Tag Archives: martial arts

a space hopper

end of year training with Jeffries

its christmas time, and so today I delivered the last training session of the year for Atlantic Taekwondo.   at the end of year, I like to run sessions that concentrate on having fun more than I usually do.   I have yet to obtain the hallowed Santa’s Dobok, so it was plain old black and whites for me again this year…however, the colours were enlivened today by use of my fantastic bright orange space hopper, that the students nicknamed Jeffries, for some reason.   I was delighted today as for the first time ever, I was presented with a box of chocolates by one of my students, and a different student exclaimed a loud “thank you for the training” during the line up.   I was touched.


warm up

usual stuff here, but whilst jogging around the dojang, students take it in turns ride Jeffries up and down the hall, before handing over to the next student.  you can’t help but smile whilst bouncing away on the big orange fella.

twelve kicks of christmas

pretty much self-explanatory. students each pick one technique, and demonstrate it in front of the class. when twelve techniques have been demonstrated, proceed as follows, substituting your techniques:

  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts (Street Fighter style)
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts, 6 side kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts, 6 side kicks, 7 spinning backfists
  • et cetera et cetera

its a pretty grueling exercise, especially when enthusiastic students pick difficult or spinning techniques.   ideally, all students will count each technique, thus hammering home the foreign vocabulary.

strictly come poomsae

based on a television show, this activity involves four judges selected from the class.  each student performs alone, and the judges get fifteen seconds to confer and get their score cards in order. students perform the pattern they needed for their current belt.   after introducing the idea and arranging the dojang, the instructor elicits ideas on how to judge the student performance.   start by stating that the maximum score is ten per judge, and that the judges must deduct a half point for each mistake spotted.   instructor then asks what sort of things to be judged on – I was pleasantly surprised by the response from my judges today, as they added extras to the list I already had in my mind:

  • footwork
  • technique execution
  • finishing spot
  • pace or rhythm (as opposed to just speed)
  • hesitation
  • extra – correct pattern. if you can’t remember your pattern, you can do the previous pattern for a maximum score of nine instead of ten
  • extra – pattern name
  • extra – finishing techniques instead of rushing them
  • extra – breathing
  • extra – finishing each step with rear foot flat on floor – was particularly pleased with this, as I have been drumming it into the students all year

I was a little nervous about the reception this would get, after all, how many children watch a ballroom dancing show?   turns out, lots of them do.   there was much enthusiasm from each judge, and each judge had the opportunity to explain their scores.  often this was done humour, comments describing technique including crispness, tenderness and even a new word, memoration.   this is a great technique for disguising the training for a serious competition and also for performance at grading.   instead of just rushing their patterns, each student really was thinking about each aspect, which is a great result.   for white belts, judges were instructed not to mark down students for not knowing the pattern, and instead to judge solely on techniques being delivered.   judges are then swapped out and become the performers.   this gives each judge a chance to offer honest critique and to speak in front of the class, good personal skills development

santa’s kyuk-pa

this year’s destruction competition involved each student performing a side kick, a back kick and an elbow strike, allowed two attempts at each. the purpose of destruction is to demonstrate technique, and refine until the board is broken.  again, eliciting a verbal description of each technique demonstrates both learning and teaching and gives each student a chance to thwack something.   almost every student was 100% successful

last year’s destruction competition was slightly different, as we had more senior grades available to hold the breaking boards.  holders stand at each corner of an imaginary triangle, and each student chooses their own path around the three boards, the intention being to deliver side kicks to break the boards, and resorting to elbow strikes upon failure.   this is a timed competition where students have to strike a balance between speed and technique.  this was great fun last year.

where next?

  • jeffries slalom – each student slaloms around a line of students, each holding a pad, which must be struck with a good clean technique before proceeding to the next
  • twelve kicks of christmas – each student must remember their own technique and lead the class when it comes to their count.   this will help to ensure everybody knows what they are doing, as they only to remember their own technique, and how many of them are required.   this also gives each student a chance to the lead the group, without much pressure
  • strictly come poomsae – today i used hand written score sheets, it would improve with nicely printed A4 cards with the scores on. synchronised poomsae performance where students performing in pairs

i would love to receive more ideas for next year’s christmas session.   as always, comments welcome.   have a great christmas and new year, come back fighting next year!

am i elitist?

