I Will Survive – Part 1

Well much has been written about the use of the term ‘survivor’, not least by my friend Marc MacYoung, and I agree with him it is a much misused and manipulated title that people use for all sorts of conscious and subconscious reasons. Well I am about to label myself as a survivor, right here, right now in front of the whole wide world, well at least those of you who read this blog. I am out and proud about the fact that I survived Krav Island 2013.

This is an event organised by the Institute of Krav Maga Scotland and last year I attended as an observer for some research for a book I am writing, last year I stood on the sidelines, observed, filmed, photographed and recorded interviews with participants. Last year I adopted the position of the neutral although at times I was quite tempted to join in. This year I was to be in the thick of it, actually taking part from beginning to end even though there was every chance it could be the end of me. So with a little trepidation I set off for Krav Island with a huge bag of kit, weather forecast = rain, rain and more rain, plus various treats like sultana cake, bananas etc and the will to see through whatever they threw at me.

After a few lovely days with friends on the Galloway coast where the weather held fair and warm we set off for Balmaha on the shores of Loch Lomond on an increasingly brightening Saturday morning, in fact over the past few days a rather miraculous turn around in our climatic expectations had occurred, the forecast was now for sun, sun and more sun, particularly on the Sunday, happy days indeed. So we hit the high road, alternatively known as the M74, and motored on through the beautiful scenery as lowlands gave way to the gateway to the highlands and after a slog through some of the less salubrious parts of Glasgow, the Trossachs hove into view, steady there Missus!!!!

Scotland has some majestic scenery and as we headed down toward our destination it was at its best with light clouds scudding across a sunny sky, heather, moorland and mountains and somewhere amongst the horizon the loch itself. We, yes the royal we, my wife was accompanying me to watch me suffer I think, stopped off for a wee bit of lunch in Drymen then drove the last five miles to Balmaha.

As we approached our destination we spotted small clusters of people in black t shirts sprinkled liberally amongst the tourists, most of them bearing the legend IKMS and it was at this point I began to feel the urge to get the game on. So we met up with the organisers, it was great to see John Miller again and meet Jonathan Bullock for the first time and a number of faces I recognised from last year, however, these were busy people with a big event to get going so we went for a little walk round little Balmaha then back for room allocation and the official welcome and briefing.

The briefing was very enjoyable and informative and the genuine welcome from the National Park Ranger was much appreciated, however, we were here for some action and eager to go so it came as a great relief when the instructions to bring your kit, water and suncream lotion (who would have thought it), and make our way to the muster point. From there we walked to our location for the first session led as last year by the very capable and entertaining Alan Clark. The local football field was the location and this was one warm afternoon in which to train and it may sound silly but the light cloud cover that appeared shortly after the start was appreciated by most I am sure, water supplies diminished quickly.

After a good warm up we were led through a series of drills and exercises with some excellent demonstrations and quickly got to work with different partners, good icebreakers built into the drills got strangers talking, smiling and most importantly, working. At one point my wife sauntered past and took a couple of pictures, take a look.

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So lots of drills repeated again and again, interspersed with pad work, some great team competitions and Al’s infectious humour and a rip roaring finish of explosive work on the melon’s. To be honest I was amazed our three hours were up, They say time flies when you are having fun and this was clearly the case, I had become so absorbed in the training I had completely lost track of time, my watch and phone were back in the room in the Oak Tree Inn, and I was gobsmacked we had finished, it felt like 2 hours, if that, not three and others shared my surprise. We had been so busy and the frequent water breaks were very short, so short that on a couple of occassions I did not bother as I felt fine anyway, that time had literally flown. Walking back to the accomodation we were all anticipating tonights session and prior to that the buffet BBQ, mmmmmmmmm. Food is often a metaphor and it is here because Alan, Phil and the other IKMS instructors had just served up a great starter, it was tasty and fulfilling in its own right, the proportions were enough to digest without spoiling the desire for what was to follow, a damn good start in my opinion, well presented and well worth the partaking of.

During the afternoon I had noticed one guy training with what looked like a heart monitor strapped to his chest, turns out it was a video camera, (I WANT ONE), take a look at part of the afternoon session from David Burrow’s chest!!!! You may even spot me in mt nice red vest.

More clips from David and his amazing mini chestcam later. Well a welcome shower in our really, really nice room at the Oak Tree was very welcome as was the cup of tea. Shortly after a trip down to the marquee at the rear of the Oak Tree Inn for the evening BBQ. As last year this was excellent, the food was plentiful and delicious and eating amongst great company in the early evening sunshine with a glass of bitter made it all the more special, the atmosphere was really relaxed and comfortable where friends old and new refuelled for the big evening session.

