I don’t like Crossfit

At the time of writing this post, I have been practising martial arts since 1994 with no break. So…that’s now 21 years. In this time I’ve had more fights than I can remember. The big ones, yes I do recall of course, though not always vividly. I remember moments. It might be a pivotal moment in the bout, or something said to me in the corner or side of the mat, but the thing I remember most about fights is that feeling you get about 30 seconds in and the lungs start to burn and then you do that unconscious mental check with yourself. The one that happens in a millisecond where you say….damn I feel tired…have I trained enough for this ? Oh yes….yes I did… get back in there and fight. On those rare times when I have gone into a tournament un-prepared, that conversation with the self can end badly. It’s then when you feel tired and you ask yourself that question…that the doubt creeps in and you only have two choices. To talk yourself out of winning….or decide to smash through hard and give it all you got anyway.  It’s much better to train hard in the lead up …push yourself to the point of failure and know you can survive so that on comp day….when the going gets tough….you know your training has been equally as tough and so you have this.

I tell my students that haven’t competed in a full contact event this all the time. That you will never understand the intensity at which you need to train until you have had that 30 second moment on the mat. That feeling half way through a round where you are like….where is all my power ? That moment when you hit someone with all you have…and they don’t stop. They don’t fall. Those moments where you need to dig deep just to find the energy to keep kicking and punching and blocking etc. That’s when you understand why you need to work hard in training. Past the point where it’s fun. Past the point where you like it in that moment.

Having had a few injuries the last year or so that have made sparring and fighting not possible for me, and also looking for something to give me a new challenge, I took up Crossfit. There are those that like to say negative things about Crossfit – but to me it all made perfect sense. Strength training, which is varied and functional, in a group session (something I like because of my martial arts background – I love the energy a group brings) and all this tied in with an intense high volume workout sounded just fine to me. Booking myself into my first few sessions of basics to begin to learn the Olympic lifting….I knew I was in for a challenge. I had considered myself coordinated, flexible and somewhat strong. I had started light weights work after completing my Personal Training Qualifications about 1.5 yrs earlier… I thought I’d be on track to pick up Crossfit quickly. Ummmm……no. There were of course things I could do and had strength and cardio fitness….but so many new movements. In fact…..certain postures or stances that I had formed like patterns into my core were making life hard in the box. My feet just naturally fell into stances….and now I was trying to break them. I’d been taught to squat a certain way….and now I had to re-learn that too. I think perhaps that coming to Crossfit as someone with no sporting history would be somewhat easier. Or…maybe It was just that I was out of my comfort zone. After years of being immersed in something where I knew what I was doing…and a reasonable rank….I was now back at the bottom of the food chain.

Fast forward to now, and about 1 – 1.5 years of regular Crossfit training, I am now of the opinion that everyone that does fighting martial arts could benefit from this type of training. The Olympic lifting may not be an advantage…but the strength that it builds sure is. Being able to perform some of the movements also requires flexibility in places that as martial artists we don’t address. For example……I had no idea how tight or limited my back movement was until I started tyring to Squat properly….and Overhead squat. And sure….I could pretty much do the splits…..but wasn’t getting deep enough in my squat due to my hips. No doubt some of this was movement patterns…. but here it was pointed out to me in real time.

But that’s not the best part. The best part is that there is no cheating. When you hit the bag…’s your choice how hard you hit it. You can go at 60%…or at 100% but it makes no difference to the bag. Sure…it might move more or less but at the end of the day nobody’s going to know but you. Even if you are with a trainer and they hold pads, and they are a great trainer and they push you …..You can still be in a position to control the intensity somewhat. Don’t get me wrong…nothing can replace padwork and bagwork for a fighter and I’m not discounting how hard fighters train. No way. It’s just however that the bar never lies. It’s a great tool for the fighter to know where their strength is at. It’s always going to take you the same amount of effort to lift 20 or 40 or 60 Kg’s. You can’t cheat. You can only make it easier by doing the work and getting stronger so that 40kgs feels like 30 now etc. Couple the use of weights in a workout where there might be running or pullups or burpees and you have yourself a challenge. One that will either burn the lungs….challenge your heart (come on …pickup the bar again) or just be something that you can’t do very well and now you have to do it.

In a fight….we can push some of our own short falling’s on to our opponent. If we somehow manage to talk ourselves out of winning or give up a little…..we lose and we say that the other fighter was better on the day. I am sure deep inside we know….but there is still that avenue. When you are doing a workout….one that really pushes you and you give in to that voice inside your head… can’t blame the bar. It’s you. And you know what….that’s okay. And just like a fighter would…you will be back there tomorrow to fight that bar and lift that weight and swing that Kettlebell and burn those lungs and push till your legs want to collapse and row past the point where its comfortable and believe me I hate rowing. I don’t like feeling inadequate when I can’t lift as much as others. I don’t like not being able to do a muscle-up. I don’t like feeling like I want to cry but I have to throw that stupid wall ball up so high another 20 times. I don’t really like Crossfit sometimes at all. But that’s precisely why I love it. It mimics the same feelings that we get in a hard sparring session or a hard pad session or a hard grading or fight. But it does this while building strength and without the same kind of injuries. It forces you to train hard. The things that make us better aren’t usually the things we think of fondly at the time.

So……Maybe give crossfit a try. Perhaps you won’t like it too !