5 o'clock
as a new member of a club, have you ever found yourself thinking that some of the club senior grades seem to have no interest in talking to you, or that they seem to only talk to other senior grades? a long time ago, I certainly did.

today, I had a moment of clarity. i was thinking about talking to our newly qualified poom grades – young black belts – and I wondered if they would think I was only talking to them because they are now senior grades. the answer would have to be yes, in some cases…but not because i am elitist!

some people are shy, some have no confidence or low self-esteem, and often children overlap all three of these characteristics.  this can be a motivating factor for parents to enrole their child in a martial arts class, so its not unfair to suggest that martial arts classes may have a number of young wallflowers, perhaps more than one would expect.  as a person progresses through their martial arts training, their age increases, their self-esteem increases, their confidence increases, and in all likelihood their fitness and mental health improve also.  by the time the student approaches their first senior grade, they have undergone a transformation from wallflower to sunflower, tall, proud, and able to turn their face to the sun.  

i have seen this happen on many occasions.  inherently, they are more approachable, and better equipped to engage, more able to have a conversation without looking at the ground and feeling awkward.  i am therefore more likely to persist in my efforts to talk to them, not because they are black belt students, but because they have transformed themselves by their training into a more sociable animal, i am less worried about making them feel awkward.  just to state this absolutely clearly, its the person i am talking to, not the belt.

there is another factor, however, that may not be obvious to those who feel a void between the newcomers and the established.  when you train with someone, you are exchanging ultimate trust – you are putting your lives in each other’s hands.  without realising, you build tremendous bonds with your partners, and before you know it, you are so pleased to see your extended family, you may well forget to engage with others in the class in the little time you have before line-up or during water breaks.   this can reinforce the appearance of elitism.

i am newly resolved then.  i will forgo my hugs from my friends, delay them until after training, so that i may try harder to reduce the distance between the rest of us.

Macaw image courtesy of www.wallpaperwala.com

what is macaw?

macaw is a dream, a new lifestyle and venture for us.  macaw may even be a charity.  a place where you could stay in a yurt, an army tent, your own tent, or even a hut made from recycled pallets.  double beds and wood-burning stoves.  fresh food, harvested from the gardens.  chickens roaming amongst the solar panels.   a wind turbine beheading bats, like a mechanical Ozzy Osbourne.  macaw will nestle in a field, in Cornwall, near the coast, near a town…

…macaw is the martial and creative arts workshop.

grow younger through learning

having worked as a software developer since 1997, I have grown old, fat, grey and slow, sitting at my desk, telling myself that the work I do is valuable, worthwhile.  i’ve been kidding myself, mainly.  the incidentals are the worthwhile part, the work itself has been of dubious moral value, ranging from the project management of oil rig maintenance to insurance sales.

so what are these worthwhile incidentals?  learning, teaching, invention and creation, delivery, the lovely people I have met, friendships.

its time for a change, to engage with fresh passion, like I did at the start of my software development career.  I don’t need to grow rich, I own everything that I want right now, I want to be happy, healthy and fit, and to indulge myself in the things I love: learning, teaching, eating, growing, martial arts, music, being outdoors.  for the last couple of years, my earlier passion has made the final death-knell transition to becoming work.  i want to die at play, not at work.  as a midlife crisis goes, macaw definitely beats a shiny red sports car.

wot’s uh, the deal?