Actually I refuelled a little too much, the king sized burger, two sausage and two pieces of chicken, pasta, salad and coleslaw was added to by an additional sausage and piece of chicken as my wife faltered. My herculean efforts on the grass earlier were now matched by those at the table and, unfortunately, the lemon cake proved irrisistable too. Time for a rest back in the room before the night session and a bit of social networking, that is what they call it these days, though the signal was weak.

Evening drew in and as the light faltered we assembled at the musterpoint in a warm gentle evening knowing that gentle was not a term that would last long. After numbering off and the safety and activity brief we moved off along the West Highland Way up the craggy eastern shore of the loch to a long narrow strip of beach, full of nice soft sand that was soon to enter every orrifice (almost) and become the chief tormentor of our legs.

Night beach

And here we are arriving at said beach and yes that is me just edging into the picture in the combat jacket. I am not going to go into each exercise we did, but running up and down that beach, slow fighting, up down, press ups, burpees, more and more fighting drills, repeat the knife drills done in the afternoon and run some more all helped to get us ready for The Gauntlet. Unfortunately at one point I felt the possibility of the BBQ making an unwanted return appearance, the pace was good with water breaks as needed but the effort was relentless, people were not here to go through the motions and as the light faded the momentum did not.

The beauty of the sunset over the western shore faded as we trained on, we were then split into two groups with the first group dissapearing up a now lightless trail to set ambush parties along a trail that the second group would negotiate in pairs. Whilst the setting of the ambushes took place we underwent a mini-beasting on the beach, no we did not look for bugs and insects, we did some very taxing exercises and drills until it was time to go and it felt like a long time indeed. Then it was off up the trail, torch optional, we chose not, and see what happens. Well this was great, the climb was up a rough, rocky path through almost pitch dark woods, hearts pounding from the previous exercises and the adrenaline being produced in anticipation of attack, albeit an exercise.  When the first ambush happened I exploded in there with repeated palm heels and knees and some very ripe language, no point pussying around, give it everything or do not bother.

Not knowing what or who is coming next, polite enquiry, sudden ambush, knife attack, keeps you on edge and it is fantastic pressure testing, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the woods were alive with screams, threats and lots of muffled striking sounds as palms, fists and feet found their targets. Luckily no innocent walkers were harmed in the making of the following film, go to 9.09 for the nighttime madness.

Well it is difficult to see and that is the point, there is no comfort on that beach and certainly none when you step off it and begin the gauntlet. Forget the sterility and safety of the dojo, here is where it counts and the relative comfort of this afternoons football pitch seems more than desireable now. Except it is not. We are here for this very thing, this stepping into the partly unknown and testing what we have learned, it is not just a Krav thing, I am Ju Jitsu trained and this is a great field application, no I did not throw anyone or do any fancy kicks I went back instinctively to those basic close quarter tactics I know works, funnily enough the overlap with Krav is right there, in the quick brutal application and rapid subduing of an attacker.

I loved walking the gauntlet, I could have done it all night but roles needed to be reversed and I had to become an ambusher/attacker, I loved this too and it was far less taxing but the adrenaline rush continues. Not going into detail is to not rob future participants of much of the fun and let me tell you for sure it was great fun, taxing, testing and exhausting but overall fun. Well once all the mayhem in the woods was over, we mustered for a head count and luckily we had lost no-one, walked back to the beach to collect our kit then walked back to the Oak Tree Inn.

It was half past eleven when we finished, another three hour session that had flown by, I was so into what we were doing time ceased to be relevant. So quick shower and clean clothes and sand removed from places it should not be and it was downstairs to the bar for a couple of pints of best bitter, a damn good chill out and some great music from John Morgan who still had the strength left to play, sing and drink lots of lager.


Yes that’s me in the corner losing my religion…. No just sat in my red Ju Jitsu tshirt enjoying the craic with my Krav comrades, a lovely end to a great day. We were early to bed at 1pm ish. Some partied until 4pm!!! Not me, I need my sleep and the toughest tests were yet to come and rumour had it that a cracking breakfast was instore too, so it was a short walk up to the huge, comfortable bed that awaited and the alarm set for six hours time in what shall be ‘I will Survive – Part 2’.