Patience and Perseverance

old black belt

We all want that thing we don’t have. In this case…in the dojo …I guess it’s the black belt. And many new members are impatient and just want to reach that destination fast. At first….the student is enthusiastic and always at training and puts all their effort into every session. They research online, read articles, books, magazines, watch youtube.clips, and try and find out every little bit of information they can. That is great and it’s part of the journey. However…..there are those times when the impatience is such that the student sees something cool online, or can’t see the forest for the trees and wants to question everything in class. Why are we doing this repetitive movement when we could be doing back spinning kicks etc?…..then they start to resent the basics, roll their eyes at the sensei or coach and can even start to turn to being mean to the lower ranks and beginners in an effort to make themselves feel better about their knowledge and rank.

Its not always this way….but I just want to remind my students to be patient. Remember…….martial arts is about being an eternal student. If you are looking to ‘master’ something then master the basics. Saying you want to master your style is almost putting a ceiling on your training. Just aim to better yourself in every session. Learn something new or do that one more push-up or fight smarter or push harder in your stances. Something. It’s little steps. Building a wall is one brick at a time.

I have been reminded of this recently by again donning a white belt and stepping onto the mats for BJJ. Being back at the bottom and struggling for air, blank mind under pressure, not able to use my skillset has been unsettling to say the least. But… much as i’m frustrated…it’s great to be on the road again and feeling the excitement of a new technique. Each time I leave class thinking I suck…..I remember that I know more today than yesterday….and I promise myself that the only way to improve is to walk the path. That path is turning up to the dojo….putting on my gi…..battling the demons and trying my best each session. If I wanted all the moves and all the answers now….or tomorrow….surely I would quit in frustration as that is just not going to happen.

Another personal example is weight training. A few of you at the dojo do weights in your own time to build on your strength and power output, and those that do the Bellatrix or No Limits classes will have also had exposure to weight training. I know with me that I just want to be able to lift more…and lift better. The problem is ….you have to work through the weights. You have to lift the 10 kg to develop the form, and then build strength and muscle mass, so that next time you can lift 12kg. When you built to 12kg…then it’s time to review form and build again to 15kg and so on. It’s just how humans work. There is no magic pill. Steroids you say ? Well No. You can’t just take them and grow. Sure…it enhances the rate at which your body can grow…but…..guess what…you still have to pick up those weights and you still have to do the work !

But….back to martial arts . It’s also worthy of mentioning that a black belt is, as our forefathers tell us, only the beginning. The mastery of basics as I mentioned earlier. You will note that the black belt…when worn enough starts to wear away at the edges. Over time the black starts to recede and you are left how you started. A dirty little white belt…eager just to learn something new. So…don’t be in a rush to get back to the beginning. Enjoy your journey. Each and every step. Osu

The Easy Way Out

Lately……I keep getting hit in the face – and not just in class!
I mean by reality. By the harsh truth that I truly believe we have mostly become a world full of corner cutters. (that’s the nicest word I could think of. There were plenty of others in mind…but this is a family show)
To me it seems that a majority of the population wants a quick fix. An easy solution and nobody wants to go through discomfort or pain anymore. It’s illogical and stupid to think this way. I know it’s cliche’ but we all must experience pain to know joy. And we need pain to grow. Yep……in every way shape and form.

The evidence is all around us. Every day I get told….Oh I really want to get fit, and tone up (which is really not possible as toning isn’t real – it’s called losing fat and building muscle) But I don’t have time and your classes are too hard for me. So……what you are saying is that you don’t want it that bad? Yep….that’s why there is this magical pill hitting the market whereby the makers and the shareholders will make ridiculous amounts of money by people getting skinny but not healthy and forced to live on this medication forever. And….this is because nobody wants to go through the pain of exercise and eating healthy. And…Yes… can be uncomfortable at times, and it might feel painful, and yes you might get sore muscles….but you will get used to the feeling and possibly learn to love it. I don’t mean to say that every training session a person does needs to be drenched in sweat and vomit city and so hard you can’t walk the next day – but it would be close. You do have to work your body hard. You do have to make big changes to see big changes and that might mean sometimes it’s uncomfortable. But is uncomfortable that bad ? What’s the alternative? I’d rather have a sore back from training and be healthy knowing that my pain is temporary, than be overweight, have no cardiovascular health and be in pain because of that. Wouldn’t you ?

And what about peoples reaction to getting sick. Why is reaching for a bottle of this or a pill for this so many people’s first response? Given proper nutrition and rest, your body will heal most minor (and some major) ailments. Often…..the medication taken prohibits the bodies natural response to illness and circumvents it’s own efforts to eliminate the virus or dis-ease that has been allowed to manifest. People will say…oh it’s because I have to soldier on, go to work. This is a stupid mentality as now you are perhaps spreading your illness when you should keep it at home, plus you will most likely lengthen the duration of the illness you were trying to avoid in the first place. Maybe……we are supposed to get a cold every now and then. Maybe it’s our bodies way of de-toxifying ? I don’t know. But I do think that pill popping etc is another way for people to avoid being uncomfortable. I’m not saying we should want to be sick…..not at all. It’s horrible and I don’t like it…and even more so I really dislike seeing my kids sick as I am sure most parents do- but Let’s think about what Grandma would have done sometimes. Maybe even stop for a second and take a look around at your friends, your family and think….who are the ones who are sick most often ….and who are the one’s opting for the quick fixes. You might see a pattern.