  • dedicated martial arts camps, for individuals, groups, corporate – single discipline, multi-discipline, guest instructors
  • dojang facilities for local clubs – there are at least 4 in Bude
  • dojang and camp facilities for other organisations, for rent, host your own!
  • a peaceful place for individuals to train
  • fitness bootcamps
  • music lessons – guitar, drums, bass
  • guided student jam-along.  there are many young music students in Bude, but often they are isolated and have never played with other musicians
  • rehearsal facilities
  • demo quality recording and production
  • home studio and production course
  • painting
  • precious metal clay
  • beading
  • earrings, necklaces, bracelets
  • pyrography
  • driftwood crafts
  • artist retreat
  • first aid training
  • website studio
  • software development training

All of the above could be offered to individuals, private groups, corporate groups, and other teachers requiring a venue.  macaw will be a beautiful retreat offering a range of activities.  we have given ourselves a target of May 2016 to implement this fledgling business, and change our lives completely.  in the next article, I will list the expertise and help we require to get ourselves off the ground. please help us by offering suggestions, advice and help – be a teacher, be an instructor, be a customer, be a friend.  Join in.

Jase & Adele
November 2013

A picture of Niall Grange, in pose

Aging & Taekwondo part 2. Niall P. Grange

the following piece was written by one of my teachers, Master Niall Grange, and first published on Niall’s Facebook page. many thanks to Niall for permission to republish here. if i can track down part 1, I will repost it here too.

I wrote and published an essay more than a decade ago on what it was like to practice Taekwondo as a middle-aged person. Well 12 years on I’m now 63 and still at it…….I’m also still doing Taekwondo. (after a fashion)

I suppose the first thing I really should say is Taekwondo would not be the natural choice of someone in their late middle age to take up, particularly if they were to watch a demonstration by the Korean Tigers on YouTube. All that would do is to make them wish they were 40 years younger and would probably make the onset of arthritis seem worse than it really is and feeling quite depressed as they struggle to put on their slippers, and slump into their armchair with a large malt and think about what might have been.

When I wrote the first essay I was still competing and was a successful international technical judge. I could rely on most of my bits to operate pretty well, I could (much to the annoyance of my wife) bounce out of bed in the morning and run up to 10 miles before breakfast, and on other occasions bounce back into it… Now, the aging process doesn’t happen all of a sudden; it creeps up on you when you’re not looking, chipping away almost so you don’t notice, but eventually forcing you to accept that; the older you get the better you once were. Aging is like a mosquito bite, you only notice and hear it after it’s had its suck and left you feeling sore and itchy!

So what do you 30 or 40 something’s have to look forward to! Well, for a start you slow down, your reactions are slower and your ability to perform repeated turning kicks up and down the hall diminishes. (I must point out that this is not a problem for me, I could never do that anyway) Your side kicks and turning kicks hurt your supporting hip, in my case caused by the onset of arthritis. You get tired faster and your ability to remember old, or learn new techniques takes a little longer and, when injured it takes considerably longer to recover. You do however, develop a much greater understanding of Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity and that comes without the aid of a science degree, but by simply looking in the mirror and, if you are feeling really brave do it while naked……On second thoughts, probably not a great idea. Terrify the cat!

So why should any senior individual want to even consider taking up an activity like Martial Arts. Well, leaving aside the fact that anyone in late middle age is never likely to become an Olympic star ,or World champion the Martial Arts.has so much to offer the older student, such as helping to retain or maintain a sense balance, keeping supple, slowing down the possible onset of osteoporosis and other aging diseases, developing a new and mixed likeminded group of friends of all ages, which is important for mind stimulation.

It is very easy for the older person to lose self confidence, develop depression, as they approach or pass their retirement, the loss of a life partner, or just by the realisation of losing those feelings they once had, when they thought they could do anything and would live forever, and now, feeling the best of their life has gone. I believe Martial arts can help to redress this loss by learning new life skills, such as self-defence, or even Kup grade patterns/kata that can be practiced on their own. Martial arts, I promise, can help, and more importantly, by taking up any martial art the best could be yet to come.

The older person can take gradings which demonstrate their budding skills. it offers the same sense of achievement as it does for a younger person, in fact, I would say it has greater meaning than for the younger and fitter individual.
There is still the possibility of entering (Kata/Patterns) competitions even at international level, regardless of age and all this with very little possibility of being injured, but none the less, with a great adrenalin rush.

Beware however, this adrenalin rush could possibly reinvigorate those long forgotten unused bits! It will certainly make you feel less invisible, a common ailment amongst us older generation.
Generally, the older student has a better sense of humour, certainly the ability to laugh at themselves. And, have little left to prove (except to themselves) as ego rarely gets in the way.