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Words Fail Me

Well I thought I had seen it all with the snake oil salesmen, thought my last critique was enough to scare off the scam monsters but no, who am I fooling, certainly not little old me for sure. This morning I was innocently procrastinating on Facebook, no that is not some new sexual offence, when I came across this thanks to Tony Hughes, well I think I thank him, because when I watched it my heart sank once again. and for a short while words failed me. Take a look, how these clowns can do this and keep a straight face is way beyond my comprehension;

Where oh where do we start to pick the bones out of this one well I visited their website to see what other wonders I could see. Well he is not exactly lightening fast is he and neither is he a slip of a lad, neither is the attack that quick either, but it is not the ability to step sideways, honed with years of practice no doubt or the attack by Mogodon man that amuses me, it is the slow controlled descent down the wall by the attacker. I worry about the medical consequences of suffering repeated Chi blasts in such a short time after all there is only so much punishment the mind and body can take. It is as if there is a continued control over the attacker after he is stunned that is only released once he is tapped out of it, this is confirmed by his shake of the head, what happened response, fantastic, what else can this guy do? Well look at this it gets better and better.

I think you will agree that this is indeed a stunning set of defence against a punching opponent attacking from 2 metres away, check the mats. Would you attack with this punch from 2 metres away? Maybe the attacker has an inner ear problem that is triggered when he attacks someone from distance with an inefective strike? Who knows, maybe old Chi balls is just one incredible guy? Personally I think the distance is the key so lets see what happens when the attacker closes the distance.

Well I was shocked, despite cunningly inching forward inside the 2 metre distance the sudden, unpredictable attack fails to drive home as the attackers arm stops suddenly before impact and he is cast to the ground like a rag doll with no obvious effort from the master, for surely that is what he is with what I can only deem to be supernatural powers. I can offer no other explanation, or can I?

Well I can and you can, these guys believe their own bullshit. They are fakes and a laughingstock. Unfortunately it is jokers like these that get us all laughed at. Martial arts vary greatly from one another and quality control is lacking in many disciplines. this is less the case where there are recognised governing bodies but where there is no regulation at all, fantasists like these Walter Mitty’s crawl out of the woodwork and post themselves all over Youtube. Am I bothered, well yes and no, yes for the above said reason, their stupidity can taint us all, but then I have not laughed so much in ages since watching them perform, and it is a performance, well rehearsed and polished, but it is a turd of a performance, and as the saying goes it does not matter how much you polish a turd, it is still a turd.

When so many martial arts practitioners are trying their utmost to deliver their training to the best of their ability jokers like this, however much they make us laugh, are an insult to our intelligence. We need to publicise their uselessness at every opportunity and out them for the frauds they are and if they are not frauds then let them accept open offers of challenges, lets see how much faith they have in their hocus pocus techniques then.

Until then I will leave you with a short blast of real martial arts skill by a true exponent of the world famous English Casuals System, enjoy.

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Riding the Heat Wave

Well things are really nice at the moment as we enjoy that rare thing, a heat wave in the British Isles, both my daughters 21st and grandson’s 3rd birthday parties were glorious occasions as a result. It is interesting too how people react to the change in the climate especially the ones that moan about it being too hot. About damn time in my opinion and I am loving it, I have been doing my weights out in the garden and it is really refreshing to train out there in the fresh air especially if there is a light breeze. We have been taking it a little easier at Ju Jitsu too these last 2 weeks due to the heat, just easing off the pace and intensity, adapting, sensibly in my opinion, not just due to the heat but most people’s main holidays are coming up and no one wants to pick up an injury that may spoil this for themselves and family.

The very sad deaths of two servicemen in the Brecon Beacon Mountains this weekend just goes to show that even a British heat wave can be a game changer if you are working the body hard. This is difficult to handle for goal orientated, focused individuals who feel that in the face of adversity, including extremes of weather, the response is to ramp up the training rather than to tone it down. Well been there done it and worn the sweat soaked t shirt. If that floats your boat then go for it, prepare properly, drink lots of fluids before, during and after and work the body and mind hard. Maybe it is an age thing but I am easing off, just a little at the moment, soon I am off doing lots of walking and cycling in Austria for a couple of weeks. In the mornings a series of bodyweight exercises on the veranda before breakfast and a swim or two each day.  Good healthy eating and a good 8 hours sleep a night and then back home to start to build my training regime during August and then start ramping it up again in September.

At the end of August I will be visiting Krav Island in the company of some fantastic kindred souls from the Institute of Krav Maga Scotland and 2 days of hard physical and mental endurance training. Including fight drills in the icy waters of Loch Lomond.  Last year I was an observer, photographing, filming and interviewing this event and feeling the urge to get involved, particularly in the night time training. This year I am going into the action and my anticipation is growing at the thought. I think I could do with finding some icy water in Austria but experience tells me this is not that easy, not like the colder than ice waters of the top lake at Interlaken I swam in a few years back, glacier melt fresh off the Jungfrau, third highest mountain of the Bernese Alps in Switzerland.

