Three Components of Martial Arts

Video by Stephan Kesting where he makes some great points about essential components of every martial art:

– Techniques

– Equipment

– Training Methods

These three components combined together make the art or a sport effective. We can have perfect technique but without appropriate equipment and training methodologies, we miss the full potential of the fighting system. I highly recommend this clip.

 

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.

 

 

 

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Posture Modulates Action Perception

Have you ever wondered if your posture influences your actions?

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Picture from http://www.sri.com

Marius Zimmermann, Ivan Toni, and Floris P. de Lange did, and published a paper on the subject of “Body Posture Modulates Action Perception” on 3rd of April 2013.  It is a fascinating read on the effects that our posture has on our brain and our ability to take action.

“Recent studies have highlighted cognitive and neural similarities between planning and perceiving actions. Given that action planning involves a simulation of potential action plans that depends on the actor’s body posture, we reasoned that perceiving actions may also be influenced by one’s body posture. Here, we test whether and how this influence occurs by measuring behavioral and cerebral (fMRI) responses in human participants predicting goals of observed actions, while manipulating postural congruency between their own body posture and postures of the observed agents. Behaviorally, predicting action goals is facilitated when the body posture of the observer matches the posture achieved by the observed agent at the end of his action (action’s goal posture). Cerebrally, this perceptual postural congruency effect modulates activity in a portion of the left intraparietal sulcus that has previously been shown to be involved in updating neural representations of one’s own limb posture during action planning. This intraparietal area showed stronger responses when the goal posture of the observed action did not match the current body posture of the observer. These results add two novel elements to the notion that perceiving actions relies on the same predictive mechanism as planning actions. First, the predictions implemented by this mechanism are based on the current physical configuration of the body. Second, during both action planning and action observation, these predictions pertain to the goal state of the action.”

The full paper is available at the link below.

Body Posture Modulates Action Perception

Why I don’t like boxercise

Please note that this article is not intended to criticise individual instructors, but rather a comment against the current system of education and qualifications in pad work.  I love training and teaching pad work routines.  Using pads is an integral part of martial arts training and brings great benefits.  It is a great way to improve fitness, coordination, strength and self-confidence.  My issue with Boxercise and other similar systems is the time it takes to become a qualified instructor.  Being able to hold pads and being able to punch pads are two sets of skills and to become skilful in anything takes time.  To be able to effectively teach these skills requires experience as well as knowledge of teaching in either a 1-2-1 or group situations.

012In browsing through social media I have noticed a surge of instructors offering pad work.  From the images and videos I have seen it appears as though they have very little experience of how to hold pads safely.  Seeing the way that they hold these pads raises the question in my mind why are they teaching?  It turns out that in order to qualify as a pad work instructor typically only requires a one day course – that is why they are teaching.  However, being able to obtain an instructing qualification quickly extends beyond the realm of pad work.  When I did my PT qualification we received 4 hours of kettlebell training.  After this we were assessed on what we had learnt and having passed this assessment all of the participants on my course were qualified in kettlebell instruction. I found this slightly surprising and so I spoke with my classmates about their confidence in teaching kettlebells.  Most of them said that they did not wish to teach kettlebells because they had no prior experience and did not feel that the training they had received was enough for them to feel confident in teaching others correctly.

In my opinion this system of having just a 4-8 hour course to train instructors will sooner or later result in injury.  Recent studies suggest that the shortest time it takes to learn a new skill 20 hours (for example: https://first20hours.com/) with more traditional views suggesting it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.  Certainly in the case of martial arts I think 10,000 hours is more realistic – I am not aware of anyone who has been able to proficiently learn a martial art in 20 hours!  Even the fast learning systems implemented in organisations such as the Army to fast track soldiers to be combat ready takes 140 hours.

As an example of the types of areas covered by these 1 day instructors courses please find below an extract from the Boxercise website of the topics covered in 1 day:

“Punches – learn and practise the eight fundamental punches ensuring correct & safe technique. Learn the importance of good footwork and stance.