My next rant is about kids and how it seems that schooling and some trendy parenting today is all about preventing everything. Is it really a horrible thing to lose? Why must everyone that goes in a race be a winner? It’s just not a real representation of life to think that there aren’t winners and losers. I’m happy that when I was at school …you had to work hard for a certificate. To earn a place or a ribbon was worth fighting for. Yeah sure…..there were plenty of thing’s I was terrible at, and this was uncomfortable to deal with, but you get over it. You learn to fight harder and try harder and you learn to brush thing’s off. You also learn that everyone is not good at everything…and you look harder to find what you ‘are’ good at.

Punishments for bad behavior seem to also be frowned upon and in place is adult conversation’s….about feelings and yada yada. Again…..I’m not saying bring back the strap, but consequence needs to be taught. You can’t have an adult conversation with a 5 year old. Simple things like having to clean up after class or stay inside at playtime or at home….things such as Ipods etc being confiscated help kids to learn about consequences of action. Then…later when the child begin’s to understand …then the conversation about feelings etc can happen. Lesson….then reflection. This however takes time to implement and are we too busy to do this? or is it we don’t like these uncomfortable and confrontational situations ? Is it easier to just let stuff slide? My main point here is that we want to protect our kids…but are we helping or hindering them by trying too hard to stop them from ever having a bad experience? Being picked on is awful…but with supportive parents and also teachers this experience can be a learning curve for kids that will serve them through to adulthood. We must learn to deal with confrontation and loss and bad experiences. It’s how we grow as people emotionally. Of course….this is merely scratching the surface in this area….and I don’t claim to be any kind of expert.

This is why I love martial arts. For adults and for kids. Because it’s difficult. Because often we are pushed to points of failure. These might on the surface seem like losses, but really they are lessons. Every class and each training session we are given the opportunity to test and improve ourselves. It’s about turning up when we don’t want to. When it’s too hard. It’s about making commitments and honoring them. It’s about getting hurt, and continuing anyway. It’s about finding out our weaknesses, but also that we are more powerful than we thought possible. It’s about being disciplined. In and out of the dojo. It’s about giving up a social life to train for an impending grading. About scheduling homework time after school so you can make it to class on time because a test or comp is coming up. Parents need to help kids with this one. Yep….parents need to be disciplined too. It’s about taking kids to training when you can’t be bothered – because they watch and imitate your behavior. All these things forge an attitude that serves both in and out of the dojo. How much better will a child perform at school with strength of character and a disciplined mind and life?
How much better will and adult handle life and work and stress with these qualities?

I personally know that Karate and Martial Arts has saved my life. Not on the street in combat fortunately, but there are times when I know that If i didn’t possess the ability to push beyond my toughest boundaries…I would have quit on a few occasions. I know the 7 times down 8 times up mentality that I have tattooed on my body is ingrained on my soul…and that has come not from avoiding being in pain or uncomfortable, but by not taking the easy way out. I’m no soldier. And I’m not the toughest or the greatest at anything. But I thank my lucky stars every day that I walked into a martial arts school back in 1994.

Osu No Seishin.

The Dojo is your temple

In my opinion, the dojo should be thought of as akin to a temple. A place to hold sacred, to respect, to want to visit and a place to serve as much as it serves you and all others who enter it. A dojo is a place where you enter and offer yourself to the training, the master and teacher, your seniors and all those that have gone before. You must come not with your cup empty… you cannot (nor should you) put aside past knowledge, but your mind should always be open and thoughtful.

As you enter this temple, shoes should be removed and placed neatly out of others way. This is for cleanliness but also because the matted area should be thought of as sacred and you must not walk upon it with the rubbish on your shoes from the outside world. It is just not done.

Your mind should be focused on the present moment and bad feelings from the day left behind. Now is the time to focus on the moment. You are here . It is your place and you are amongst friends and training partners that support each other through tough training sessions and gradings, and help each other to learn.

In the dojo you should be safe to find out your truth. Be respectful to all people at all times and be a part of building and maintaining  that culture. Remember….there will be times when your guard will drop and you will be hit. Times when you won’t be ready and you will fall or buckle over from a good strike or kick, or be choked or submitted. Times when you just feel exhausted and want to quit. These should be considered your best times. The times when you learnt about yourself, your weaknesses and see a way to improve on them. Remember to support others through their times of weakness or finding their truth. You will know when you see it. As I said…one day it will be you.

Accept criticism with humility. You are not perfect. No one is. But you came to learn….so allow the learning to happen. Receive the lessons from all. The instructor. Your fellow students and especially the lower ranks. They have things to teach you too, even if it is just about yourself.

Always give your best at the dojo. Sometimes your best is just turning up. Whatever you have to give…..if it’s only 80% for any reason…then give 100% of that 80% . Doing this creates a mentality that shall serve you well both in and out of the dojo.

Most of all….look after your dojo. Wiping down the mats after class is a small part of this. If you see equipment left out….put it away. Even if you weren’t the one who left it. Someone has to do it. Why not you ? It’s not a big thing to help look after your training area. Behaving in this manner shows you care about the place in which you spend so much time, where you learn and creates a feeling of belonging and/or ownership. If you make a mess…clean it. Don’t leave training gear…or belongings behind. Take your stuff home and clean and air it out. Showing up to the dojo with a clean dogi and un-stinky gloves, shin pads etc is a direct reflection of the care and pride you feel towards your training and your own self respect also.