So, get out there and have a go! The truth is, it doesn’t matter what Martial Art you do, just have a go at something. Find what suits you, get on the road and experience the journey. You’re never too old to enjoy the smell of roses.
The martial arts really is a wonderful activity for the older person and, with the right instructor that has a sympathetic understanding of the needs of the older student (without patronising them) it can be a positive life changing experience, as the benefits of learning a Martial Art are immeasurable.

If the (UK) government figures are correct, there will be far more of us ‘grey generation’ in years to come. Perhaps now it’s time to start changing the way we attract and teach our martial activities.

After the awards and medals of youth, comes the badges of grey hair and creaking joints and an awful lot of experience, so don’t write the oldies off, embrace them.
As for me; it has been a question of adjustment and adaptation to getting older. Recognising my limitations, without letting them get (too much) in the way, which is countered by the fact I’m still able to learn. Understanding that when something becomes too difficult or painful to do you change or adapt it, and in that way you are making it your own.

In the meantime, I have 2 banjacksed knees and a very doggy hip, so I no longer run 10 or any other number of miles in the morning, or any other time of day for that matter, and when I’m demonstrating a tumble or break fall I usually ask for assistance to stand up afterwards. I’m far more ‘genteel’ in the way I get out of (and into) bed, but I still train and teach and my enthusiasm is as good as a man half my age. I enjoy good malt, with just a little ice and definitely no mixer or guilt. So cheers!

I do have to remind myself that, as an older person I really do have a wealth of experience; the only problem being however, I’m getting a bit old to do a lot with it. A definite case of youth being wasted on the young. Ah, what can I tell ya!

Niall P. Grange
October 2013

Celebrating the Martial Arts – MASC 2013

genesis of MASC

ORIGINALLY inspired by a wonderful week spent training with Master Mark Worsfold at Loch Rannoch, Martial Arts Summer Camp 2013 marks the fourth annual consecutive camp.   our first camp, back in 2010 was at a site within walking distance from Corfe Castle.   back in the day, we based the training program on Mark’s successful routine of morning taiji followed by taekwondo, then non-martial pastimes.  twelve students from Surrey and Halwill Junction, Devon, attended.  2011 saw camp relocate to Upper Lynstone, Bude, where it has been ever since.  student attendance has grown steadily each year, as the good word spreads around the club network.  2013 peeked at nearly forty attendees.   what makes camp so successful?  dedicated, hungry students.   an attitude of openness – all styles are welcome, all levels are welcome, and total beginners are greatly encouraged.  generous and talented instructors.

THE MAINSTAY of our instructor base is undoubtedly Masters Niall and Liam Grange, a father-son team with 60 years of martial experience between them.   unpaid but definitely not unloved, Niall and Liam bring taekwondo, hapkido, taiji, kungfu, silat and more, and give freely to those who seek.  adding further to the instructor mix, Masters Mark Worsfold, Matthew Hobbs, Bob Rowley, John Rodgers, Tony Butcher, Con Halpin and Jitsu-Jamie have all contributed further: taekwondo, bokken, jo-staff, aikido, jujitsu, pressure point fighting, patterns.

IT TAKES a special kind of student, and teacher, to stand in a field, in all kinds of weather – training hard, barefooted, without rank, in plain clothes and plain view.   those students and their teachers are kin, family.   practitioners rarely realise, but when training, you give and expect the ultimate trust from your partners, teachers and students: your lives are in each other’s hands.  this generosity of spirit, trust, love and giving at camp can be a life-changing event for children and adults alike.   strong bonds are forged, and examples are set for us all to follow.   a time to inspire, and to be inspired.

