It’s Complicated

Where did the rest of March go, and where the hell did April go for that matter. Blimey, time certainly flies when you are having fun. Well much of March was spent working in various schools, preparing for the Rory Miller roadshow I was organising and training away as usual plus lots of lovely times with my family. The latter being the most important part, the bit that keeps us grounded, embedded nay cocooned in their love and goodwill. If you think I am feeling a bit emotional here you may be right as my wife has been away in Copenhagen for a few days and my daughter and grandson moved out recently too so I am all alone in this big old house that we brought up a family in. Well times change and they are all healthy and happy and doing their own thing in the world  and that I celebrate. We brought them up to stand on their own two feet and they are all doing that each in their own way.

Being alone for a few days, though I saw quite a few good friends, focuses the mind and allows for a brief period of selfishness. Proper selfishness as defined by Charles Handy in ‘The Hungry Spirit’, is a good thing, a time to invest in oneself, to strive to improve and eventually to contribute more positively to those lives you share with others. My weekend was not monastic but did have some quiet periods, that often get squeezed out of the daily run of things, that allowed me to focus on a few points I had let the old subconscious dwell on a bit. To be honest I have been really occupied by a number of different projects and possibilities recently as well as all the daily stuff so it was nice to have time to take stock.

Early April saw me working in Winchester then meeting up with Rory Miller in Swindon before traveling into London to do a seminar with Dave Aiton at British Military Self Defence and Fitness, then it was home to Sheffield, then up to Gateshead with RIPSAW Self Defence with Stevie Forrest, Wirral Krav Maga Studio with Tony Preston, Doncaster for Andy Crittenden Martial Arts Centre and then down to the Way of the Spiritual Warrior in Coventry with Tony Pillage. Then we just had a three-day instructor level Scenario Training course to deliver in Sheffield in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, so a pretty tough timetable with loads of fun, happiness and pain on the way round. We also managed whistle-stop visits to Avebury to see the standing stones, Windsor, Durham and Chester as we hammered the motorway system.

2014-04-08 10.40.15

Rory at Avebury Stone Circle. Irresistable Force meets Immovable Object. You make your mind up which is which.

It was good to catch up with Rory as we had loads to discuss and mull over, one of the reasons I have not been writing as many blogs is because we have been working on a huge project this last year, along with a group of friends in creating the soon to be public Conflict Research Group International (CRGI). This has meant lots of work and discussion and from a simple dinner table conversation at the same dining table I sit typing now, a whole new concept is about to be born. The website is looking awesome and is the result of the coming together of a group of disparate individuals who all share a set of core values like honesty, openness, a willingness to learn and not preach, to create and to share and to recognise the multiplicity and complexity of violence and its forms. We do not oversimplify self defence not over complicate it either but recognise the need to go deeper than fear based training and hope to have created a platform to help others join in the journey. Why because it’s complicated.

Marc MacYoung, Erik Kondo, Kathy Jackson, Toby Cowern, Terry Trahan, Teja Van Wicken, Clint Overland, Rory Miller and little old me make up the happy band but we have some fantastic contributors ready to join the party very soon.  This is an incredible resource and you will see why when you read what each person brings to the table, thousands of hours of work have gone into this and once out there CRGI will create a real buzz. So putting that together has meant neglecting this blog for a while, it has been like a naughty secret that I really cannot wait to share. You can register for password protected access now, using this link.


Simple but true, if you get this GRGI is for you. Also available as a t shirt (message me).

Well, major transatlantic project developments to one side the training goes on and a CRGI draft article by Toby Cowern recently got me thinking, in particular about my last blog. He wrote from his position as a survival expert on the theme of train hard, fight easy. Well I had to respond, read the article at CRGI. I have been training hard in and out of the dojo, to be fair harder out than in. I have covered many a mile on the old bicycle in all weathers, fair and foul. Pumped weights, swam, walked, done press ups, situps and burpees too. You know I love this stuff and the train hard chimes with me all the time but we all have slacker periods where we rest and/or get absorbed in other activities, so to the latter part of April and the first half of May I have pushed myself harder in the fitness training.

It feels damn good, I do it because I love it. I am off to Austria on Saturday for some walking in the mountains, Krav Island is on the agenda again this August with the my many friends Institute for Krav Maga Scotland, I was planning some extra sessions with my mate John yesterday for the coming weeks and with some training partners this morning the issue of some extra sessions this summer came up and I am looking at some new stuff for them then too. The thing is to be creative and also to learn from what is already out there. I am really looking forward to talking to some more contributors to my book today who are really pushing their martial arts training along in innovative ways. My friend Jayne who I train with in Ju Jitsu has just texted me to say that she will not be rolling around in dog poo???? Well neither will I but I will me looking at ways to my training different, stimulating and fun. You see I agree wholeheartedly with one of Rory Miller’s central teaching philosophy’s that we learn better when we play, we train better when it is fun.

So yes I intend to play with myself, NO DO NOT DARE, and with my friends if they will let me. WE can all play together if you like on a giant metaphorical hamster wheel. Lets get the thing spinning and enjoy the ride. On Saturday just gone I trained in the morning, a nice rewarding session. I made myself go out on the bike in the afternoon too. It was windy and showery, it got worse the further from home I got. I was pushing up steep hills in driving rain and wind and got soaked and cold. I kept going and did my full circuit. I have knocked 20 minutes off this circuit since my last blog on March 11th. I really enjoyed the hot shower at the end and the large mug of Yorkshire Tea after the shower. However, what I really loved was the warm feeling of satisfaction that flowed through my veins that came from knowing that I had bit my teeth together, squinted through the rain and pushed my way up those steep inclines with the will to get to the top and nothing would stop me. The battle is sometimes against the self and is as psychological as physical, like it is in combat, we know this but do we train for it? I know many who do, but sadly more who do not.

Tenacity in the face of the elements and our own tiredness and even exhaustion are, for me, key elements in my training, are they in yours. We all need a day off occasionally, rest is a vital part of the training regime and ignored at our peril but sometimes biting the bullet is what is needed. So is pushing the quest for knowledge and listening to others, I have two great books to take to Austria, Steven Pinker’s ‘The better angels of our nature : a history of violence and humanity’ and ‘Predictably Irrational : the hidden forces that shape our decisions’ by Dan Ariely. Both are available through the CRGI Bookstore by the way. Pushing our understanding of how the mind works is central to understanding human performance in general and under stress in particular.  The brain needs exercise too and whilst we know this we often neglect it. Do we really not need to work the mind and body in tandem (cycling pun intended)? I would argue it is essential and to train the physical and neglect to train the mind is a form of self-abuse.

Strong words and I do not use them lightly, sometimes we have to look to what we do and how we do it and analyse the purpose of it all. What is the intrinsic reward to push through the pain barrier in the face of the wind-driven pouring rain up a hill that, without this blog being written, no-one would know about? Why spend hours reading text books when everyone is watching reality TV (reason enough for me)? Why work with others across the ether to create a new web entity? Why sit alone writing my book and blog? Well surely it is about mastering our skills, declaring our autonomy affirming and reaffirming our sense of purpose in life. Not sure? Try watching this, then make your comments.

Now go out and play, be creative, have fun, and learn 😉



About garryattheacademy

I run the Academy of Self Defence in Sheffield, England. I train with Abbeydale Ju Jitsu Club and am a 3rd dan senior instructor.
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