Enjoy your training and remember why you started. Constantly seek to review your goals. Honour your training commitment to yourself and your instructor and be a proud and respectful Representative of your club and your style.


Significance : 2014 Formal Awards Night Speech

Welcome to the 2014 Formal Awards Night.

Thankyou Anthony for your introduction and I’ll say thanks on behalf of Nivo for saving him from having to make another speech tonight ! J

I think this year it’s clear that we are going for the “quality over quantity” approach. This time last year we had double the amount of attendance and I have learnt a valuable lesson: Run the event in November before the craziness kicks in! There were a lot of people that wanted to attend and couldn’t make it due to other events they were required to be at….and I know it’s a busy time of year.

So….I know you have put aside your time and your money to be here tonight, and I really want you to know how much it means to me that you are in fact here now… I put every effort into making this a special night for all and I hope you enjoy yourself and feel that your investment was worthwhile.

I know I read directly from the paper…’s because I have to, to keep my mind on track………….So many thoughts per second , per minute…those that train with me know what I’m talking about. So…. Please forgive my lack of eye contact!

This year…..I planned on my speech being somewhat shorter than normal. A bit like me – Not huge……however to the point and mostly on target.

So let’s get straight to the point. ‘Significance’.

It’s an interesting word don’t you think? And I like words. What’s cool about words is that they are just that. Words. But a little like Rissoles and Mum’s cooking on the movie The Castle…..”It’s what you do with them”!

It’s not the word itself that gives it meaning…but those which come before and after.

IT’s not that they are said…it’s how and by who.

We all know that you can be told the same thing many times, but someone will just put it slightly differently….or perhaps your frame of mood will alter the way the meaning comes across and all of a sudden this “thing” being said resonates with you. Amazing.

I think this theory can also be applied to martial arts techniques.

IT’s not the punch, the kick, or the arm bar…’s the block that came before, allowing that punch to get through. Or maybe the slight footwork manoeuvrer that allowed you to land that kick…or the patience and foresight to sit and wait for your opponent to falter and move his grip so you could apply that choke. It’s knowing the basics and being able to put them together which creates the poetry in motion.

But….more than knowing the basics…I think what’s more important is understanding the ‘why’.

I remember I used to drive my high school math’s teachers crazy as I was always asking why. I would be told to just select the appropriate formula and apply to reveal the correct answer. This frustrated me no end because in order for my brain to understand which formula was the right one to use in the first place…I Needed to know why! Aaaaarrrghhhhh……it was a viscous circle and….Oh anyway. Enough reminiscing.

In Martial Arts it’s important to listen to your master. Your Sensei, Your Coach, Your teacher. Whoever that person is that is imparting their knowledge to you.

They have put time and effort into learning. Sometimes years of dedication. We must respect this and know that the reason we are here is to learn from this person something which we do not already know.

Or …maybe we do know….but need this person to push us and correct us, and guide us and make us fitter and stronger and better.

For this to happen however and in the shortest space of time, we must not question their instructions or judgement. We must follow and do as instructed.

What we should strive to find though is the why. Sosai said that all questions can be answered in training. Of this I am sure. Some answers come quickly…and others take much time. Some require patience and others are a quick and brutal lesson in a tournament situation. Regardless of how the answer is revealed though…..we need to strive to understand the meaning behind the lesson. We must push ourselves to discover the Significance.

Running a dojo is a hard business. I trust you all enough to say that Sometimes it’s tough enough that I doubt that It can continue. Then my ‘why’ kicks in…the knowing to my very core that running the dojo is all I ever want to do.

I have no plan B.

I have invested everything into those four walls where so many good things happen.

Peoples lives change. I know this because people tell me. You don’t always see it when you are up that close. Like you don’t notice your own child growing but then someone they haven’t seen for a while shows up and is astounded at their size!

It’s been a strange couple of months where lots of old students have either returned to training or have visited and written some just amazing letters to me. These thing’s strengthen my resolve, booster my confidence and remind me why it’s so important that I do what I do. Why all instructors do. It’s reminded me of the dojo’s Significance, not just to me….but I imagine to all of you here tonight and definitely to those that are still apart of the dojo but not able to be here.

I have also been made aware that even to those not still active members of EMAA….that passing through our doors has put them on some pretty grand detours in life and been a significant and meaningful part of their journey. That’s a big Wow for me.

I asked you all to bring along an item tonight. Something that was Significant to you. I’m gonna quickly open up the Mic to anyone who has something they would like to share………….

I want you to talk to each other tonight. Put down your phones and ask each other about these items and see what kinds of things come up.

I hope it’s an interesting journey ………I hope you hear some cool stories…but most of all it’s thinking about what to bring that I hope leads you to question yourself on some basic life concepts. What gives meaning to your world? Who are you? What are you supposed to do and Why?

I’m still working on this….but I honestly believe 100% that when you know your why…….and focus only on that….then the HOW shall be revealed to you.

And then when you DO your Why……You will be Happy.

One last thing……on your place-cards…you are probably wondering why there is a pen. I am sure you have heard the expression that the Pen is Mightier than the sword. Do You know why?