NEW FEATURES this year: good strong sunshine, our very own field, debilitating injury, Wolverine, a purple belt for a hero, MASC tee-shirts and hoodies, poomsae DVDs, camp romance, new shower and toilet block, new friends and guest instructors, water balloons, videos on facebook, the establishment of camp traditions: homous and halloumi kebabs as a last night ritual, trig point photography, shooting stars

SADLY MISSED: Mark Worsfold, Tony Butcher, Nicola Avery, Matthew Hobbs, Nina and Ben, Jamie, Seth and Charlie, Chaney, Luca, Marie, Natasha Brewer, Alex and Emma, Beard Brothers Jamie and Craig , and anyone else from our wider training family.   please come next year

this year’s diary

Picture of The Fast Show's Jessie's Diets

…eating kungfu


Arrival at camp for most people.  If anyone can remember today’s training, please get in touch.


that’s the badger. when training, be sure to keep your fluids up


  • Liam – taiji: introduction to the five animals/elements
    • basic qigong
    • monkey/wood
    • tiger/fire
    • bear/earth
    • stag/metal
    • bird/animal
    • the secret sixth animal, the phoenix.
  • Jase – taekwondo footwork combinations, all grades
    • front kick, turning kick, back kick, concentrating on foot placement and stances between kicks
    • turning kick, back kick, knife hand strike
    • straight line footwork combination – back stance to pushing kick landing in horse riding stance, sliding side kick, back kick, reverse punch, elbow strike
  • Niall – hapkido, basic release from grab
mincing instructor examines back kicks

mincing instructor examines back kicks


today, there were approximately 30 students training. great turn out.

  • Liam – taiji: recap of the five animals/elements, application of taiji principles to poomse
  • Jase – beginners’ taekwondo, 5 absolute beginners
    • ready stance, front/long stance, back stance
    • front kick, turning kick
    • low block, punch
    • Old Man Kelly’s front kick recap, including excellent miniature session on leading with the shoulder
  • Niall – progression from yesterday’s session, hosinsul / hapkido, release from grabs:
    • mirror wrist grabs
    • cross wrist grabs
    • both wrists
    • lapels
  • Jase & Niall – patterns and pads for first kups
  • Liam – session on the beach – applications of the 5 animals
students practicing taiji

great turn out for Cheng Man Ching


approximately 40 students training, including campers from around the site. new camp record for attendance

  • Liam – taiji
    • Master Liang’s Yang Style Qigong and massage set
    • kwai taiji: Master Liang’s fast form
    • Cheng Man Ching’s five Animals
  • Bob the Blackbelt & Old Man Kelly – beginners’ taekwondo continued. By the end of this session, the beginners are looking great, strong kicks, fluid combinations
    • revision of yesterday’s basics
    • back kick
    • jab and cross punch
    • push away followed by back side kick
    • combinations of the above
  • Niall – more releases from grabs, now including takedowns
  • Niall & Jase – destruction
  • Liam – taiji appliations of the five animals, defence against zombie attack!
  • Jase & Liam – sword forms to music
  • Everyone – pizza and other takeaway
"whatever you do, put some bloody sun cream on"

“whatever you do, put some bloody sun cream on”


  • Liam – taiji
    • qigong
    • kwai taiji – fast
    • silk reeling
  • Liam – five ancestor double dagger
  • Everyone – Atlantic Diner. Hot food on a plate, with cutlery!
students enjoying a meal

warm, dry, plates, cutlery


special guests from Tintagel today – hooray! Sadly, Norman and Wendy’s instruction commitments meant we didn’t see as much of them and their team as we would have liked, and every participant really enjoyed the stick work

  • Liam – taiji
    • qigong
    • kwai taiji – fast
    • five animals
  • Liam – Xingyi – five element boxing and linking form
  • Norman, Wendy and students from Tintagel’s Jeet Kune Do club – Kali (stick work)
    • Angles 1 – 5
    • stick defence 1 & 2
    • basic amarra (strike patterns)
  • Niall – padwork
  • Most – Dinner at The Port William, Trebarwith Strand. Mediocre food after a long wait, but in a beautiful location
students training with sticks



particularly inspiring training routintes from Con today. more about these in a seperate article

  • Liam – taiji
  • Con Halpin – taekwondo combinations
    • hand work – jab and cross, reverse ridge hand, back fist and roundhouse punch. Put all these together into a sequence
    • whack-a-mole hand techniques (four pad holders, one attacker utilising earlier hand techniques)
    • kick combination – right leg crescent kick followed by on the spot left leg turning kick
    • explosive kicking padwork – 4 kickers in a line (not a queue), one pad holder putting the pad in at random
  • Aiki John – aikido
  • Niall – patterns and one-step for grading
  • Jase and Con – patterns for grading students
  • Everyone – the now-traditional houmous and halloumi kebab night
students performing basic moves

