Archive for December, 2010

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Camaraderie is the key to a good Dojo

December 19, 2010

At London Ju Jitsu we’ve just had our last grading of the year which was followed by our annual Christmas party. I was proud to see how much support each and every student gave to their peers and how genuinely pleased everyone was for those who had done well at the grading. At the party after the grading it was plain to see the respect we all have for one another and the genuine friendships that have built up over months or years of training.

This camaraderie is very important in  a successful Dojo as it enables us to train harder. The reason for this is that when the inevitable happens and we hurt or injure each other, we’ll remember that we’re all friends and that accidents happen. If this camaraderie doesn’t exist then there’s more of a chance that an accident will escalate into an argument or a fight that the Sensei must intervene in. This in turn creates an atmosphere where students (no matter how good the are!) may be reticent to give their all for fear of upsetting someone and the reaction that may occur. If not dealt with by the Sensei this can create a false pecking order where the more vocal students start to believe they are better than they are and indeed never get any better because no-one wants to train properly with them. Again if not dealt with the quieter students may begin to lose heart as the atmosphere turns from one of encouragement to one of animosity.

A good Dojo should be like a family. There should be friendly rivalry and banter of course but at the end of the day the family should stick together. There’s a saying that a family who eats together stays together. So like a family it’s good to make an effort to go for a coffee, beer or even a meal with your fellow students and Senseis occasionally. It makes your training more enjoyable and in my opinion enables us to train in a more realistic way.

At London Ju Jitsu we say that its us against the world not us against each other. The atmosphere is encouraging and not adversarial. It’s so rewarding for me to see the senior students tapping out a more junior student and then showing them how it was done and often what the counter is. This in turn makes the more junior student harder to beat and thus the standard of the senior student has to improve. Thus the standard of the whole club improves year after year. When I look around the class I’m humbled by the calibre of the students and that fact they’ve chosen this Dojo. To my students past and present. It is truly an honour to teach and be taught by you!

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London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Learn to develop controlled agression

December 13, 2010
In these articles I've talked a lot about technique over strength but one
thing I haven't touched onis the need to develop controlled aggression.
The vast majority of people who join a martial arts club are nice people who
don't fightoften and indeed some may have never been in a street fight. For
many people aggression is not a natural state and there are some for whom
even the thought of being aggressive is an anathema to them. Some people
and are overly aggressive of course and its control that they need to strive
for.

Nevertheless In order to change good techniques into powerful techniques
controlled aggression must be used. Don't confuse aggression with strength
however. They are two very different things. Too much strength and
uncontrolled aggression are not the keys to success either as a cool head and
good technique are more likely to win the day.

So how can you develop controlled aggression? The simple answer is training of
course but there are ways you can accelerate the process by focusing on it.
One if the elements of controlled aggression is fighting spirit. This is the
willingness to fight on even when you're exhausted or frightened or winning
is against all odds. If you remember that you can't give in when you're
tired in a real fight and therefore push yourself to your absolute limits as
often as you can in training, you'll start to develop a steely inner core
that is the basis of fighting spirit. This inner steel is more about your
mind than your fitness. By going to your limits as often as you can your mind
will get used to not choosing defeat as an option.

The next thing you must do is abandon the belief that you couldn't hurt someone.
Years ago I trained a young lady who used to say "Oh no I could never do that to
someone!" if I asked her to practice one of the more brutal techniques. I made
her practice them anyway and luckily she was able to perform one of those
techniques on someone who tried to attack her! She got away from an awful
situation safely although she was obviously very shaken. She was possibly
the most squeamish person I ever taught but she managed to fight back and
you have to believe you can too! Lastly you need to remember that when you
enter the dojo you are training to defend yourself in a fight. You must
leave your reservations behind you and focus on this. Every time you perform
a technique you must be conscious of what the purpose of a technique is
e.g. if you are performing a wrist throw you must remember that the purpose
of the technique is to break the wrist and not to throw the Uki. It only
becomes a throw if the Uki knows how to breakfall and you control the
technique enough to allow him/her to do that. If you are using atemi you must
be conscious of what you are trying to do with that strike, e.g. breaking a
bone orattempting a knock out. Don’t just go through the motions! If you are
using agrappling technique, e.g. a throw or groundwork you must keep your
opponent as close and you can and control them as much as possible. For some
people this may be uncomfortable at first but you will get used to it and indeed
you must get used to it if you are to succeed in a self defence situation. A
street fight will be rough and it will be uncomfortable but at least by training
you will have been there before and so hopefully you will be able to keep
your head instead of panicking as you may have done before you trained.

Of course these things are easier said than done for a non aggressive
person but trust me with practice and hard work you’ll become aware of a
spirit within you that will be surprising. Don’t worry as this will not make
you an aggressive person, but you will have the ability to switch that aggression
on and off when necessary.

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Watch out for the “Green Belt Phase.”

December 3, 2010

My original instructor, Soke Billy Fenner (7th Dan) used to have a saying. 

“If you don’t start a fight and someone attacks you, whatever happens to him is his fault.”

He would then go on to say “You also don’t want things to escalate, so you must make sure that every time he coughs or turns over in his sleep he thinks of you! That way he’ll never come back.” 

Very tough words as you might expect from a tough Liverpool docker. He had been running his own Dojo from 1958 and was already well into his sixties when I first joined his club in 1983. His technique was superb however and he always had the utmost respect from all of his students. I would have loved to have seen him when he was younger! I totally agree with his first comment and I think circumstances must play a part in whether you apply the second. What constitutes starting a fight though? Just because you don’t throw the first punch doesn’t mean you haven’t started or contributed to starting the fight. 

This brings me to what I call the “Green Belt Phase”. I was guilty of this and I’ve seen it many times over the years. When you get to green belt or thereabouts, i.e. roughly half way between novice and black, you’re generally getting reasonably proficient at your art. You’re a long way from being an expert of course but maybe not experienced enough to know how far. The temptation is to be aggressive if even a minor confrontation or slight occurs. This is because the student wants to put into practice what he (or she) has learned. The she is in brackets because it’s generally a male issue. You may want to prove to yourself or to the world how good you’ve become. There are times when you may fantasise about some great victory similar to some scene in a movie. The problem is that real life and real fights are not like a movie. Remember that being good at a martial art doesn’t mean that you will win a fight; it just means that you have a better chance of winning than you did before you trained. So many things can and will go wrong. There are people out there who have never been trained but are naturally good scrappers. There may be more people to fight than you bargained for. If you miss one block a good punch may end result in your defeat. Weapons may appear out of nowhere. And you may well not be as good as you think you are! The main thing to remember is that fighting is dangerous and the consequences can be severe! My advice is to avoid being aggressive if you can. When you are really are good, you won’t feel as though you have to prove it!