So you have been given a special gift indeed.

Use it well.

So You Think You’re a Warrior ?

Lying on the floor in a pool of my own sweat, forcing myself to remember to breathe through my nose and not pant like a dog from the heat, my thoughts (which were supposed to be still in Savasana) ran to how much I was struggling in this Bikram class. I was reminded how I considered myself to be tough, but now I was pausing to question that belief. I decided then that I WAS in fact tough as I didn’t quit and continued to push on despite how much I actually wanted to just lie there and use my back inury as an excuse to just roll over on my back and rest. I also pondered then how I would actually rather be repeatedly hit and kicked than lie there in my own thoughts and pain !  It’s funny , as whilst training in the No Limits Fitness strength and conditioning class that I run at my dojo on a Sat morning…..I also had that thought. That I would rather be bashed than force myself to run through this pain my back is giving me ……and well…the running too. I’ve written an article before ” I don’t like running” and well…..nothing’s changed.

So……why do it ? Why do these things I don’t like ?  Well I think that it is a normal human response to turn away from pain and avoid discomfort, however sometimes as people we see the value in not turning away and avoiding that which we don’t like as there is something more to be gained at the end. Ie : The dividends outweigh the investment. But why is some pain more easily endured than others ? I believe that like everything – It’s what we get used to. It’s that which we re exposed to most often and train to do that we of course are more able to tolerate. I doubt that many would question this belief of mine as this theory is practised in every gym, school, martial arts dojo, sports club, army etc every day.

That point however is not what I was wondering about. Going back to the part where I thought I was tough, I was thinking about how at times I had considered myself and indeed been called a warrior after competing in full contact tournaments etc. Then I started to think about how it’s easy to be tough in an environment where everything is familiar , and you feel comfortable and know what’s going on , and what’s ahead of you. Is that a true warrior though? Shifting my thoughts then to Soldiers dropped into unfamiliar territory, or Viking’s sailing into battle without knowing their enemy and their plans… come through that would indeed be a feat of a warrior. They would need to adapt to their surroundings quickly. They would need to be able to assess situations, make changes and be adaptable. They would need to operate under stress and surprise without really having time to adjust themselves at their preferred pace.  And they would fight for their own and perhaps others lives and couldn’t stop when they got tired or injured.

I am not trying to say that unless you become a soldier or a Viking that you cannot be a warrior….but I do see even more clearly now though the need to constantly challenge yourself by pushing  your boundaries and going out of your comfort zone. Lately I have been attending other classes in an effort to go beyond my own limitations and it’s been an eye opener. I’m both hating feeling less than great at what I do – and loving it at the same time. But either way…….I know that by stretching (pun intended) myself that I will grow as a person, a martial artist and a fitness trainer.

Who know’s one day maybe I will have the right to call myself a warrior !


What are you training for ?


I like a good “piss take” as much as the next bloke. Even though I’m not a bloke…..I sometimes like a giggle at someone’s expense, even if that person is myself .Cuz I’m an Aussie…..and that’s how we roll. We aren’t afraid to laugh at ourselves. Now perhaps it’s just the circles that I am involved in, but it does feel like at the moment, there is a lot of ‘memes’ circulating the social media traps about different types of training within both the martial arts, and fitness industries. I of course have shared more than a couple of these ‘memes’ as they are often what I think are quite funny, and very witty.  Sometimes however, I stop and look and think….now hang on a minute – fair suck of the sav mate (wicked expression don’t ya think ! )

One of those such times was during training a couple of weekends ago. Something I had seen recently on Facebook came to mind while I was lunging backwards down a ramp I had just sprinted up for the 6th time, and I got to thinking. It’s all about work ethic. Every training style must have merit or nobody would do it. Each individual chooses that particular method of defence, fighting, self improvement or fitness regime for their own particular reason. And that reason may not be it’s makers original intention, but important and valid for this person nonetheless. So we must not judge that person or that training style before we know what these reasons are, and then again, perhaps we shouldn’t be judging at all anyway.

Unless we ourselves are involved in that particular sport or training type…how we can possibly hope to judge the level of another persons training. Of course, there are always going to be the extreme examples…….like a Facebook post I saw recently with a young man thrusting an ezicurl bar fwd and back with dance like footwork. It looked like he was training to get more power in his rave…and see this is what I mean….if that’s what he was doing…then hey…..maybe that’s the best way !  Of course this video did make laugh and I didn’t think what he was doing was safe to say the least. In terms of body building or any hopes of Hypertrophy it was a waste of time, He didn’t do it long enough to reap any significant cardiovascular or stamina gains and well….I can’t really see the what or the why…but does that really matter  ? If he is getting what he wants out of training, who am I to judge ?