…in the beginning…


end of camp, always emotional. The last remaining students put in some effort, but eventually tiredness, rain and departure take their toll

A picture of slate with flavours of tai chi written on it

Liam’s menu

Aside from this great variety of group training, there was plenty of individual support outside of larger sessions, including guitar lessons, one step sparring, poomsae, the walking stick form, mantis form, Cheng Man Ching goodness, and an intensive tutorial by Liam for Joe ‘Baby Blackbelt’, Richard ‘Handstand’ and Young Man Kelly on the double dagger form.   these excellent young men soaked it up like sponges

some of the usual suspects

which one is Keyser Soze?

which one is Keyser Soze?

skills development

CAMP ATTENDANCE this year was brilliant.  students and teachers traveled from as far as Middlesbrough (Hey Bert!), Eastbourne and within the M25 to be with us.   some students were absolute beginners, some just two months in to their training, some were total strangers staying onsite.   all students worked hard, battling the elements, self-consciousness, and their own fears of failure.   there was no failure.   every year we see progression in the students, both between and during camps, and that is one of hidden joys of regular attendance.   a day after camp ended, numerous students progressed up the ranks, but particular mention goes to new poom grade (junior black belt) students Ellis, Alice and Tia, dan grade students Hannah and Tom.

WE ARE ALL of us students.   those of us who instruct, assist or partner up with someone for training can pick up instructional skills, techniques and training routines, to help us develop ourselves and our students

enormous thanks

to everyone that attended and contributed in any way, pastoral care, cooking, photography, washing up, de-trashing the site, including, nurturing, welcoming, giving, hugging, kissing, fighting, dancing, loving – may Ra and Selene warm your souls forever

MASC 2013 is dead. Long live MASC2014, 9th August 2014, Upper Lynstone

Wolverine and Superman

Wolverine and Superman

dentist dojang

When I worked in London for a living, I used to perform my patterns on the train on the way to work.  I never received any funny looks, I was just doing them in my head.  Its a good trick if you have dead time to fill.

Today, I spent 35 minutes in a dentist chair.  Whilst I am not afraid of dentistry, I still find it unnerving and unpleasant having people and machinery poking around inside my chops.  I decided that to help take my mind off the procedures, and to help regulate my breathing – and thus keep rising panic at bay – I would go though my patterns again, mentally.  It was hard work, but it passed time, and helped to keep my breathing under control during the carnage.  I started at Il-jang and got all the way chil-jang, pattern number 7.  It got me through, but the ending of 7 was a little weak.  Next time, I will practice it when I am having a haircut, far less unpleasant.  Let’s see if I do better then.

So, train, dentist, and if you see my pictures on facebook, the beach…where do you practice your patterns?

prophylactic therapy for depression through devotion

“Why use a ten dollar word, when a five cent word will do?”

I will write about devotion again, no doubt, but this time around, I want to reflect on how devotion to lifestyle helps my mental health.  When learning or practising anything, I am devoted in the long term, and mindful in the moment.  If that moment lasts for a significant period, say, more than an hour, several benefits will manifest, each of which can contribute to alleviating depression.

checklist of benefits for physical and mental exertion

    • martial arts
      • my skills improve
      • my fitness improves
      • training with and appreciating others
      • mindfulness
    • playing an instrument
      • skills improvement
      • potential for socialisation
      • creativity
      • mindfulness
    • gardening
      • improving your environment
      • longer term results
      • fitness
      • exposure to daylight and mindfulness of environment

Hand in hand with honest, reflective behaviour, each list item in someway tackles the symptoms of my depression.  Improving my skills helps improve my self-esteem, one of the most insidious symptoms of depression – a personal marker for me, I always try to watch out for it.  When skills improvement is teamed with goal-based learning, such as learning another pattern or a tune, then that helps too.  Tangible achievements.