Training at Krav Island in the incredible beauty of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs is something I am really looking forward to, and, as I prepare physically I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the weather is kind to us. Last year was good and the light drizzle for the first session kept the notorious Scottish midges at bay, that and regular applications of DEET based insect repellent. It is going to be great to actually train with some of the really nice people I met last year, when I complete the training I intend to write a survivors guide to Krav Island. I love the outdoors, I am lucky to live where I do with beautiful countryside and moorland on the doorstep almost. I really enjoy the incredible boost that being out surrounded by nature gives me both physically and mentally, that boost is multiplied when we take our training outdoors too, sometimes we get down and get dirty 😉

Simply moving my weights bench out into the back garden enriches the sensation as those cheeky little endorphins begin to circulate and stimulate, the feel good factor increases as we breathe in good clean air and feel that muscle burn. The intensity is increased again when I step out onto my balcony in Austria and in between sets of exercises I drink in the incredibly beautiful view of mountains and meadows and breathe deeply the extra clean air. Usually we visit in May but this year it is going to be August, so depending on the mountain micro climate, we will make up our plans as we go and yes there will be much reading and relaxing by the pool because rest is a vital part of any exercise regime. Rest, including good sleep and healthy nutrition all go into making our holidays a special time where the wife and I can spend quality time together and recharge our batteries. Balance is the key word and it is important to find one’s own both in terms of life itself and training as part of life.

This is important because our life is not a set of separate components that we divide and organise spacially and temporally, but part of our personal whole, for me my training fits into and connects with family, work, my other hobbies, my social networks and relations, my cyber activities and my writing. We here much talk about the work/life balance being a problem for many people and I can see why with the multiple pressures of everyday life bearing down on people. The world’s troubles are huge and worrying and frighteningly multifaceted, I used to think I had answers, now I know I have none, only perceptions fashioned from my experiences. What I do think I know is the importance of creating a space in your life where you can invest in yourself using the concept of proper selfishness as outlined by Charles Handy in his book ‘The Hungry Spirit’. Proper selfishness is a paradox to quote Handy, “we only really find ourselves when we lose ourselves in something beyond ourselves”, and this for me is my martial arts training, its accompanying fitness training and my love of being active outdoors. What is it for you? It is not escapism, far from it, it is investing in some me time, and time spent making things work for me, for you.

So whilst it is still sunny outside I am off to spend some time working some bench presses on my patio followed by a nice walk up the valley, recharging the spirit and satiating its hunger.  So starting today it is the Mayfield Valley followed by the Austrian Alps then back to the valley to prepare for Krav Island, not a bad schedule, somebody has got to do it, might as well be me 😉 Take a little relaxation time and look at my summer playground and training camp.

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What you looking at? Fancy a dance?

Every now and then somebody either posts a clip on Facebook or emails me a link to Youtube that shows me some incredible dancing techniques. Now my mate and fellow 3rd Dan Dave Withers is also known for his actual dancing prowess as well as his uncompromising attitude to martial arts, he can really dance the tango, samba the night away and he does not need beer like the rest of us white guys.  Like the poster, get the t-shirt 😉


Well the video clips I am referring to do not include Dave’s silky moves, they involve what Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller call Monkey Dancing.  This is the display mode people go into when they experience conflict, if you want the detail read their books, here is a quick quote from Rory.

“What you lookin’ at?” barks a young man, about your size, about your age.

You don’t think you were looking at anything in particular. You also know the smart thing to do is to give a little apology and go back to your beer.

But you’re a young man yourself. Before you even realize it, you are looking dead in his eyes and saying, “Who wants to know?”

“You trying to be smart?”

“What if I am?” You aren’t sure who stood up first, but both of you are standing now. His skin is getting red. He’s flexing his shoulders, looking bigger. You can’t see yourself and you don’t even think about it, but you are doing the same thing. More words are exchanged, some pretty colorful profanities. Both of you step closer and closer. The veins in his neck and forehead are bulging and his jaw muscles are clenching whenever he isn’t insulting you.

You throw a quick glance at the other patrons. Everyone is watching, but no one is doing a thing.

He gets closer—too close—and you push him away, hard.

He responds with a looping overhand punch. In a moment you are both a tangle, rolling on the floor and throwing wild punches until somebody pulls you apart.

You never even thought of the weapon holstered on your hip, and that’s a good thing.”

The monkeys are dancing, in fact it has gone on to heavy petting, and soon full-blown sex in a violence context of course. The  Monkey Dance is the prelude to full on violence, it is the point where display is of utmost importance, impose and belittle is the objective. it happens all the time. It happens in one on one situations and all other numerical configurations. I have been involved in many including hundreds, even several thousand on each side, these were big Group Monkey Dances, how about several thousand or over a hundred thousand? Even a million? I will come back to that later.