And then comes the sticky part. The grey area. That bit where the Crossfitters bag out the Body Builders , the Gymnasts pick on the power lifters, the Karateka’s judge the Kickboxers, the Boxers the Muay Thai, The boot campers v’s the obstacle racers and the Marathon runners the Ironmen and  MMA versus the world and Vice Versa.  I’m not trying to settle any arguments here because really I don’t think there is one.  No one style of training can be right.  An easy example is the Kipping V’s the Clean Full Form Pull Up. Now, if you are training to achieve not only high rep ranges to max out your Aerobic (and maybe even anaerobic) systems then the cross fit style of kipping pull-ups is definitely going to help you achieve that aim. Of course, the muscles don’t quite work the same way they do with a full form pull up, but well….that’s not the goal here is it. Nope, Max gains are not going to happen and yeah….it might be considered cheating by old school enthusiasts’, but have the nay sayer’s tried the Kipping ?  I have- and I suck at it. There is a certain amount of rhythm you must develop and I think different muscles are recruited through your core to do this. So maybe there are gains to be had after all, albeit not perhaps those intended for targeting with a pullup. Then I think of thing’s like maybe Move Nat &  Parkour (free running) and that type of training .  If you need to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible – or run away from an attacker say….and you knew how to kip……then maybe when you needed to run and jump and climb a tree it would be far easier. Then…..when you needed to scale a wall or a fence….perhaps a static dead hang pull up would be your best training. I just think that before a training style is attacked, then end goal must be considered.

So now….fighting. In reality, there is one goal. To beat the opponent and win. There are so many styles here and MMA has come a way’s in bringing this argument to the fore. It has however also shown no doubt that it’s the people behind the styles and their own abilities and strengths which come into play too. Not every BJJ practitioner wins all fights . Some great stand up competitors dominate rounds over Grapplers and the like.  It’s my belief that good MMA fighters must have knowledge of other styles, but they need that one that they are great at. The one which makes them who they are as a fighter and that is what they focus their training on. So……can anyone really say one training style over another is better ? I think a lot of it comes down to the person. There are millions of Kung Fu students, but none of them are Bruce Lee. So….you can’t judge the style by grabbing Joe Bloggs from the local Wing Chun School and put them up against Manny Pacquiao and say that will settle the argument between which is better. Kung Fu or Boxing. The only way to really know this… if say Mohammed Ali was equally a good Karate student as he was Boxer. Then …pit him against himself. Maybe then we’d know !

And then, one must consider that Martial Arts in a controlled environment is much more different than the street. I’m not for one minute going to pretend that I’ve ever been in a really dangerous situation in the street. I’ve never had a bar brawl or been attacked…but I have had times where I have had to defend myself and or use some real life skills and the game changes. Dramatically. Now you are going to need some street smarts, and some knowledge that you will never find in a dojo or gym. You are also going to have to know what fear feels like , or perhaps even rage and what that does to your perception and will. Hmmm…….so what are we training for again ?

But….I digress slightly from my original topic. We cannot judge another’s training. There is no way to measure their “how” against their  “why” because will we ever really know ? and also…we first must know their abilities and limits. And that brings me to my conclusion in a way. I think the only thing we an analyse is a person’s training ethic. Are they doing the best they can ? Are they giving it their all ? Are they asking the right questions of themselves whilst training? Are they researching their why and adjusting their how ? Now these thing’s we can look at and pass judgement if we wish…however….before we do that…..maybe we should do the same to ourselves.

This really could have been a more indepth look at this topic…but seriously I’m not trying to write a thesis.  I just like to provoke thought by telling you some of my own.  I hope it resonates with you.


Fighting Yourself


One night recently during class sparring time, I had a sudden realisation. No doubt this thought  was not a new one, and I am sure it’s been had by many before…but for me it was a first. I noticed that I had stopped being intently aware of my opponent. I wasn’t really focussed in on them and their reactions, and what they were doing. Now….this was only dojo sparring and so I suppose I could forgive myself for being more relaxed in this case, however I started to wonder if this was good training. I have told my students many times that you cannot expect to react in a way in which you do not train….so I already know my answer. No…this is not good training ! or is it ?

I’m finding it difficult to explain what I mean here but I will try my best. IT’s not like I wasn’t watching my partner because I was. Of course I was reacting to them or else I would have been hurt, but I found myself thinking about me. I discovered that I was noticing things about my body such as my stiff lower back, or my injured ankle…..and really this is a distraction. Then I heard my thoughts in my head , you know the kind…Oh gee I’m a bit tired tonight……I should be kicking faster…..why am I missing that shot…..blah blah blah. And to steal a line from one of my favourite movies…..” Too Many Mind”. Once I noticed this I pulled myself back into line and reminded myself not to analyse this now… get my focus back….but I made a mental note to come back and re-visit this later. So here I am. 

Although not the point of my post here, but I guess there is a kind of state that we like to think we can be in when we fight. A kind of ‘not thinking’ but responding automatically in a sense. That’s why we are told and also tell our students alike that we need to repeat basics so many times. So that we can do them without thinking.  I guess for the most part that is true, and our training should definitely take over, but we still need to be tuned into what’s happening. We should have our eyes and ears open, and watch our opponent like a Hawk for surely It would be hard, if not impossible, to respond to something you didn’t know was coming. Until we perfect our instant clairvoyance, I guess the only real way we can know is through sight and hearing. Hence, I think we can agree that we do need to be ‘present’ in all meanings of the word when fighting.

 And herein lies my discovery. If we must be present and thinking during this Kumite, then those thoughts should not be centred on ourselves I mean….who are we actually fighting here ?  And that’s when It dawned on  me. We are indeed our own opponents. All the time. Every step of the way it’s like there is this preceding shadow of ourselves – as if we are backlit and stand before ourselves in battle between us and them. For us to defeat our enemy, first we must overcome our self.

