Tag Archives: taekwondo

training Phoenix – beginners

on saturday I was delighted to welcome a new student, aged 8, named Phoenix. unfortunately i had no dan grades available at the time to run my class, or to give Phoenix some proper initial attention, so I started with my usual spiel I try to give to all beginners:

  • you may feel a bit silly and that everyone is looking at you.  they’re not – they are too busy training hard to care about how you look
  • everyone else was a beginner once
  • just try and copy everyone and do the best the can, and i will help you when i get a moment
  • if you got everything right straight away, i wouldn’t need to teach you anything!
  • shout a lot.  lots and lots and lots

i then did my beginner’s warm up session – this is like a normal warm up, but with the crucial addition of racing up and down the hall, with everyone shouting as much as they can.  this can really help normalise shouting and making a noise, and helps to get shy students of any age over the hurdle of hearing their own voice. it generally makes people laugh too, because inevitably someone will scream or otherwise yodel entertainingly. in the rare absence of comedy noise, i will make some myself. for special occasions, i will insist on cheese-themed kiyups.

still in beginner mode, we move on to absolute basics, complete with a recap of how to assume the various positions.  this is a great opportunity that i missed – on this occasion – to involve senior students.  i remind the not-beginners that it never hurts to recap this stuff, then i stand near Phoenix, or at least where he can see my clearly, and describe what i am doing, as i am doing it.  don’t over-egg the description though, once or twice should be enough.

we progress through basics, and i will take the opportunity to wander the class making small adjustments to any student that requires some.  i don’t dwell on the young fella too much, he’s not going to get it perfect – its enough that he’s there for now.

i notice that Phoenix is struggling with the long stance, and foot placement in general, and knees, the whole thing really.  i ask a blue belt, the most senior grade i currently have, to continue the drilling for the rest of the class.  i take Phoenix aside for some one to one tuition, and though he is very attentive and eager to be correct, he struggles with bending of leading knee, straight back leg, foot angles, hip position.  its then that I notice the parallel lines of the tennis court markings, and they come to my rescue, once again.  this is the main point of this article.

we play follow the leader.  first of all i lead my way up a single line, baby steps, once foot in front of the other on the same line.  then longer steps, giant steps, all on the one line.  i use the baby and giant words.  then Phoenix leads and I follow.  now we swap to using both of the parallel lines, again with the baby and giant, but this time paying attention to each foot being on its own line.

by swapping between baby and giant, and tightrope and train-tracks, Phoenix makes enormous progress in all of his long stance work, and they are considerably better than at first.  the use of lines, language and swapping gives us an opportunity to establish some common terms – fun terms – for leg spacing, both vertically and horizontally, length of stride, being balanced versus unbalanced, as well as a chance to feel the difference between them all.  we now have a shared vocabulary based on something tangible, on the floor, rather than difficult abstract ideas for eight year olds.  at this point, i was then able to start introducing front kicks and front punches, again using the parallel lines with the added geometry of the front punch making a triangle shape.

as an added extra, it gave two out of three blue belts an opportunity to lead the class, a new article to write, and a proven approach for beginners stance work.  i will revisit this approach this saturday, and perhaps get the whole class to do the same, as there are still some with poor hip and shoulder positioning.

i was delighted with the learning outcomes by the end of the class, both for me and Phoenix.  i was very lucky that my friend and teacher,  Master Niall Grange, turned up to help for the rest of the lesson.

Liam’s silat tari

you may have read the article I posted written by one of my teachers, Master Niall Grange. I am also very fortunate to count at least one of his sons, if not both, as my teachers too. Please take a look at this video from Liam, its wonderful. Liam is a regular stalwart at our summer camp, and will be returning this year for more training. I may well write a fuller profile of Liam in the future…

my recommendation to all my friends is always this: if you get an opportunity to train with Liam, then take it.

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!

