To Live and Die

After a hiatus, I am once again teaching martial arts. It has been a while since I put my thoughts, philosophies and insights into a blog. I am once again in that period of limbo when in between jobs I have some time on my hands. At times like this, my mind starts to wander as a deluge of memories and nostalgia comes pouring in.

Seattle Volunteer Park cemetery over a decade ago; I remember paying homage to my hero, Bruce Lee, as I visited him and his son’s tombstones.  This man was probably the greatest influence on my decision to pursue martial arts. It was a relaxing evening walk as I tried to muster up some inspiration before taking part in a regional full-contact event that weekend.

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Knowledge - The Best Defense

Knowledge - The Best Defense

Last weekend I was rather surprised to have a couple of people from Rotorua contacting me to ask about my self-defence classes. One lady was particularly interested in the Women’s Self Defence course that I ran back in 2010; she wanted to allay her fear of violence by learning some practical self-defence skills. I was a bit tickled to hear that people of Rotorua were still talking about my martial arts and self-defence classes and seminars from two years back.

I advised the lady seeing that Indomitable Mind Body Combat Academy no longer operates in Rotorua I would be more than happy to organize some private training if she travelled to Auckland. From the phone conversation I got the feeling that fear of violence was affecting the quality of her life. In my career as an IT consultant I generally do not give much advice over the phone unless I am financially compensated for my valuable time and expertise. However as a martial arts instructor I am always open for a chat and ready to give my time to offer advice. It’s the human element to working with people rather than business enterprises.

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Neighbourhood Broach

The name Trayvon echoes around social networking, the world’s media and on the streets of New Zealand. As a martial artist and former bouncer I think is a sad state of affairs when a 28 year old security guard is unable to whoop a 15 year old youth, unable to take a beating and has to rely on a firearm for protection from an unarmed youth. What is even sadder is that a hoodie wearing African youth buying a can of pop and a bag of skittles instantly comes under scrutiny. This can only be attributed to the aberrant conditioning of a kooky and gung-ho community of a fenced off Florida enclave. To me it looks like a first step down a slippery slope of white only areas and locally sanctioned apartheid.

At times like this I am grateful that our good friend, the USA, has an African American president. Our perception of African and an indigenous people through no fault of our own as Europeans of is conditioned to some extent with an outdated knowledge of colonial times. I see historical articles online of Nazi doctors in Namibia examining African tribes to bring their “science” to human matters. However Nazi science could never replace trained sensibility and human insight. No matter how proud of my ethnicity I have never been able to fully incorporate the fortress of high mindedness of the third Reich and the Afrikaner governments. I have always believed that physical mastery and education are the great engines of personal development and emancipation.

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Fighting Style

Teaching children’s martial arts class today I had one youngster ask me whether I had hurt anyone in sparring or in competition. Two instances that spring to mind are when my axe kick popped my opponent's shoulder and another time when someone fractured their wrist trying to block my roundhouse. I have also suffered injuries with the most serious being a broken arm in a state tournament. Injuries I guess are inevitable, however Taekwondo is a fairly safe sport considering the objective is to score points with full contact kicks to the body and head. In Taekwondo most of the time if one gets hurt it is normally the result of an accident.

Unfortunately in any sport injuries are a part of life. However many injuries that I have seen in martial arts come about just from training and practicing stunts and tricks. I have seen one youngster break his arm after falling when performing a flying side kick. I still wince when remembering the time when my toe stuck out at right angles attempting to break a board with a jumping spinning roundhouse kick or the time when someone snapped my finger trying to break a piece of wood. Club training should brings about a relief from the hectic striving of the conscious rat race and free one into state of aesthetic bliss. In sparring we are playing a sport we are not fighting. Fighting is something that is done outside the training hall when the need to defend arises. If I see anyone going in too hard or trying to hurt or injure their partner in sparring I impose myself on that person with power. Being a martial artist is about developing balance. Having style is a unique human quality, when I observe a student using a technique; it is almost like a characteristic signature of that person. Relaxing and enjoying the sparring experience enables one to develop their style and avoid hurting themselves or their partner. In the sport of Taekwondo the targets are very well defined by the chest protector and head guard. Being able to visualize the sport fighting targets makes the sparring and kicking drills much more effective and realistic. Kicking to the low section and punching to the face is not allowed. Those who want to train specifically for self defence I recommend my Krav Maga classes where I cover techniques against every possible target area in detail. Knowledge is power rings very true in martial arts but most importantly is the experience to keep that knowledge alive. When the instinct is vivid there is a much better chance of being able to survive and win.

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Hard Targets

As my students as make a commitment to regularly train twice a week the onus is for me to provide training regimens that would increase their aerobic work rate and fitness. In the past a student once told me that he would rather just go over self defence moves than practice combatives and aggression drills. Not only is the combative training a good way to warm up for the self defence training but it also provides a good aerobic workout. The aggression drills foster the mindset to react correctly when attacked unexpectedly and build confidence. If I ran my classes any other way I would be detracting from the true benefits of Krav Maga. As I write this blog I am aware of the issue in this country with obesity. As many as one in three New Zealanders is classed as clinically obese. This means that their body fat makes up at least 30% of their body mass. The last twenty years we have seen a decline of sporting pursuits in favour of video games and the overuse of cars. As a result one in four children is now also overweight. It does not help that we have a generally benign acceptance of being too large for one’s size. By providing a fun and challenging martial arts activity I am doing my part to combat this obesity epidemic. My role as an instructor puts me in the position of a fitness trainer, a self defence expert, a motivational speaker and a life coach. It is interesting that for the first time females outnumber males in my school. At first when the female students observe the military style aggression drills often I would get asked whether they could just watch and sit out. I practically force them to take part; however once they experience the fun and gain confidence they would often ask to go again. Seeing females instinctively defend from a violent grabs and chokes makes me realize the benefit of this type of training in protecting lives. I am a firm believer in rough military style training as opposed to practicing graceful techniques and striking the air. There is a bottleneck on how many techniques can be used in the split second of an attack and knowing too many moves can actually be a hindrance in self defence. Not many things are as satisfying to an instructor as having a student tell me that her confidence in being able to defend herself has increased tremendously after just a few sessions with me. Just the mindset alone could prevent an attack. Sun Tzu said that to fight and conquer is not supreme excellence but rather supreme excellence is in breaking the enemy’s resistance without having to fight. The point I am making is that awareness of the environment and projected confidence and vitality in the body language will probably prevent an attack. Attackers and bullies are predators, which mean they seek easy targets.
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