Increased fitness boosts my self-esteem, and it’s pretty well documented elsewhere that exercise changes your brain chemistry, and makes you feel better.  A damn good training session can leave me feeling great for as much as six hours!  Imagine how good it is having six hours respite from feeling rubbish.  Last time that happened to me, I felt like I was seventeen years old again.  

Socialisation and physical contact, whether shaking hands, demonstrating techniques, making eye contact or watching some else perform, all help to overcome the urge to withdraw.  Other people may also inspire you.  Martial arts training is a massive trust exercise, and promotes bonding.  Musicians and martial artists are my extended family, and we care about each other, a lot.  

Finally, the mindfulness that is devotion to training, practise or performing is also a relief from introspection and self-absorption. If I can spend two hours being mindful of something other than the horrors, and add on six hours of positive brain chemistry, that is quite literally time off for good behaviour.  Eight hours respite.  I realise I ride depression like a wave, rather than a pit, and this has chiseled away at prolonged dread and despair.

I don’t wish to be smug, or make it sound easy.  I have failed to appreciate the weather, been immune to beauty, I have withdrawn from people, I have lain weeping on the kitchen floor, and I have felt absolutely worthless, and worse.  I have made my partner cry.  I do know what it can be like.  Fortunately, this year has been the best year for quite some time, and long term devotion to my partner, training, music, teaching, and now writing – and the catharsis it brings – seem to be helping.

“Because everyone loves a big spender.”


Top photo: martial arts summer camp 2011, training in the sun with masters and beginners alike. Bottom photo: dressed as chough whilst the rest of the band dress as Jason King, sort of.

White Crane and Chen

I have now had two training sessions in my home with Sifu Rob.  Rob has decided to teach me primarily Chen taiji to start with, interspersed with some White Crane, then when that is all going nicely, we will probably progress to some weapons.  I made poor progress in session one, managing a poor pass at one quarter of what Rob wanted to teach me.  Still, I learned some new footwork warm ups, silk reeling and a tiny chunk of the Chen form.  I practised this during the week and the in the next session, Rob reckoned I was looking a lot better at the end of the second session than I was at the first.  This was because, like all good teachers, he was able to communicate where I was going wrong, and what to improve.  My learning for the second session is…

  • Keep moving, however slowly.  Rob was amused because of my taekwondo history and clunky brain meant that i was performing elements of the form like a poomsae, with start and end points for each movement – for example, a front snap kick and a double punch is a pretty clearly defined sequence, and the end of the double punch defines the end of the combination.    If I slow my form right down, it gives my poor noggin time to do its thing and for me to attempt to flow like treacle in to the correct shapes
  • As always, movement of the arms is driven by movement of the hips.  For some parts of the sequence, there is no arm movement, its a rotation of the hips that repositions your torso and the arms just follow
  • Breathing is paramount – this is not a new lesson to me, of course, but when I spotted a section that was expansive, the expansion and correct movement comes from inflating, and it felt much more authentic
  • In general, take a shorter-than-taekwondo-front-stance, and watch your knees aren’t projecting beyond your toes

This is all good stuff, and ties in exactly with what Liam, Mark and Tony have taught me in the past. Lets hope I can do all of my teachers proud at this year’s summer camp.  I’ll post more about taiji as and when I learn something I can communicate.


one of my favourite footwork exercises I teach in my class at the moment is this combination. In my pidgin Korean, this is

dwi kobi, dolliyo chagi, dwi chagi, joochum sogi, sohn nal yop chigi

…or in English…

Back stance, turning kick (rebend, place foot), back kick (rebend and place foot again) slide into horse riding stance, knife hand side strike.

As usual, its all about foot placement and you know its working when that final knife hand strike lands with some power in conjunction with finishing the horse-riding stance.  Rebending the leg after the back kick allows for a good transition into horse riding stance, and provided your arms weren’t flailing madly during the kicks, you should have a satisfyingly meaty knife hand strike.

If you are struggling, remember, don’t fall out of your kicks, rebend the kicking leg and place it where you want it.  The foundation of any good technique is good foot work.

Give it a try.