Beating the Bullies

A picture of Tony Butcher, performing an axe kick

Tony Butcher, 4th Dan Taekwondo Instructor

By Tony Butcher (4th Dan),
Ickenham Taekwondo Club
Church Road Taekwondo Club
Denham Village Taekwondo Club
Hayes End Taekwondo Club

Following major developments in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, communication has never been easier and British Taekwondo have been actively encouraging its members to share all successes, initiatives and ideas with each other.

With this in mind, I’d like to introduce to you, a concept which I’ve developed, which has proved to be massively successful in my clubs, both with the children and the parents. I call it “Beat The Bully” and would welcome you to try this within your clubs.

A couple of years ago, I started getting parents reporting back to me that their child had experienced a bully outside the club, but at the time, did not have the confidence to use the techniques that they’d been shown in class. What became apparent to me, was that in class, if you held a pad up and asked them to demonstrate – for example – a Turning Kick or punch, they would have no problem and more often than not, the technique would be good quality.

However, once outside the Dojang, the children were clearly unable to think for themselves, in deciding the best form of defence, or were clearly lacking confidence in using the techniques.

Based on an idea that I’d seen on a Self Defence DVD, I started by asking one of the largest children in the class to put on a Hoogoo and Head Protector. His role was to be the school bully and I then had each child up one at a time, who would be “bullied” and had to defend themselves, by thinking on their own.
After each child had finished, the whole class would discuss how they’d done and how they could have improved, so that every person could learn for their next go.

For the duration of “Beat The Bully”, close supervising is essential, as it’s very easy for things to go wrong, as (unlike sparring), there are no rules! There are several points that are key to this exercise:

  1. No student should be forced to take part. I often get beginners who are hesitant and I recommend that they watch until they are confident.
  2. The “bullied” students should always wear a head protector if there are no mats.
  3. The “bullied” students are given clear instructions that they must shout “STOP”, if they are uncomfortable or want to stop. Some get very claustrophobic if they end up on the floor and this can lead to tears. The “bully(s)” has clear instructions to stop (or jump up if on the floor), if they hear the “bullied” student say “Stop”.
  4. The “bully” must be given clear instructions that they must act as you would expect a bully to do, ie – they are not to do any Taekwondo moves, but should be pushing, shoving, grabbing and maybe pretending to punch.
  5. The “bullied” child is allowed to kick and punch to the hoogoo. I allow a light slap to the head protector, but definitely no punching.
  6. The “bully” should avoid grabbing the “bullied” child around the neck and vice versa.
  7. For the older children or the more experienced/confident, I use two bullies, as this adds to the reality and tests the students thought process and techniques.
  8. Make sure that the “bullied” students don’t become too aggressive! I’ve had some youngsters race across the hall to try a Jumping Flying Side Kick on the “Bully”! I have to remind them that the exercise is “Beat The Bully” and not “BEAT UP The Bully”!!! (This is also a good opportunity to show Taekwondo’s 4th Tenet – Self Control!) There have also been a couple of occasions where the “bullied” child has ended up chasing the “bully” around the class, which would also need to be addressed!

When we started, the reaction varied from student to student. Some did well, others simply melted and crouched in a ball and put their hands over their head! Others ignored all the Taekwondo that they’d been taught and started grabbing the “bully’s” arms! In this instance, you have to advise them that grabbing the bully would be good for Judo or JuJitsu, but not for a Taekwondo practicioner.

Most of the time, both “bully(s)” and “bullied” usually end up on the floor as most fights do, so it’s vital to remind the “bullied” that they need to avoid going to the floor whenever possible and remember the techniques that they’ve been using. The students can also see how easy it is for a kick (particularly Turning Kick), to be caught by a bully, which forces them to see some of the reality of a real life situation and to rethink about strategy.

Over a period of time, my students have now started to think for themselves, which has allowed them to grow in confidence. As a result, they absolutely love the exercise and prefer it to one of the warm down games that I use for a well behaved class. (I also get worried that too many children want to play the part of the bully!!!)