Group Work Section including instructing skills & Boxercise Aerobics       

Boxing Equipment Discussion and good practise recommendations. Class format and design.

Padwork – Learn all the relevant safety and coaching points for using the focus pads. Also learn how to coach every punching fault so you are prepared for when it occurs in a real world situation.

Assessment – Working in pairs you will be assessed on your ability to coach, teach and instruct a novice puncher and demonstrate all punches safely and effectively. Pass mark 70%.

Class Examples of four different styles of Boxercise class, including bootcamp style.       

The Boxercise Instructor Course includes footwork drills 1-17 for the Boxercise Footwork Training System.”

This is a lot to learn in one day, especially when you consider that you then have to be able to teach someone else.  I have been practicing martial arts for nearly 20 years and have been on both sides, as the puncher and as the pad holder.  Based on my experience I would definitely say that to be proficient at either takes more than a day.

Instructors often post pictures from their training sessions and from these you can notice basic mistakes such as holding the pads too high or too wide.  From this you can deduce that the holder does not have sufficient tension in their arms to prevent injury.  It is also not very realistic for the person who punches – unless they are fighting with a very tall person with two heads.  Another common mistake I have noticed is the pad holder doing all of the work, smashing the gloves of their client.  This may sound and feel stronger for the client, but it does nothing for his/her fitness.

Here are some points to avoid when holding pads:

  • Pads at the wrong height
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    too high

Holding the pads very high causes a lot of stress on the shoulders as muscles are not able to provide support to the arm when receiving a punch in this position.  This is also bad for the person punching as they do not learn realistic targeting.  The pad holder should keep the pads at an appropriate height for the target such as the head or body in relation to their build.

 

  • Pads at the wrong width 
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    too wide

Holding the pads in an unrealistic position where the pads are too wide apart can cause the person who is punching to overstretch and slows down their technique.  In the same way that holding the pads too high causes stress on the shoulders, holding them too wide does as well.  The pads should be held within your own shoulder width at the appropriate target position (head or body).

 

  • Relaxed arms 
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    relaxed

Keeping your arms relaxed is dangerous for both the pad holder and puncher.  The puncher does not get any feedback about their technique and risks hyper extension whilst executing a punch due to lack of resistance.  Conversely, without tension in their arms the pad holder does not have much control over their muscles in order to protect their joints when receiving a punch, which might easily lead to injury.

 

 

  • Hitting oncoming punches     

01 - CopyMany instructors hit the punch of their client with the pad in order to make it sound and feel more powerful.  By doing this we create a false distance for the target and cause unnecessary impact on the joints of both the holder and puncher.  This behaviour teaches the puncher to shorten their technique and therefore they cannot develop full power.  There should be a very slight movement towards the punch just before contact so that your joints can prepare for receiving the impact, but this movement should be minimal.

  • Lack of instruction

It is not enough to just ask the client to punch with a particular combination.  You have to actively monitor and correct his/her technique throughout the workout.  For example giving tips on footwork, striking technique and body mechanics.  The instructor should be looking to spot errors at all times, but in order to do this he/she needs experience in punching and body mechanics.

In summary good pad holding helps to:

  1. Prevent injury to the pad holder and puncher
  2. Establish the correct distance for each technique
  3. Enforce the use of proper body mechanics
  4. Improve punching skill
  5. Support a smooth transition between punches

All of this takes time and practice.  As with other manual skills, our brain and muscles need time to develop neuromuscular patterns.  In my opinion a few hours on a course does not provide enough time to attain these skills and in this article I have only touched on the basics.  There is a lot more to consider in pad work such as punching technique, structure, moving, progression and use of different types of pads.  It is such a vast topic that it is not surprising that great pad holders are paid top money for their instruction.   They spend years developing their approaches.

If you want to learn how to hold pads correctly I would recommend visiting a boxing gym or martial arts club where the use of pads is embedded in their system of training.  Alternatively find a pad work instructor with demonstrable experience.