The term Monkey Dance was coined in the book ‘Meditations on Violence ‘to describe the human dominance ritual. It’s a deliberately ridiculous name for a ridiculous pattern of behavior. But it is a pattern that young men are conditioned to follow. To me it is spot on in terminology. The monkey brain rules at the slightest insult from some and is not that deep for the majority, the difference is though fear of failure some dare not let the monkey catch breath let alone surface.

So we have the Monkey Dancer what does s/he look like? Well he /she can take on many forms they could look like anything, they blend into the crowd, it is only when they start dancing that they start to become a problem. Lets look at a couple of  guys Monkey Dancing,



Well they really go for it do they not, remember once in control the monkey is hard to put back in his cage and we begin to play the game Marc MacYoung calls ‘escalato’. It is a pattern of human behaviour where the participants become locked in to ‘having to win’.

“Most amateur violence comes about because of this stupid game of escalato. People have no clear-cut idea of what winning means, but by God they know they gotta do it. Think about how many times you’ve seen things escalate way out of control. this simple pattern is behind nearly 90 percent of all conflicts you’ll encounter. Everything from a 3-year-old throwing a hissy fit to a 90-year-old grandmothers having attitudes with one another. People get ‘locked in’ and begin raising the stakes. Each round is more intense. It’s a basic human pattern, no matter where you go.” Marc ‘Animal’ MacYoung, “A Professionals Guide to Ending Violence Quickly”.

So we have all been there, all done it, I know I have, funnily enough I remember the times I walked away after the stakes started getting higher, I remember putting the monkey back in his cage and I will tell you why, because he growled intensely in there for days and he was a dark brooding monkey that SHOULD have ripped the other monkeys head off. So controlling the monkey is incredibly difficult as it is there as part of our evolutionary biology, incredibly deep-rooted behaviour patterns indeed.

That is why the two fellas in the previous clip get more and more excited, they are locked in and verbally raising the stakes. So looking at my joke above re white men dancing, how can we stop ourselves from entering the monkey dance and playing escalato. Well it becomes, in my opinion, easier as I get older, I no longer feel the need to impress the females, real or imagined. I have learned to be happy with who I am and what I do. I feel comfortable in this skin and not threatened by others. This does not mean I am overconfident but the more I study conflict and violence, the more we try to understand what is happening using our incredibly powerful brains, testing and discussing the extensive literature and rapidly increasing use of social media and online learning, the more powerful our analysis becomes.

The monkey dance is the oldest dance in the book, it developed as we evolved and has, ironically as it often ends in violence, saved us from much more serious violence. That is because we all subconsciously know the rules and mostly understand the role threat display plays in our social lives.  Most often one part realises the danger rising with the stakes and backs down. Here are some real monkeys doing the dance.

So Freud’s threat display carried the day against his brother Frodo, they both understand the risk of actual combat.  It is by using appropriate well researched models and frameworks that we can begin to make sense of conflict and violence. once we understand the finally tuned rules that underpin how we engage in them then we can develop strategies to beak the circuit, to stop the monkey getting out without him growling inside you for days afterwards.

Unfortunately most martial arts and self defence classes go straight to the action end of the responses available, it works for them, sometimes only in theory and class), so it must work for you. I have been watching some real beauties on Youtube, on is a road rage attack where in scenario guy gets out of his car as an enraged, and particularly muscled and bare-chested driver wearing a bandana pulls up, jumps out and beats first man to a pulp. In the next scenario guess what, yes the first guy, the good guy uses an elbow scoop etc etc. Why not teach him to get back in the car and lock the door, start the engine and reverse out of there. Call the police, seek help. Because that does not bring in the bucks and the punters, the public believe that is what they want too. This is because the industry is fueled by people who rely firstly on combat skills rather than avoidance and evasion skills. Of course I teach strikes, kicks and escapes too but with a health warning that once you are at this level you are very likely to get hurt even if you win.

Whatever winning is, for me it is surviving with as little damage as possible, preferably none. However, in the martial arts fighting is the thing is it not and therein lies the main problem as I see it, most self defence is taught by people with martial arts background and skill sets, they believe in what they do and believe that what they teach. There are some really great people out there doing a really great job, however, unfortunately there are a lot more who have no idea whether what they teach will work and for who it will never work. I was contacted by a lady who had been raped, she eventually as part of her recovery went to learn a martial art, she did not stay and felt deeply insulted when the instructor told if she learned his techniques no one would get raped. She had frozen though fear when attacked, there was no fight or flight. Remember the female chimp when Freud went for Frodo?

