Karate June

Looking forward to two events in June. Our club will attend two seminars with world quality teachers!

First one will be with Kris Wilder from Goju Ryu, big thank you to Matt Jardine from Jardine Karate for kindly inviting us.

More info about Kris Wilder

Second event will be seminar with Hanshi Terry Wingrove who is legendary expert on Yawara Jutsu, this event is special to me as I did try to attend one of Hanshi’s seminars but always something pop out that I could not attend. Hanshi is regular teacher in Poland for years and some of my good friends training under his guidance.

Hanshi’s  knowledge about karate jutsu is paramount.

More About Terry Wingrove

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Overthinking and Mindfulness

This Thursday, after a couple of weeks break from training, we were back in the dojo.  I have to say that I had recently lost interest in martial arts and was struggling to find the motivation to create a training programme – it felt like my interest was falling apart.  By coincidence we were not able to train for a bit due to a trip to Poland to visit the family, illness of members and our training hall being used as a polling station.  I think it was fate giving me a rest from training tiredness.  Recently I found myself overthinking the state of the club such as the drop in members training, which led to thoughts of closing down the club and focussing on my work.

It’s funny how life leads us on to greater things.  As a part of my work I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with therapists like myself from all different backgrounds from meditation techniques to manual therapies.   I spent about three hours listening to the different concepts and how each can help us.  I came out of this meeting with a completely clear head, free from worrying about the club’s future.  As one of the ladies said “Overthinking the future is stressing and when life is stressing you who do you think will win, you or life?  I’d put my money on life, so stop worrying about the future.” What great advice.  Another thing that changed my approach was examining quotes that were selected at random at the meeting, prepared by a Mindfulness therapist.  The quote that I got was “The most important point is to be really yourself and not to try to become anything that you are not. (Jon Kabat-Zinn)”.          I don’t know why, but these two pieces of advice sit perfectly together in my mind, so after consulting with club members it was decided that we will carry on with training sessions.  However, there will be a few changes to make it more affordable such as reducing the class time to one hour per session.  With fewer people training we can increase the pace of each session, focus more on technique and stick to a more structured programme.

I have now found a new wave of motivation for martial arts and have developed programmes for the various classes.  In the last session there were only four of us, but everything went very smoothly and was logically interlinked with kihon and bunkai complementing a physical workout.  I have not enjoyed a session as much for some time.  By not overthinking and sticking to who I am and how I teach I am able to make the sessions so much more enjoyable for me and therefore for my friends that train with me.  In this way we are happy to be a small, quality group who just enjoy training.  Whatever the future will bring we will be there standing tall and ready for it!

Sensei Makiwara – valuable lesson

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After nearly a year of not training on makiwara, today I decided to do workout. I had a painful surprise as I gave it a confident, strong punch. It was very uncomfortable and a rather humbling experience.

It just goes to show that when you stop training regression kicks in and our skills diminish. This process can be translated to all skills in life.

When you stop learning you start to forget and your skills can fade. I had a very good lesson today- a big osu to my teacher, The Makiwara.

Modesty, kindness, honour and diligence

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Modesty, kindness, honour and diligence – all of these qualities should go with being a black belt or master of a martial art, but are these behaviours actually being reflected?  The more I am exposed to martial artists, the more I doubt it.

When I started doing martial arts nearly twenty years ago I was naive in believing the myths that masters possessed perfect characters and were akin to knights from fairy tales.  In my young mind a black belt (master) should be a super being that floats along the ground on a cloud of perfection, without a mark on his reputation.

Within a few years of training in martial arts my dream of the black belt super being was shattered and left in tatters.  I am not talking here about the technical aspect of being a master of a martial art.  This is a completely different matter that I could write a whole book on.   In this article I would like to focus on a master from a moral point of view.  Maybe I should start with myself.  As I wear a black belt some people look up to me to be the ‘knight in shining armour’, sorry to disappoint but I am only human and I certainly have my faults!  There is nothing wrong in not being perfect, but my issue is with people who pretend to be perfect and preach to others on how to behave.

I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to take part in a large number of seminars with a range of instructors from 1st Dan up to 10th Dan.  I often leave these seminars with mixed feelings.  Some people are genuine and modest and do not try to be someone other than who they are.  Others try so hard to show themselves in the best light that it is sometimes painful to watch…

I cannot understand how some demand instant respect for being a master (yes, we should obviously respect everyone as a person) as this kind of respect is earned through actions not demands.  From my observations it appears that the more insecure a person is the more respect they expect.  Individuals who know their value do not need to pretend that they are perfect and are more open to criticism.

On kindness, with my curiosity in all martial arts I do tend to ask a lot of questions and I have been taught by my teachers to not hesitate in asking questions of higher grades in a direct manner.   Through this approach I have had the opportunity to see how top martial artists behave and this gives me a chance to form an opinion on their kindness (their willingness to share knowledge and their tolerance of me asking questions).  Based on my observations given the people that I have come across I would suggest that there are not many kind people in martial arts (I am more than happy to be proved wrong if all of the kind martial artists out there would like to make themselves known!).  A lot of them seem to have the belief that “I’m better than you; I’ve got a higher grade”.  Some of the reactions that I have come across when engaging with higher grades includes:

  • An expression that suggests “how dare you speak to me”, as he is a master.
  • An expression or verbal question that implies “who is this person and why are you asking me questions?”
  • Blunt responses to my questions – presumably in the hope that it will get rid of me.
  • It is a rarity to find a master who is very friendly, chatty and open (but when I have previously found such people we often become good friends).

Unfortunately it seems that the more seminars I attend the more instructors I see that demand to be praised and are less and less approachable.

With regards to honour, having been engaged within the martial arts community I have seen all kinds of fights/struggles over politics, power and money (or ‘martial arts hell’ as I call it).  It seems to be getting worse and even those who I thought I knew well and respected have suddenly changed their tune – chasing the power and not taking any prisoners.  Not to mention the common behaviour I see of people trying to discredit other instructors who have different opinions and ways.

As a result of my experiences I cannot help but think that we really should not use terms such as ‘honour’ and ‘kindness’ etc. in relation to black belts or masters.  Whilst these qualities may have been appropriate in the past they appear to be dying out in modern society, perhaps as a consequence of being able to sail through grades at the speed of light…  Those who are modest will probably agree with me that the titles and grades are not worth the hassle and that they do not need to prove their value to anyone.

I wish that you (as well as myself) have the opportunity to meet genuine teachers with open minds