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About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing. Our club provides classes in Guildford area. Contact via email shinaido@yahoo.com 

Unexpected friends

Doing my diploma in Personal Training and specialisation in posture with preparation for starting my own business gave me some free time on my hands. Spending all that time thinking about how to make my company grow was driving me to frustration and stress.

After few days of thinking how to deal with this situation, stress is not helping me to be creative, I figured that some voluntary work should occupied my brain. I started to search for a charity that I could help. The best would be to use my skills and help people with back problems and health issues. I did not know how hard it would be to find a charity willing to get volunteers. On several occasions I have been advised that the best thing would be to give donation, maybe for them but not for me as I was skint only what I could give was time and skills. I was losing hope that I would find anything local, but then by coincidence I came across website Streetlife, where local communities post events, adverts and requests. One of these was message from Julie, asking if someone could help her and Barry to run a Walking for Health group, as it was five minutes away from my house I have joined the walking group.

10177935_922460987830382_9145627927276009621_nOn first meeting all of us were shocked, walkers, Julie and I as the age difference was quite noticeable. I got the impression that members of the group were a bit suspicious about me, why would such young person join their group.

12187848_921674601242354_8937600398097010802_n At the beginning conversations were a bit dry, but week by week it got better. Chatting to members of the Fairlands group is fascinating, so many stories, experiences and adventure. Since I started to walk with this group half a year ago it has grown to over thirty members. What is different about this particular group is the leadership of Julie and Barry who decided to create sub groups for people with different abilities.

At the moment there are three types of walk:

– Hourly fast walk for with a distance around two miles

– Medium speed one mile walk

– Short walk for people who are slower or less mobile which I have the pleasure to support and attend.

All this is possible due to relentless work of Julie and Barry, here I have to mention Rokers Café and their staff who are providing us with space and drinks for our sometimes loud group. I have to say that management and staff at the Rokers are most helpful!

Those collaborations with Julie have lead us (Christine and I) to become qualified walk leaders in the Walking for Health organisation. It was a very interesting experience and gives us a chance to known each other.

11705126_923101504432997_5242777228160645236_nChristine is volunteer as well and we both securing short walks providing one to one support. She is one of the kindest people I have met for a long time.

This experience of joining the walking group surprisingly has opened other possible opportunities to me including teaching martial arts as therapy. Even now when I am getting busy with my business I always have Wednesday 10 am booked for walking with my friends. More about Walking for health scheme you can find at www……

It is always a good idea to get out of your comfort zone, life is rewarding brave ones!

Kata Study – Tensho

In Shin Ai Do karate every student on one stage of their progression through grades is given a kata.

This kata is specially chosen to suit his or her ability and character. This kata is the main one to study. You need to know other forms within the system but this one you have to specialise in and know it thoroughly. For me it is Tensho kata.

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Tensho

I was “assigned” to study it around 15 years ago. I have tried many versions and adaptations in search of knowledge and efficacy of movement.

This kata was introduced by Chojun Miyagi in to the Goju Ryu system in 1921 as a softer Sanchin. The name Tensho is translated as “revolving hands”, “rotating palms”, or “turning palms.”  Some researchers suggest that it is a modified version of the Rokkishu form from Chinese Kung Fu.

Movements in Tensho are flowing but under tension with deep breathing. Over time many versions have developed. Every master did a little bit of modification. Nowadays every school where this kata is taught they have their own adaptation.

In our school we teach a version introduced by Mas Oyama. Although over time it is bit different few movements were changed to fit with the analysis of hands on interpretation.  We are using this magnificent kata for various reasons ranging from health, strength through self-defence, meditation and relaxation training.

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Tensho for Relaxation

Focusing on the self-defence aspects we have three levels of understanding the Tensho:

  • Kuzushi, Nage (off balancing and throwing)
  • Tuite (joint manipulation)
  • Atemi, Kyusho (strikes in to the vital points)

Beginners are introduced to the flow of unbalancing and takedowns with use of the stances and hands movement with use of Tai Sabaki (body movement). In this way students learn effective way of using their body and directions of the techniques.

