that illustrate this.
A little while ago I wrote about why you should love training what you hate. You can read it here. I’d like to continue from there and talk about why loving what you train can be a dangerous thing. Not sure why? Then read on!
The other day I saw a fantastic quote by Boxing legend George Foreman:
"Boxing is like jazz; the better it is, the less people appreciate it”
As a person who spent most of his life working as a professional musician as well as studied music quite extensively, I connected with this instantly.
When I shared this quote on social media, a large number of the people who responded were musicians. This was to be expected, seeing as they probably related to Jazz being a hugely under-appreciated genre of music, often only truly understood by other musicians.
It also made me think of the recent speech made by Meryl Streep, where she famously said that ‘Mixed Martial Arts… are not the arts’. It made a lot of people in the martial arts community – practitioners and fans alike – angry at the fact that another artist (and in fact one of the most decorated and celebrated artists in recent history) made such a claim.
Was Streep correct? If so, what’s the difference between sports and arts? At which point does one become the other? Can they overlap? What about combat sports and martial arts, can those questions apply to these two as well? What, in a bigger-picture sense, is art?
I want you to go through the following exercise in your head:
Imagine you’d spend your 20 years training in a martial art with the belief that you’d be able to defend yourself, but have never tested it out under extreme or real conditions or outside of your dojo. Imagine you would then have someone challenge you to try it on a fully resisting opponent, one whom you don’t know and does not respect you and your martial art. You try it, and it doesn’t work. Not even close – you get your butt kicked thoroughly.
Alternatively - imagine you’d been training to compete in a tournament, and have been beating everyone in your class easily. You arrive to the tournament and your opponent, someone who is less experienced than you, beats you comprehensively in no time at all.
Are you on the path to mediocracy or excellence?
Is self-defence a lifestyle?
A very interesting point of discussion in a seminar with Richard Dimitri and Chris Roberts recently has really got me thinking on a different aspect of self-protection training. While it is something that I am acutely aware of, I have never really verbalised it. So here goes.
But before we proceed… A key word throughout the next few points is moderation. Read all the way to the end and you’ll see what I mean!
The infamous phrase ‘reality-based training’ once again returns to feature in an article…
In the last article I discussed the ‘Dojo Syndrome’.
I had received some very positive feedback about it, with many instructors saying ‘this is exactly what often happens!’ and had a few requests to post some more tips. Thanks for the support, and I hope you enjoy this!