As I mentioned earlier, “Beat The Bully” does require VERY close supervision to ensure that problems and injuries are extremely rare. There have been a couple of knocks and bruises, but no more than you’d get on your average training session. Parents have also been extremely supportive of this exercise, as they can see how it challenges the children and makes them think. They appreciate what I’m trying to achieve within my clubs and to ensure that all of my students become confident Black Belts and Instructors.

I hope that if you try it, it’ll prove just as successful for you and please make sure you let me have any feedback.

Tony Butcher

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 child eating a school dinner

workshop – preparing for bullies – part 1

I AM KEEN to develop workshops for my students.   whilst I can attempt to pass on my own received knowledge, I can’t really teach stuff that I don’t know, however, I can facilitate learning, both for me and the students.   how do I define a workshop? its a training session where I know roughly what I want to achieve, but I want the instructor and the student to discover the path for themselves, by playing with what does and doesn’t work, and examining why.

it occurred to me that as taekwondin, we primarily train at arms length, or at legs length. such distance may be fine for sparring, and indeed, being out of reach of arms or legs is good for not being hit, and thus one could consider it appropriate self defense.  similarly, when we learn hosinsul, or one step sparring, we start from an ideal position for our art.  if we are lucky students, our teachers tell us to avoid the blow and step in to finish the conflict, but the fact remains that we still start from an idealised position.  the problem is…


since I have at least one student that is a repeated victim of bullying, I thought it would be useful for my students to realise the flaws in our training by changing the kind of aggressive stances from which we start.  using two rows of roughly the same height, one row are the aggressors or bullies, the other row are the victims.  the aggressor stands close enough to invade the victim’s personal space.  both aggressor and victim are face on, arms at their sides.  as victim, demonstrating this starting position, its clear that I can neither kick nor punch my aggressor, effectively.   for sure, I could try some other technique, but that’s not the point of this lesson.   my bully shouts at me, and uses threatening words and language – “come on then, I’m dissing your mum!” – I step back, my bully follows, invading my space again.   I step back again, and this time I make a point of finding a correct distance for striking.   I don’t specify which strikes, as part of the learning is to play, and find out for yourself.   for this workshop, the bully’s role is simply to invade space and threaten.   we swap roles, repeat, then swap partners.   age and size are irrelevant, the more variety, the better the learning, indeed, a size difference is more realistic.

learning points

  • personal space – finding where yours and others starts and ends
  • getting use to personal space being invaded, keeping your cool.  part of the confidence that sparring practice gives, hidden, is the fact that if you square up to someone two or three times a week, it is far less terrifying when a stranger does it
  • stepping back – casually, follow stepping or jirugi chunbi
  • stepping back – this may avoid conflict, the bully may think twice about following – why?
  • stepping back – finding range, using the time to pick a target, drawing the aggressor in
  • stance transition
  • choosing appropriate techniques for the distance / range
  • having a moment to think about appropriateness of technique, from a violence level perspective
  • having a moment to think about appropriateness of technique for the surroundings
  • underling the principles of hosinsul – distance, target, technique

where next?

  • bully wears body armour, thus allowing victim to actually land solid blows
  • bully is more aggressive, featuring shoves and grabs
  • more than one bully
  • victim has prop, like mobile phone
  • organise environments – simulated classroom, corridor, up against wall, other confined spaces


firstly, I wish i had made more of this lesson the first time around.  i did state that a workshop is for the instructor to learn, and sure enough, I have, so I am pleased with my outcome, let alone the students’.   writing up this lesson, I can see where I missed learning points, so I will apply them the next time I use this routine.   I didn’t make enough of the footwork / step back, and I should have set the students expectations about demonstrating their findings to the rest of the team.  the students had great fun, and were threatened by a lot of different ages and body sizes.   repeated application of this lesson should allow students to be more in control of their flight or fight response when threatened, as the situation will be more familiar to them, and they will have programmed a response to such threats.

as usual, many thanks to my instructors and students, and also Jitsu Jamie, for a variant of this lesson at summer camp 2011

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

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.