Intermediate form focuses on the joint and muscle mechanics and how to take advantage of body responses to pain signals. All the movement are transformed to joint locks with use of the stances, body and arms.

The advanced version exploits weak points of the body, putting pressure or strikes to the nervous system, muscle system and other tissues of the body. Neurological responses to the pain.

All this makes Tensho kata very effective weapon in karate, which is often not recognised and used only as a “breathing “Kata.

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Off balancing

Performing and studying this kata for 15 years now I keep finding new ways of using it for different purposes. Understanding this kata opens up body strength, effective self-defence and mental relaxation. Teaching it on the seminars more and more people are discovering benefits of this form. Next time you do Tensho please try to find ways of using it not just for breathing.

 

short clip of possible analysis for Tensho.

 

 

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Les Bubka

About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate.  Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing.

Aggressive sales, email lists ….

I have been qualified as a personal trainer for over a year now and have dutifully joined professional governing bodies that regularly send out magazines, links to web articles etc. in order to help you keep up-to-date with the latest developments and fashions.  In particular they provide a lot of information on how to run a successful business.  I have to say that the marketing techniques material that they send me makes me cringe.  Some of the ideas they suggest are against my philosophy of how I wish to train people and are at times completely opposite to how I believe a successful business should be run.

I have formed my beliefs and perspective as a result of having spent 15 years teaching groups of students in martial arts and having taught at seminars around the world.  During this time I have gone through a variety of different approaches whilst running clubs in different cities and countries and one thing that has always become apparent to me is that the best thing is to just be yourself and do the best that you can.  In this way people are more likely to recognise you and your efforts.

Here are a few examples of the types of suggestions that I do not agree with:

  • SalesTo make it to the next level you need aggressive sales. No I don’t.  What I need is to provide quality training and great customer service, which will make clients to come back to me.  I don’t believe that my clients will be happy if they are forced to buy stuff.  Personally, if someone tries to aggressively sell something to me I immediately decline and will avoid this provider in the future.
  • Sell only in packages – “Selling individual sessions is a waste of time. Yes, but only if your aim is to extract as much money from your client as possible. I prefer the approach of aiming to impress my clients at every session so that they want to come back to me and book more sessions.  If they specifically inquire about or request a package, then sure we can look at developing one.  Again, for me personally, if someone said to me that I could only train with them if I bought a whole package I would walk away.  For example I like to train with specialists in particular areas, but I would only train with them say once a month.  In this way I can train with a variety of instructors who can each provide input on different areas of my progression.
  • Email list – “Your goal is to add new names to your email list. We are told that our target as personal trainers is to have a massive email list that we can send countless emails to with offers and advice. I personally don’t do that.  My clients receive one email from me after a consultation with their tailored training programme, corrective exercises or treatment schedule.  As a part of their consultation we will agree a means of contact so that they are happy with how and how frequently I will get in touch with them.  I don’t understand this obsession with the number of email addresses.  My email is constantly flooded with offers and information from different fitness sources and most of it goes straight in the bin.  In my view it is a waste of my client’s time going through a lot of spam messages.  I would rather my client be out on a relaxing walk then be sat in front of a computer reading my emails on random fitness fads.
  • Workout plan – “Never give your plans and training secrets away. I am not sure how that would actually work, as every time you train someone (or a group) you have to show then your plan for the session and so they know it.  If we do not share our methods then there would not be any progress as everyone would have to rely on their own development rather than being able to gain from sharing best practice.  We need to be transparent so that others can learn new methods and we can in turn learn from others.  In any case it is not the workout itself that is the most important aspect of personal training but the quality of instruction.  You could have the best workout but if you cannot teach it effectively then no one will want to do it.
  • Success – “Getting a fitness business over the £…k per month will make you more successful. Only if this is your vision of success.  I believe that if you are a better trainer that you are likely to have more money as you will build a stronger client base, but I do not believe the converse is true.  As you help people they are happy to pay you a fair price for your services.  For me personally, being successful is about being able to bring smiles and confidence to people, enjoying their achievements and being a part of their story on their road to success.  So long as I have enough money to pay the bills I’m happy, but maybe that is just me – I don’t need much to have a contented life.

