Thursday, 07 February 2019 18:35

The Flip Side: Traditional Martial Arts and Combat Sports ARE Effective for Self Defence...?

One of the things I discuss often is the separation between combat sports, martial arts and self-defence (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this).


Self-defence practitioners often exclaim that combat sports and martial arts are NOT the same as self-defence, and indeed there is plenty of evidence to support this claim.


On the other hand, combat sports and martial arts practitioners will always claim their stuff is effective for self-defence.


Me? I tend to sit right in the middle on this one. Do they overlap? Yes. Are there transferable skills? Absolutely! Are they identical? Absolutely not.


But can they be?

Thursday, 07 June 2018 15:51

An Elevator Ride That Changed My Life: A Tale About Heart

Fighters and martial artists always talk about ‘heart’, or warrior spirit.

It is an unquantifiable quality. Natural for some people, and not natural for others.

It is the ability to keep fighting - to even fight more fiercely - even though you know the battle may have been lost. The ability to stare pain, or defeat, or fear right in the eye – which really means staring into the proverbial mirror – and say, sometimes quietly and sometimes in a loud voice, that you will not stop fighting.

Simply put, it is the strength of character to not give up even though you may want to.

This is a short, true story about heart. I hope it brings you some hope.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 16:13

Bring the Ring to the Street: Self Defence Lessons from Combat Sports

Sensei Gershon Ben Keren recently released this excellent blog on what Krav Maga can adopt from combat sports. I thought this was a particularly important piece (amongst his many excellent writings) as it highlights something that is often sorely lacking in Krav Maga, which I touched on here.
Too often martial arts and combat sports are dismissed in the purist self-defence circles (and no, those three things are not the same – more on this here). These criticisms range from painfully accurate to wildly fantastical, but at their core they are mostly the same: ‘that won’t work in the street’.
But there are many things that can be learned from martial arts and combat sports and applied in self defence. I’ve written about this extensively in the blogs above. This is what Sensei Ben Keren highlighted in the piece above as well.

But let’s look at the specifics. What specifically can we learn from combat and martial sports that can be applied in self defence?

Sunday, 17 December 2017 12:20

Etudes for Boxing (or 'Learning How to Make a Great Speech') - Drills for Timing, Range and Self Expression

Martial arts are a form of self-expression, so let's compare them to the one tool for self expression that we all share as human beings - speech.

We don't all speak the same, and every language sounds differently. When we speak a sentence, we put emphasis on particular words. We may speak slowly or quickly, and change our rhythm and pace. We use pauses to give meaning to certain words, and to allow the listener to process what we are saying. We change our pitch, tone and inflection to convey feeling and meaning. Where we stand (close, far, in front, on an angle, etc.) and how we use particular body language has a massive impact on the message we send when we communicate.

To me, sparring is the physical manifestation of the same principles. It is when we stop practising putting words together, and actually converse freely. It's when we improvise. So how do you learn to make great speeches when sparring?

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 11:05

Technical Difficulties, Curricular Conundrums and Adaptive Learning

The following is a true story, one that happened to a good friend.

He is, as we say in Australia, a Unit. With a capital ‘U’. He is mid-thirties, around 6’0 and 95kgs, with hardly any body fat. In addition to being very fit and strong, he also had a military career spanning close to two decades and has been involved in self-defence and the martial arts for most of that time. He has been in situation where he had to put those skills to the test, and has done so successfully. Simply put, he is not a dude you want to mess with.

His career often involves travel. During one of his moves to another part of the country, he sought another Krav Maga school to keep up his training (and sanity – those of you who train regularly know what I’m talking about). He trained there for the better part of 6 months, and then went for his first grading. Despite surviving all of the scenarios and dropping one opponent after the other, he failed his test and was told he needs to stay on as a white belt. The reason was that his technique was different to what the school teaches. Apparently, his blocking technique was not effective… despite all evidence to the contrary.

Was the school right to fail him for not learning their way of doing things, or was it their oversight for failing someone who has demonstrated to have clear self-defence capabilities?

Tuesday, 31 October 2017 10:46

Fight or Fright, Pt. 2

You have finished warming up and have put all of your protective gear on. You’ve spent the last 5 minutes mentally preparing yourself for what’s about to happen. ‘It’s all good’, you tell yourself. ‘I am the star here. Everyone is here to make me look good and I’m going to kick butt’. You feel sharp. You feel ready. You feel excited.

The bell goes, and within seconds your partner hits with you with a hard, clean shot.

Things go downhill fast from there. Your adrenaline takes over. Your combinations don’t seem to have an effect, you can’t seem to land any clean shots and you start getting frustrated.

The next round, though with a different partner, feels much the same.

Has this ever happened to you? If the answer is 'yes', then read on.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017 14:38

Fight or Fright, pt. 1

Sparring.

For some, this word brings excitement, anticipation and fun.
For others, it brings fear, trepidation and that familiar feeling of an empty pit in the bottom of your stomach and a dry mouth.

Both are normal, and we all get some days of one and some days of the other, depending on our experience, how we feel on the day, who we are sparring with, etc.

I’d like to invite you to think of the aggregate, or the overall theme of how you feel about sparring. Which one of the above two responses seems more prominent - anticipation or fear?

Tuesday, 17 October 2017 09:45

Being a Good Training Partner, Pt. 2 - Roles, Mirrors and Comfort

Previous I discussed two points that relate to being a good training partner in the dojo. You can read about it here. Those two points related to what to do and what you need in order to do it. I also wrote quite a bit about some of the many funny, weird and wonderful faces you will meet at the dojo. You can read about them here.

I’d like to recap the example I used in the previous article, as it conveys a pretty strong message message:

The instructor just finished demonstrating a particular drill, and asks you to find a partner. Everyone in class is quickly paired up while you are still looking around trying to find someone who is on their own, and quickly notice gazes being averted when you try to make eye contact. You eventually manage to corner someone and now have a partner!

Or

The instructor just finished demonstrating a particular drill, and asks you to find a partner. Before you get a chance to look around, 3 people approach you. They are all smiling and when you pair up with the nearest one, the other two smile and say ‘how about next round?’

Which one happens to you more often?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 10:49

Being a Good Training Partner, Pt. 1 - Roadmaps and Tools

Did you ever read one of those ‘make your own ending’ books? I used to love them as a kid. I also love video games where the story unfolds and changes based on the decisions you make. Think of your training journey, and consider the following two ‘endings’:

The instructor just finished demonstrating a particular drill, and asks you to find a partner. Everyone in class is quickly paired up while you are still looking around trying to find someone who is on their own, and quickly notice gazes being averted when you try to make eye contact. You eventually manage to corner someone and now have a partner!

Or

The instructor just finished demonstrating a particular drill, and asks you to find a partner. Before you get a chance to look around, 3 people approach you. They are all smiling and when you pair up with the nearest one, the other two smile and say ‘how about next round?’

Which one do you find happens to you more often?

Sunday, 17 September 2017 16:02

Economic Theory and Your Training, Pt. 2 - Lessons From Behavioural Finance

In my previous article, I discussed some examples of economic models that can be used to optimise one’s martial arts training.

The connection seems obvious in a way; Many of the highest ranking martial arts experts I have trained with are also savvy, successful business people and entrepreneurs. After all, martial arts theory has been used by business people the world over for many centuries. Books such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Musashi’s Book of Five Rings are considered timeless classics on warfare, but also as guides to corporate strategy and business management. Indeed many of the famous Samurai were not only warriors, but also statesmen who served in an advisory capacity beyond that of a hired sword or bodyguard. 

If martial arts theory can be applied to business, why can’t the opposite be true?

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