Posts Tagged ‘Ju’

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone

October 30, 2012

Tonight is Monday night and there was a very low turnout at class. I’ve noticed lately that attendance to the Monday class has been on a downward trend although the other night we train on in Covent Garden, London, is holding steady. Since we first opened the Covent Garden branch ten years ago this is the first time we’ve experienced this since the very early days and it’s prompted me to write about the effort the students must put in if they want to keep their club. Because let’s be honest, it is THEIR club, not the Sensei’s.

I’ve never met a good teacher who has made any real money out of teaching martial arts. I’m not saying there aren’t any, I just haven’t met them. Martial arts teachers generally teach because it’s their vocation in life. They love their art, they love to pass on their knowledge, they love to teach. Therefore if you as a student don’t put the hours in, your club will close. Even the most self sacrificing teacher won’t give up their time and energy and then in addition lose money every week. And by time I don’t just mean the hours in class. There is a lot of organisation that goes unnoticed in the background, not to mention time that could be spent with friends and family! I’ll use Covent Garden as an example. It’s right in the centre of London so the hall is expensive to hire. This means I need 10 people in order to break even. Tonight I had 6 which has cost me a lot of money. If this continues I’ll have to reduce the number of nights we train and therefore the number of gradings per year. I could of course put up prices but this not only penalises those that do come, it also runs the risk that I only teach to a wealthier group of people which is something I’ve always wanted to avoid. I love that fact that we attract students from all walks of life and I think the eclectic mix of people adds to the “personality” of the club. Even though I believe our club fees are really cheap, I sometimes get people calling who say it’s too expensive. Well I know that teachers of Yoga, Zumba and other fitness programmes, and even other martial arts have to put in a fraction of the time that I’ve put in before they teach and at the same price and more! I’ve been studying martial arts for 36 years now and Ju Jitsu for 29 years. What price is that kind of experience worth?

There are of course some instructors for whom martial arts is a business. I don’t have anything against that although I must admit that is something I’ve never wanted to do. I love it too much and if I started worrying about how many students came through the door because my mortgage payments were due then that would severely reduce my enjoyment. Even in those cases where it is a business I haven’t come across any millionaires! I also think that there are some instructors who compromise on the level needed to attain a new grade just to make sure the money keeps coming in. I’m glad to say that as I earn my living elsewhere I don’t have to make such compromises. In fact more than one student has left London Ju Jitsu because they felt they were ready for their next belt and Sensei Salur and I felt they were not. There is an argument that says that if martial arts is your business then the Sensei should be better as they have more time to hone their skills. There is some value in that and I certainly wish I had more time to devote to Ju Jitsu. In practice however it seems to me that the business model means teaching more and more children and although this may be very rewarding I think its unlikely to improve your skill.

In summary then this article is a piece of advice for all martial arts students. Don’t assume that your fellow students will go when you don’t and don’t assume that your instructor will always be there. It is YOUR club so YOU must make the effort if you want the club to still be there tomorrow. As the saying goes you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. I know a lot of my students who have moved away have told me how difficult they’ve found it to find a good club, and many of my students have said it took them a long time to find a good club in London. So wherever you live in the world, if you have a good martial arts club, appreciate it!

5th Dan Ju Jitsu Grading

September 21, 2012

5th Dan Ju Jitsu Grading

A recording of my 5th Dan Grading in Ju Jitsu. 

The clock is ticking to my 5th Dan Grading: Part 3

March 2, 2012

With four weeks to go progress is mixed. On the plus side Sensei Spencer is still alive! Last Sunday while practising Kime No Kata, I attacked Sensei Spencer with a Katana, tripped over my hakama, fell over and nearly cut him in half! Luckily his reactions were good and he got well out of the way! A comic moment looking back at it but it was a bit scary at the time. All three of us are having to practice through injuries. I severely injured Sensei Spencer’s knee when practicing drop knee Tai-Toshi a couple of weeks ago so he’s training through the pain barrier. Sensei Salur has a number of minor knocks. I have this really weird injury to my achilles. It is fine one minute (not even sore) and the next minute for no apparent reason it goes into spasm and the pain is excruciating. After a couple of minutes it’s fine again and I can carry on. I really should get it looked at! 🙂

On the plus side the fitness is getting much better. We’re all starting the class with 70 straight throws and then practising them and the other techniques in the syllabus again and again. We end the sessions with line ups and at least 30 minutes of groundfighting. We’re now training for 4 hours straight on Sunday’s so hopefully that will be enough to ensure we’re fit enough. I feel the techniques themselves are getting there but still need to be smoother and sharper. All in all I don’t think we could be doing much more so if we make it through to grading day we’ll be giving it our best shot.