This is not a matter of throwing caution to the wind and simply accepting any outcome, but learning how to control our mind. To stop the negative talk and turn it into affirmations and then at times to stop the chatter altogether and allow silence so that our training can take over without interference from our ego. We need to be able to separate our emotions from reality & trust in ourselves and our trainers we can hear from the sidelines. We need to be able to shut out the crowd if it’s distracting, or allow that noise in if it drives us positively. We need to know the difference between what hurts us and what stops us. They are not the same. Perhaps, we just need to let ourselves go.

Of course, all this sounds good in theory but how do you do just that. If I knew…….I’m sure I’d be a better instructor….perhaps a much richer one !  Sosai Oyama said, that all questions could be answered in the dojo through hard training and this I believe with my heart. If you push hard enough……questions arise of yourself and your ego all the time during class. They come up in tough fitness sessions, whilst you are pounding the pavement, swimming laps in a pool, during a grading and any time where you place yourself under physical and emotional pressure. Here is the best place to begin to conquer Yourself. Ask yourself the tough questions and be ready for the truth. After all, does the truth not set us free ?

And then…now that you have this truth….this is where the victory lies. The loser allows what is to be and accepts their lot. The champion wins because they accept the truth weather they like it or not, but desire more and stop at nothing until they get it. They do that one more pushup even after their mind said they couldn’t do another. They got up off the mat when their ego said no your’e gonna lose stay down.  They dragged their tired body to training when their mates said…..come on man…come out with us. They entered themselves into the tournament despite the fact they were afraid and then they forced themselves into the ring after throwing up in the toilet earlier from the nerves. They never allowed themselves to think they knew everything and always kept an open mind. They accepted their defeats with grace just as much as their small victories along the way remembering all the while that they were accountable for all outcomes both good and bad. They accepted pain knowing that what doesn’t conquer builds. They forged ahead when others quit and ignored their own self doubt. And with each small step , with each small victorious battle , they won the war against themselves.

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”  Sun Tzu






Back to Basics

Last night was our Eltham Martial Arts Academy Formal Awards Night. It was a really great night with a great ‘anti bullying’ demo by the juniors and of course Award presentations , a visit from Santa, and just a great night with everyone decked out in their finest, good food, wine , drinks , dancing and even better company. It always makes me happy and feel accomplished every year to stand up in front of everyone and make a speech. For those that were there last night…thanks for listening.

Here is a copy of my speech :

Let me officially say welcome to the Eltham Martial Arts Academy Formal Awards Night 2013.

Thanks Mark Niven for the introduction and words……and let me take a second to say….” You guys scrub up alright!”

In all seriousness though, Each time we have this event and I stand up here, it really makes me feel proud to be part of such a great group of people and I am so thankful for my circle of friends. Simply by being here you are showing your support for me and EMAA, and of course each other.

So now, that being said…..without further ado……let’s get my speech cracking… always…..I only have a couple of things to say  😛 (winky face )

Somewhere in the world right now, there is a martial arts instructor standing in front of a class telling their students the importance of basics. Of why we must train them each and every class to establish not only technique, but an automatic action that we can rely on in times of stress. A programmed response that happens seemingly without conscious thought, much like the beating of our hearts, or our own respiration.

The fancy stuff is nice, (the back spinning kicks, the complicated joint manipulations, takedowns and the awesome jumping elbows etc) however they are what I like to consider as bonus extra’s. To the junior class, I explain this as sprinkles. It’s a simple analogy, but what is the point of sprinkles without the ice-cream to eat them with?

Nothing ends a fight quite like a simple well timed hard punch to the face – smack on the jaw, a decent kick to the groin , or a fantastic roundhouse to the head , so it makes sense to practice those and make sure the simple and effective stuff is well rehearsed and ready to go.

A famous quote by Aristotle states:

“We are that which we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

And thus, it makes sense that if one wishes to Excell… to establish great habits. We must develop an attitude whereby we are prepared to continue to practice the same things over and over without thinking we have perfected something. We must remain humble and open minded and honour the training and our instructors. And It’s worthwile mentioning that ‘everyone’ is your teacher. There are lessons to be learnt from everyone and everything. If one was to consider….just for a moment ….that you could learn something even from and Ant !

What you ask….well how about the fact that many hands make light work. Or to not to judge a person’s strength through size alone. You know how strong an ant is right ?!  Yup….x 10 times their own body weight they can lift. Ever seen anyone do that in the gym?  

But I digress. Martial arts in it’s essence is simple. There is no “secret “except that which Sosai spoke of. If there was one….it was SWEAT.  Sweat and spirit. Morever I believe that on most occasions when people fall or people fail…it wasn’t their body or their technique, but their spirit. 

That’s why I love Kyokushin. It may have shortfalls as I believe all the arts do but wherever it lacks technically, it makes up for threefold in terms of it’s spirit. During my martial arts journey thus far, I’ve heard well established and senior martial artists in differing styles claim such thing’s such as that you needn’t be fit to win a real fight. That you needn’t have loads of techniques under your belt or that long and arduous grading’s are a waste of time and don’t really contribute to your ability.

All those things may in fact be true in the first sense, However………That physical and moreover the mental strength you develop through forcing your body and mind through an 8 hour grading, a punishing class, or the humility and respect for both the art and others you forge through tough competition……gives you something inside that not everyone is lucky to hold within. A never say die attitude and a self knowledge that no matter what…..thy will not quit. Not now. Not ever. Osu No Seishin.

