Dojo Etiquette

Dojo etiquette

The dojo, the training hall. Why do you bow when you enter the dojo? As a sign of respect to all those who trained there before you. Well that’s what I was told. However this is a cultural thing. Don’t go to a seminar in a sports hall and get offended if different stylists don’t bow when they enter. For some a training hall is just that, a room, with no more significance than any other. In Thailand you bow to the spirit house, which is usually in the corner of a room. Where’s the spirit house in the hired room you share with badminton? Does it matter?
Well only in the aspect of respect. Remember that some of the south east asian countries that are the source of many of these arts, have a tradition of ancestor worship. It gives a sense of heritage and continuity, but dancers, musicians and magicians have it too. They all know where a move came from, who originated a certain trick, phrase or lick. Martial artists are no different. Any that suggest they invented a technique are usually to be worried about. I think shows of respect are important, not so much between the student and the room, or even between the student and teacher, but definitely between students, training partners. Your training partner is the most valuable( and fragile) piece of training equipment you will ever have. Be exceptionally careful, and respectful of them.
Is this part of your school? What do you do and how do you explain it?

Aikido Doesn’t work. Discuss

When I lived in Thailand I taught English to a police chief. I got to know many of his colleagues and was introduced to their unarmed combat coach, a japanese sushi chef who taught them aikido. Of course in Thailand everyone knows muay thai, most of the police did it too so why aikido? Well don’t fight fire with fire, fight with water. It worked for them. Aikido is often accused of being ineffective but this was was a thai anti hijack squad, the Tokyo riot police study aikido too. I think if it is seen as ineffective it is because of poor teaching mainly by teachers who understand the theory and aesthetics but not the application, they teach exercises as techniques and don’t question the art and their teachers enough.

Aikido does get questioned a lot. The other concept that exercises me is “reality martial arts” . Everything has its place, just be honest about it? Why you are doing it. Be honest with yourself.

January Blog

Blog January 2016

I enjoyed Christmas with all its lights and indulgence and always hate that concept of getting back to normality. Normality is over rated it is what many of us strive to escape. It can be a particular problem for children. I don’t know why but children seem to be the most conservative of animals and don’t like anything that is abnormal. Unfortunately this applies to other children and anyone who doesn’t conform to a standard of normality that someone made up can be singled out for poor treatment, teasing and ultimately bullying. This could be an odd name, or haircut, coming from a different cultural background not having the right clothes, being not as bright as your colleagues or being conspicuously brighter than them.

How do we deal within this?

Teach tolerance of others.

Explore diversity and challenge prejudice

Help those who do not conform. Anyone who is worried about fitting in should be told of the option of standing out.

Also during January there seems to have been a lot of colds and infections running round. Our bodies eventually need some downtime and the Christmas break is sometimes a sub conscious nod to the body to give in for a bit. Maybe you, or someone you know gets sick on their holidays. That’s such a shame, that hard earned time off and some of it is ruined by illness.

It happened to me this January. I went from snuffles to rib cracking coughing fits and it seems to be lasting weeks. I thought I was fairly fit and that my immune system was pretty solid, but this one got me. I tried all the folk remedies and the medical, tried sweating it out, exercise, rest, anything anyone suggested. It still got me and will leave when it is ready.

It is important to remember that our bodies are with us all the time and that our attention to our health is not something we should be putting off until we have a break to think about it. Things will catch up on us. If you are having a break coming up, try and ease into it and I suggest dosing yourself up with your favourite remedies a good few days before your actual break.

Boxing Versus Karate

I’ve been looking at various guard stances and in particular at the stances of certain sport karate and tae kwon do as opposed to boxing and thai boxing. It really comes down to how square on to your opponent you want to be. A lot of the sport styles seem to favour a side on, foil fencing type stance, the advantage of which is the covering up of most of the body, presenting a smaller target area and one that is not particularly vulnerable. The down side is that you can only attack with one side of the body from this stance too. To generate power a lot of people throw the rear foot or hand but to do so from a side on stance that rear foot/hand has to come around your own body making it slow and inefficient. Full contact styles tend to be more square on relying on greater swerve/ body movement for evasion and being more even handed in their attacks. It becomes very interesting when you see fighters moving from points to full or vice versa.

I’m not saying there is a right or wrong but I think the individual should experiment with this and not stick to one thing that is taught. Style is not the only consideration here( we are blah blah blah school so we do it this way) there is also body shape and purpose to take account of too.

Take a look at Bill Wallace then look at Mike Tyson. Look at some olympic Tae kwon do then take a look at some thai boxing from Lumpini. Try looking at the old Fairburn Sykes hand to hand combat manual and compare it to the dozens of new manuals available and see what you think of the differences in style. It would be nice to be able to question the people who came up with this stuff because often there is a good answer for why they do things the way they do but rarely why are alternatives considered by anyone who becomes part of a style. Once you’ve looked at these differences get on the mat and try them out.

Performing Hip Throws Safely

Years ago I attended a meeting where the association I was with at the time discussed dropping hip throws from their syllabus because there had been too many injuries (backs and knees). They actually put forward replacing it with an intrinsically more dangerous throw with the logic that they had had no claims about that technique. This is crazy, the new technique was less taught, usually only to more advanced students and that is the reason there were no claims on it. The solution was to teach the hip throw properly and safely. (not the conclusion they came to)

1. The principle is that this should work on any one of any size, but that is when you have perfected the technique so for beginners, especially children, make sure they are of comparable height and weight.

2. Show that the throw pivots the thrown around the hip. It is not a lift, a common mistake that can hurt the back. The body position extends the hip, basically you stick your bum out, hip beyond the thrown person’s. The back remains as straight as possible so you don’t pull the thrown across your back.

3. The belt is the centre of balance, so drop your belt below the belt of the person being thrown. To do this bend your knees, and the keep this safe the feet should be planted firmly roughly shoulder width apart and however deep you bend the knees must always be in line with the toes.

4. To finish the throw, turn the upper body and pull the thrown around your hips, they should land at your feet for full control.

I’ll put a video up to illustrate this. It’s not difficult and though there are some variations from Ju Jitsu to competition judo the basics remain the same.

How adaptable should you be?

Our style is pretty wide and accommodates different levels of athleticism, body shape and tastes, but how much should you adapt for the tastes of students?
For example, we incorporate kick boxing and grappling into the same classes, some people prefer one over the other, should we then have separate classes for these? Or should we teach both to all as a complete system? I had one student who didn’t like to be touched near the neck, this meant that other students couldn’t perform Koshi Guruma (hip throw with the arm round the head) on her, nor perform any choke or strangle hold. It also meant that she was unwilling to try some of the crucial self defence techniques specifically designed to help with what she was most scared of. Do you let it go or be as encouraging as you can to help them through this or do you expect them to get on with it like everyone else in the class?