I’d like to thanks all of the Dan grades in our club who are helping a lot with teaching and giving us the opportunity to train. It’s very much appreciated.

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Practice at home

October 15, 2010

As I’ve said a few times in this blog, training time for most of us is limited. Therefore if you wish to progress at a faster rate it’s good to practice at home, in the gym, or wherever you can. Even techniques that usually require an uke, e.g. throws and wrist locks can be practised at home. Obviously you can’t practice the throw itself, but you can practice the footwork and other movements required to get into the throwing position. The footwork is one of the most important aspects of any technique and often the most overlooked. When practicing these techniques outside the dojo, visualise what you wish to do when you are at training. Visualisation techniques are used by many competitive athletes with great success. There are also many warm up exercises in martial arts that are specifically designed for that art. Practice these outside the dojo to strengthen the necessary muscles and get your body used to the actions necessary for training.
Again visualise how these warm up exercises help your technique and do them properly. It’s better to do a few repetitions properly than many badly. By doing these things at home, you’ll improve at a faster rate and you’ll also be champing at the bit to try the techniques you’ve practiced at home in the Dojo.

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Learn what you can from every training partner

October 10, 2010

When practising martial arts you will be paired with many different types of people. There will be males, females, different shapes, sizes and skill levels. It’s important to remember how much you can learn from each one. For example when training with a beginner who is not that confident you can work on your control. It’s often harder to do a technique slowly than with speed as there is no momentum. So if you can practice this with the beginner your technique will improve. Similarly if your training with someone who is bigger and heavier than you your technique must improve in order for it to work. If you’re training with an “awkward” fighter, e.g. one who’s stance or strikes are different from the norm you need to work out how to overcome this. It is easy to look good when training with a partner who knows you and who is a similar size and skill level. That doesn’t prove how good you are as much as training with someone who presents a different challenge does however. So treat each partner as a puzzle to be solved and make the most of it. If you do that you will grow as a martial artist.

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Don’t fall for the “Poker Face”

September 29, 2010

When engaging in submission fighting whether in class, a competition or even a cage fight it’s important to trust your technique. I often see beginners apply decent techniques in good positions only to see the position given up if the opponent hasn’t tapped out in a couple of seconds. With chokes and strangles as an example the technique may be good even if it’s not perfect and it may be a long time before your opponent feels the need to tap out or lose consciousness. Beginners often give up these winning positions, especially if the opponent shows what some of my senior students have christened the “poker
face”. Remember your opponent may look as though they are not hurting, but if they aren’t hurting you and you are applying a choke or lock on them then it may well be a bluff! The other mistake beginners often make is the “all or nothing” mistake. This is when they apply a choke or strangle with all their might for a few seconds and then relax when tired and begin again. Remember when you relax you release the pressure and allow your opponent another breath! It’s better to be steady, keeping the technique on for a sustained period without tiring yourself and starving your opponent of oxygen. If you remember these things you may well get a few higher grade scalps in the Dojo than you’re getting now and we all know how good that feels! The retribution will come in the next class of course but it’s worth it!

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Learn From The Expert

September 25, 2010

As the title if this article suggests I am a Ju Jitsu teacher. I sometimes get asked in class why I don’t spend more time teaching how to punch and kick. The answer to that is simple. I am not an expert at punching and kicking myself. I studied Shotokan Karate for two years and have done some boxing and kick boxing which mean that I’m not awful at punching and kicking. I know enough to teach the basics. After all it’s difficult to learn how to defend a kick for example if the attack isn’t realistic. If a student really wants to learn how to punch and kick properly in order to compliment their Ju Jitsu however, I recommend that they go to learn one of the arts that specialise in those skills. If they want to learn weapons then they should go to a school that specialises in weapons. It is a misconception to believe that because a teacher is good at one martial art, they can pick up the nuances of another in a few lessons and then teach it. I’ve been studying Ju Jitsu for over 27 years now and I’m still learning! All martial arts have their weaknesses so it’s good to plug those weaknesses with a complementary art. The one caveat to that I would suggest is to become reasonably proficient at one before you adopt another. It’s difficult enough to train your body to move in a certain way when learning your first martial art. It’s obviously much more difficult to learn two from scratch at the same time. That aside however I think it is more than worthwhile soaking up all the knowledge you can. In short, by learning from the expert you’ll ensure you’ll become the best martial artist you can be.