The simplicity of martial arts can be echoed in everyday life.

It’s a shame then when we get caught up in the myriad of distractions available to us nowadays. We are essentially wired in (and of this I’m guilty as charged)  to our social devices and our work. We are contactable 24 /7 and we can and do work anywhere as we can access “information” at the slide of a finger or push of a button. Emails, Videos , games, music, and the money….oh the money. We can spend it on all those things we are convinced by media, companies and our peers that we apparently need…….without even leaving the house. In fact…..We can do it wherever there is online access ……and these days……you don’t even need to ‘have’ money to spend it !

But we don’t need this stuff.

We need sleep.

We need nutrition from whole food and clean fresh water

We need loving relationships

We need exercise

We need basic clothing and a place to call home that is safe.

Everything else is extra.

Everything else is sprinkles.

It’s managing what we need with what is nice to have that is our challenge.Knowing the difference is the first part. Keeping ourselves inline and in focus is the second and the difficult part.

And so…here we are again….at the pointy end of the circle.

That lesson from practicing and repeating basics so that they are automatic programmed responses. 

It’s then you start to realize that we do the same thing with our lives every day. In our dealings with others, relationships, our careers and then we pass those things on to our children through our interaction with them. And that’s A-OK if those responses are positive and enhance our martial arts or our dday to day lives, but what if they don’t ? 

People / or we , generally react the way we behaved last time….and we repeat those behavior’s even if they don’t produce a so called ‘desired response’.

It’s like When someone at work annoys you because every morning you walk in and the first thing they say is “ have you seen that email about whatever and it’s red hot urgent ! ” and immediately you get your back up. You are annoyed because You haven’t even sat down yet, settled in at your desk…and you are already being barked at. So then …your’e programmed response might be to get grumpy…heart rate increases….and then you start stammering some excuse why you haven’t read it yet…but will in a minute and ……oh…Ive got a headache already.

But to change that programmed response…you could simple smile at this person……throw them off guard and say “ Good Morning. How are you Today ?” And keep on smiling. Not sure why….but I think of Alan Shaw from Boston Legal when I do that. It’s so simple……but sometimes the power of distraction can change the whole mood. Try it next time. Continue reading “Back to Basics”

Making Yourself accountable


Most times when I am both teaching and or training ……and having to think of a good way to explain something or get across a certain message, I find the words. Other times if you ask my students, I am most certain I miss the mark and I end up with a class of blank or bemused faces. Oops- time for another bad joke to cover my mess ? ha ha.   The times when I don’t get my point across is when one thought bounces to another quickly…then it makes me think of this idea or this story and it’s all a bit dis-jointed and a bit like a game of word association but in a different sense. My intention is good – I just get a bit excited sometimes.

Tonight though, my point was clear. Making yourself accountable is a great way to ensure you will follow through with something. Now, I consider myself a person of my word. If i say I will do something, I would consider it a dis-honor verging on humiliating if I don’t then do it. Of course there are times when I might not follow through- but those times are generally when events are somewhat out of my control. Ie : I said I would come to a party but then one of my kids get’s sick, or I said I would do the next tournament, but then I roll my ankle badly. Actually….I have competed (stupidly) whilst walking around on crutches after rolling my ankle on the Thursday night before the Kyokushin Nationals. It didn’t turn out well. Found myself against a much heavier (I would say 15 kgs heavier) Russian girl who pushed me around the ring. I didn’t have enough weight to hold my ground , but then I didn’t have the mobility to move around either so hence…….I lost after an extension. As I said…..I held my word and competed that time….but to my detriment. I lost, and my ankle has never healed properly since. Anyway….see how i digress. Monkey mind  :-)So….if you are a person of your word – make yourself accountable to something you wish to achieve and you will make it so. You will have to or risk the embarrassment and shame of not following through when you said you would. To someone who doesn’t care so much about their word…perhaps this strategy will not help, but hey, maybe it will bring out their best. And that’s what we hope for yes ?

Many business mentoring programs have systems where you have an ‘accountability person’ that you team up with. You touch base with this person each week (or whatever the program states) and you tell this person what steps you have taken within this week to get you towards your stated goal. They then do the same with you. It’s a great way of forcing you to be ready. We know we all step up the game when we ‘Have’ to. And when you know this person will be calling you – you will get stuff done. I do this often when I think perhaps I am slacking off or backing down from something I know I should do. In the dojo environment – I will announce to the class and my students something like ‘ I am grading at the end of this year’ and then suddenly – I have made a promise. Now- I have no choice and no excuse not to keep it. It’s a great drive . Perhaps simply telling a friend or work colleague a goal of yours is a good start. Maybe it’s…….I’m going to walk every day after lunch when I am in the office. Perhaps….even get them on-board so you can push each other on your off days. Again you are simply making yourself accountable for your actions by making a statement that you intend of keeping – now you are just recruiting someone to watch out for you – and someone you now have to answer to. Perhaps the more people you tell….the more powerful the drive. I suppose that never stopped a good politician- but then that’s another story.

Why don’t you try something small this week. Give yourself a little test.  What have you got to lose  ?

Have Fun and Happy Achieving !