What is the answer well it’s that often used and abused adage education, education, education. Our industry needs to step out of the trap of only using greater force to beat off an attack and put its thinking cap on. Sit back, do the analysis and use the new knowledge alongside traditional methods. We need a duality in our approach that lets our intellectual and physical powers combine to become truly effective. These are my thoughts, I would like to hear yours. Until then I am off to the kitchen to put BBC Radio 2  on for a proper dance, yes I do this a lot in there and I too have some cute moves, I would rather be a cheeky monkey than a monkey dancer anyday.

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Get your Chi Gizmo

Well once again I return from a short absence, lots of stuff going off here. Well my urge to write today was prompted by an interesting clip posted on Facebook. It is a guy explaining how he can knock somebody out using pressure point techniques. I am not writing to attack, forgive the pun, the use of pressure points to defeat or disable an attacker, everything works sometimes right. My problem is with snake oil salesmen misleading the gullible, they remind me of those guys on the edge of the market demonstrating the latest wonder gizmo. Watch the clip.

So after filling us up with dubious science otherwise known as mumbo jumbo, this guy effectively knocks out his uki. I think a smack to the jaw from about a foot away would probably knock me out too if I was daft enough to stand there and let somebody do that to me. It takes a lot less force than you think to knock somebody out that way so forget sending 250,000, 600,000 or WOWEE 750,000 impulses to the brain at once to knock somebody out, just hit him on his nicely offered, unprotected jaw, but do not forget to give him a round of applause for playing his part well.

So was the mumbo jumbo pointless, well the answer is simply no, it is part of the process, some people call it pre programming compliance, others see it as a subtle form of hypnosis and other see Neural Linguistic Programming at work. Whatever it is it needs willing believers to work, either that or rather than touching the pressure point you give it a hard enough if not full power smack. It is not that people peddle such twaddle but that other people queue up to learn these incredible superpowers. I have seen lots of examples over the years, here is one of the best.

Well he had an explanation for everything, most impressive was his ability to create huge chiballs that can knock people out, really? Well the test made it look a bit tacky if you ask me and as for interfering with customers in Starbuck’s is that ethically acceptable. Maybe I can pop over the road to the Co-op and get my chiball out and see what happens!

One thing these snake oil salesmen have in common is huge amounts of front and an ego the size of an aircraft carrier. Their followers buy into the mysterious powers of their master even when the Emperor has been exposed, literally, as a man with no clothes. The original clip posting started some interesting Facebook discussion including comments from people I have trained with and respect and I think the majority would concur with these sentiments. Once again skilled practitioners can cause real pain by attacking pressure points, I have felt this pain.  However, take a look at this group of jokers.

So where was her chi when she needed it? Well the answer lies at the end of the last paragraph, they were jokers, it was a spoof, the next clip was not a spoof.

A video clip from a beach in Perth, Australia. Yellow Bamboo are chiblasters, and even if you do manage to get close enough to touch them, you’ll allegedly die if you touch someone who’s got a charged up chi blast in him. Sounds worse than Master Ken’s deadly kill face.
ou can hear  people on the beach, believers, saying “he touched him, he touched him. how could he touch him?” Well he touched them and pinned them because he recognises the complete lack of anything awesome of chi, whether it is packaged as a chi ball or contained in a human chiblaster. Still think there is something in this chi thing? Well I have saved the best for last.

The thing is people will believe anything, Joseph Goebbels the nazi propogandist famously said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

I am not in anyway implying that anybody represented here is a bad person but that they are fantasists, the build a version of reality based on their fantasies and the set about collecting their believers, those people who are searching for mysteries and something to believe in. Once they have the believers in their camp then Goebbels strategy is applied anything else and their very world can be shattered, in the last clip the chi cupboard was clearly empty and a thrashing resulted. I suspect the ego was damaged more than the flesh.

OK so you have guessed I have no belief that chi exists, it is just one of a number of myths and fantasies that pertain in the martial arts world. They surface occasionally and usually get knocked back down by people who know what the are talking about, people who recognise cognitive dissonance when they see it and at the end of the day, and at the end of this blog, it is not the end of the world, boom boom. However, my problem with these guys is the image they create of all martial arts in the eyes of the public. They are like that stubborn stain on your favourite shirt, whatever you treat it with it just will not go away or worse, you get rid of the stain then a few days later another one appears.

These people will service the gullible and remove their money from them little by little, mysticism sells and often it sells big. For me I think I will settle for reality, I am an empirically orientated person anyway, I love theories and I really enjoy academic enquiry and examination and I think I can spot a gizmo when I see one, can you? If you are not sure yet here is a clip to help you. Enjoy.