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Don’t try to be fast!

September 7, 2010

This is one of the biggest problems I face when trying to teach students. They try to be fast instead of concentrating on good technique. When you are learning a technique it is important to start slowly and ensure that the technique is good. Take your time, repeat the technique again and again making sure it’s correct and more importantly that it works! Every technique takes a sequence of movements in order to execute it correctly. If you are trying to speed it up often you will miss one of the parts of the sequence so it will not work. The other problem when you’re trying to be fast is that you are tense and so your muscles are not moving freely. This has the opposite effect! So am I saying that speed doesn’t count? Absolutely not! Real speed comes with fluidity and perfect execution however. The only way to achieve this speed is to spend time getting your technique right and repeating it again and again. The more effortless the execution is the faster and more effective it will be.

What Does It Take To Get To Black Belt?

February 25, 2010

From Sensei Chris Lacy, London Ju Jitsu

I’m currently training four brown belts towards black belt and as usual I started to think about what it takes to get to black belt. I’ve been a black belt for over fifteen years now and have taught hundreds if not thousands of students in that time. The ratio of students who take up Ju Jitsu and those who get a black belt is maybe a thousand to one. It is definitely hundreds to one. From learning other martial arts and talking to other martial arts teachers I believe that it’s the same in all such disciplines. Of course, life can get in the way. A new job, a heavy workload, a new partner, children, moving city or even country. These life reasons are not the ones that I’m currently dwelling on. It is the dedicated students for whom life does not get in the way and yet they still do not make the grade that interest me. It is also the reason my thoughts return to this when teaching brown belts.

To obtain a brown belt in my club, a student would have had to have trained diligently for at least three years and often considerably longer than that. Yet it seems to be the time that a lot of students give up at brown belt, just one step away from black. Why on earth would a student dedicate so much of their life to something only to give up at the final hurdle? Of course I know that first dan means first step and that getting a black belt is only the start and not the end of one’s training. Until that step is attained however it is often one of  if not the primary goal for a martial artist because just the words “black belt” have an aura about them and is rightly seen as a worthy achievment.

Some students it seem to me are content to reach Brown. Well it’s nearly a black belt isn’t it? No it is not. That is like saying I nearly climbed Everest. You either have or you haven’t.

One thing that it doesn’t take is natural talent. In fact some of the most naturally gifted students don’t make it even as far as brown belt whereas some students that I thought would never last have made it to black. Sometimes the students who find training easy at the beginning never get any better. Is this because they didn’t have to work hard at the start so then struggle as things get tougher? I don’t know. One thing I do know is that one of my best ever students had two left feet for years! I thought he was a hopeless case but he was dedicated and became one of the best practitioners in the school. That is the first attribute necessary. A stubborn will that won’t give up!

One of the biggest hurdles of course is that the training is hard! From brown belt to black belt takes a minimum of a year. The student has to practice at least twice a week but usually three or four times a week. It is intense. The standard is much higher than anything the student has been used to. Injuries are inevitable as is training through the pain barrier. When injuries do occur, it is important to get back on the horse as soon as possible because the body will not like coming back to this training after a long layoff. If you can train at all, even in a very restricted way, that is much better than staying away. This is the main attribute, dedication.

Finally by this stage in the training, the practitioner is normally quite good. Bad habits will have crept in however and everything must be broken down to basics and  re-learned. This can be difficult when some bad habits have worked well in the past. For this next step up though, those things will not work. That can be difficult for some people without the final attribute. Humility. All of the best instructors I’ve known have this in abundance.

One thing I will say is this. Subsequent dan grades are nice but passing first dan was one of the best days of my life without question. Every time I went into a changing room and took that belt out of my bag I felt immensely proud. I knew that I had earned it. I still feel the same way fifteen years later!