These are only a few points that make me doubt the intentions of the fitness industry.  It seems to be more about making more sales then help people.  An example of this is a survey that one of my tutors did on my course.  His question was Why are you here on this course, what is your deepest motivation to become personal trainer?” 29 out of 30 people responded with “to make money”.  You are probably wondering what the response was from the other person, well I said that I wanted “to help people”.

I’ll leave it on that.  Please take time to think about what your motivation is…

Moral spine of Karate

 

When I started my training in martial arts I did not think about all of the culture, rules and traditions – “I just wanted to kick some ass!”  As I was always one of the smallest on my estate I tried everything to make myself bigger and to be able to fight.  So I started going to the gym and I joined a Karate club.  I had a clear vision of being just like Bruce Lee.P6070005.JPG

Moving forwards 20 years and I now appreciate all of the rules, traditions and morality associated with The Art of Empty Hands, especially the aspect of “Do”.  Looking around I find that the emphasis on the moral aspect of martial arts appears to be decreasing.  Quite a few teachers seem to promote aggression and the disrespectful behaviours of macho men/women.  Good examples of this can be observed in the worlds of Boxing and MMA where fighters try to dominate their opponent before they even step into the ring, making as much hype as possible around their persona in order to generate more money.  Two fighters who highlight this particularly in my opinion are Connor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.  Both are exceptional fighters with excellent skills, but they are extremely rude to and about others.  Behaviours like this puts me off from watching MMA and makes me question whether these famous fighters are the best role models for young people?  I personally do not think they are and I have more respect for an average fighter who has respect for others.  He might not be at the top of his profession but he is a humble hero who promotes the best behaviour for the young people that take up martial arts classes.

From running my own classes I have noticed that people are drawn to moral martial arts where you can learn honour, diligence and respect and how this fits in with traditional systems such as Karate, Aikido, Ju Jitsu and others.

For me the philosophy of Karate works, giving people that train not only a physical workout, but in addition teaching them a structured, moral code.  This is the essence of the phrase “Karate ni sente nashi”, “Karate does not attack first”.  The name Karate “Empty Hands” is telling in itself in that it signifies that empty hands are about protection and that the hands being open is a welcoming gesture.   Karate should be used only for good reasons with respect to others and in case of danger to self or others.  Kaicho Nakamura has pointed out a few key principles in Karate that really resonate with me and that I try to impose in my training and life so that my existence is meaningful and helpful:

  • GI – Rectitude – To take the right decision in every situation and to do it without wavering. The right decision is the moral one, the just one, the honourable one.
  • YU – Heroism – Bravery means taking risks to our position, status or self-interest on a daily basis.
  • JIN – Compassion – We should always try to find ways to express our compassion for others.
  • REI – Courtesy – We should practice it constantly especially in modern times where we are lacking in courtesy.
  • MAKATO – Truthfulness – In all dealings with others, we should develop a sincere, honest straightforwardness.
  • CHUGO – Devotion – always be devoted to your family, friends and teachers.

The above are great tips for an honourable life.  I guess the question is how many of us follow them in our lives once we step out of the dojo?  We can hear in the media about martial arts instructors scrounging on benefits, molesting children and taking people’s money.  It is easy to preach about honour, diligence and respect on classes and then get involved in corrupt behaviours and doing harm to others.  Many instructors want to be perceived as holy, without a mark against their character.  We would all like to be like that, but reality if often different.  We all have faults, but we can strive for perfection through our choices and actions.  I do preach about honour and respect and I have to confess that I am not always perfect, but I try to follow the path of Karate do, self-education and excellence.  Since I started to employ these principles I have noticed that my life has changed for the better and I am now helping others through Karate.  I wish for all instructors to be an excellent example to their students, we certainly need more respectful people in this world.

 

Les Bubka