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Spare Us The Cutter

Yesterday I finished a series of five classes in a school in Sheffield and in it I mentioned that I live in a very safe area, relatively speaking, very low crime, virtually no anti social behaviour, excepting the illegal and dangerous parking around the shops, by people who should know better. It is an affluent area and well looked after. At the end of the class I was cornered, quite literally by young people telling me how dangerous their area was. The training is funded by the Home Office as part of Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme. This is not the first time and not a surprise as the area has had a serious problem with organised gangs for many years and a spate of gun crime in the back-end of last year.

My wife is a criminal lawyer and has been involved in many serious cases, quite a few murders where knives were used, the young people yesterday, ordinary kids from a disadvantaged area were really eager to tell me what scared them, not once in a while, but everyday fears. Apparently the worst spot is outside the local library that many of these kids pass to get to and from school, there is often police presence in that vicinity, I work in a number of schools in the area so drive through a lot. Guns are rare, but present in this community, there has been a huge clampdown by the police but very few guns found. Knives are not as rare, and they are cheap, the most common weapon used in murders is your cheap plastic handled kitchen knife. They are not the crafted Bowie knives posted on Facebook by knife collectors and lovers, I have a Fairbairn Sykes Fighting Knife, it is a classic hand made, Made in Sheffield model, a thing of beauty bought for me as a Christmas present. Knives, as with every other aspect of life, are seen differently by different people. They can be beautiful and ugly at the same time depending upon your perceptions and experience.

Fear of crime affects more people than being a victim of crime, but it is debilitating. Large sections of the areas these kids live in are described by them as dangerous, people carry knives to protect themselves and we know how that often ends up. Mirroring the discussions in the United States on gun ownership, we have a debate on knives, however, knives are incredibly freely available, every home has at least a few in the kitchen and every burglar knows it.

There has been quite a bit of discussion during our club training about how martial arts training deals with attacks with knives. As a result my ‘head of research’, Bill, has been doing a review of materials available on Youtube and has turned up some pretty useful stuff, he has sorted through a huge heap of trash to find these little nuggets of gold, we are studying them and looking at what this means for how we train. Last week on Facebook Julien Masson, who hosts a really good Facebook page, VCFS – Violent CCTV Footage Study, posted a video he put together, here it is.

This chimes with our little groups discussion on how do we put the real into our training, well we had a mini epiphany the other week, snow stopped play this last Saturday, and decided we needed to attack like a knifer. The only problem is what does this mean? Well does it mean a trained knifer, say someone skilled in the arts as outlined by W.E. Fairbairn in ‘Get Tough’, someone using the surgical strike approach or the prison shanking type attack as described by Don Pentecost in ‘Put ‘Em down, Take ‘Em Out! Knife Fighting Techniques from Folsom Prison’.

Both available as PDF files on my website; Click here to visit

Thinking about the video from Julien and having just read ‘Put ‘Em Down’ again, some of the answers are beginning to come together in my head. So our starting point is already agreed for our Saturday morning special session, binning the syllabus techniques we have learned, they are occasionally fun to do and test your technical ability but almost entirely impractical. In fact we did this a while ago preferring to slap down the offending knife attacking arm and simultaneously or as fast as possible striking full force to the attackers head (well a focus pad). Recently we put on the body armor too so we could strike full force to the body too. We have even played at grappling with the opponent pulling a knife and have even gone knife on knife using a dummy attacking arm that we can slash with a real knife.

Having watched the video of actual attacks I think I will plan some ‘unexpected’ attacks after some short but vigorous exercise, I do not mind being the guinea pig on this, some interesting things happen when you experiment. First I am going to dig out the Fairbairn Sykes, draw the curtains, very important that, and practice my attacks. I am going to construct a dummy from old clothes, like the Guy Fawkes effigies we made as kids for bonfire night and hang him in a doorway, then I will learn to kill him and cut him. I intend to develop controlled aggressive use of the knife as recommended by Don Pentecost then I will attack my friends in the same way but with a training knife, when they are not expecting it, a bit like Cato Fong in the Pink Panther.

What a great clip, I used to share a house with a mate and the light switch was on the wall opposite the front door, I occasionally used to stand in the middle of the room in the dark and let him walk into me, once I hid behind the cellar door and leapt out in the dark, it was very cruel but great fun for me, sometimes my sides ached from laughing as George had a minor heart attack on the settee. So whilst not going to the extremes of Cato and leaping out of the fridge, I will consult with my pals first, but I think unannounced knife attacks at random in training is also a way forward and I am also going to have a knife fighting party at my house. If my wife lets me.

Well I am going to do some more training and sort out my new best friend, the hanging dummy. Literally. I will build him up to cut him up. So please let me know how you train against the knife and until then lets hope we are spared the cutter.

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Jaw Jaw, War War or Shock and Awe?

When I met and trained with Hoch Hochheim around 18 months ago he used a phrase that has stuck in my mind ever since, “Nothing works all the time, everything works sometimes”, it stuck in my mind straight away and I have used it countless times myself since. We all know it is true, especially in a self defence situation. We all have some favourite techniques and methods that we drill and drill and drill to try to make them second nature and we are all pretty convinced that this is good practice I think, well as we are training ourselves if it works all well and good, but if it does not it is we who suffer the consequences.

Many of us in the SD community encourage the use of, and teach effective pre-emptive striking, obviously in context with the level of threat present and the law pertaining to self defence in the location the event takes place. As  I am based in England I  refer to Section 3 Paragraph one of the Criminal Law Act 1978;

“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.”

So in my SD classes I teach, having exhausted avoidance, escape, de-escalation strategies, and looking at a list of attack indicators used by the police, a range of simple pre-emptive strikes designed to cause disruption in the attacker, or potential attackers, modus operandi, or to incapacitate and remove the threat both being to create a window of opportunity to escape. Simple. No. Because I can demonstrate the technique very ably if that is not immodest, I can explain applications of these techniques in various scenarios but they are all just that, demonstrations, using pads, shields and other protective equipment in well-lit, safe, risk assessed environments.

Use Jaw Jaw first where possible.

De-escalate, walk away, do not, I REPEAT, do not engage the monkey brain.

Reality based operators will know that however good the drill, however much we stress test, it is never the real thing. I know people who have taken jobs on doors, gone to work in dangerous environments to test themselves because the dojo and the training room did not offer enough. But that is not my point, remember the words of Hoch, “Nothing works all the time, everything works sometimes” as we look at a guy not getting his pre-emptive strike in properly and the consequences.

now let us not read too much into the clip, we will never know the full story. The guy in red gets a fair strike in but his aim is not great and it lands more forehead than face and certainly nowhere near the chin where it should be game over. He then reaps fails to follow-up, maybe stunned his imagined one hit knock out has not worked and allowed his opponent time to observe, orientate, decide and act. Remember those last words from somewhere? I thought so. So that was how to do it wrong, here is how to do it right.

Again I do not know the context and there are hints of something sinister in this, what matters is that when it happens it happens fast, with no warning due to successful misdirection technique and the technique, aim and delivery are brought together in harmony.There really is little else to say.

So what is the point of this blog. Well the point is about honesty, being honest with your students. I have come to the conclusion that it is fundamentally dishonest to lead  students to believe they have skills they have not. Doing a percussion slap 50 or a hundred times on a pad or dummy may mean that on the one occasion they need to do this in real life, against an aggressive threat, when they want to pee their pants and are feeling a full on adrenal dump is unrealistic and anyone telling them different should hang their head in shame.

Those in the business who know a thing or two will know how to manage a students expectations and know it is their duty to do so, not passively but actively. Almost anyone can teach a knockout blow, but can they start at the appropriate point and travel through the wide range of variables and their consequences. Because if they get it wrong there are consequences as there are if they get it right. Personally I spend time explaining the dangers posed when people consider the use of violence even when they are empowered to do so by the law. In this world that is rapidly moving towards the need for instant gratification, I feel many proponents of SD are starting at the point of conflict too high up the use of force pyramid, they go there because it is part of their mindset and often what the customer expects and demands. This is dangerous as it negates the importance of the lower levels of conflict resolution. There is no money to be made teaching people to run away, take the insult, apologise yourself and walk. Customers want to know how to fight back against a snarling violent opponent and yes I agree, if that is what they are facing often then they need help, help to look at their lifestyle.

The softer skills, the thinking sentient beings that we are need to be encouraged to work through the various stages and learn how to assess threats and deal with them, I am seriously thinking of hooking up with a theatre group to play some of this stuff out for people. It is not as much fun as hitting and kicking things but I have been experimenting with it in six school recently, 4 primary and 2 secondary and it has gone down incredibly well, several of the schools are now looking to spread the provision and others not in the batch are wanting it too, good news spreads fast I hope.  I am not claiming my approach is new, I know it is not, I am not claiming it is a one size fits all situation and yes I remember what Hoch says, it will not work all the time, but I feel it works better than going straight to the fight.

So that you realise I have not gone all hippy I teach that when it does go straight to the fight, when against your choice it goes War War it needs to be instant aggression and immediate Shock and Awe. Destroy your attacker, make yourself safe then rationalise it. So I like to have my cake and eat it, what do you think? Whilst you gather your thoughts, and I really would love to hear them whether you agree or not or would just like to add to the debate, I am always happy to learn, watch out for those carefully crafted pre-emptive strikes in this little compilation.

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