January 2014

Interesting and practical articles about training in the martial arts.

Martial Arts “Gurus” and Snake Oil Salesman.

One factor that still manages to persist, even in this age, is the so-called Chi master in martial arts. They appear in several guises but most commonly as pressure point masters of the “internal” martial arts who can project their Chi and throw opponents all over the room.

To date the only witnesses to these events seem to be the followers of these masters. Any public demonstration of such power has either been avoided or failed to demonstrate any power, beyond standard martial arts techniques, other than on very cooperative students who have been carefully choreographed.

In fact, there are several examples out on Youtube of these “masters” coming to very bad endings at the hands of Thai boxers and MMA fighters. However, they still they manage to give some explanation as to the reason this occurred, and retain their followers.

Another approach, aside from the direct confrontational challenge, to debunking these “Masters” is for individuals to replicate their powers without using so called martial arts techniques, as Derren Brown and others have also done.

In addition, James Randi still offers his 1 million dollars for anyone able to demonstrate meta-physical power, to which this martial arts Chi power also belongs.

So why no takers, quite simply because it does not work, it is B.S.

The majority of people who come to take up a martial arts do so for confidence building, fitness and learning how to look after themselves.

These Chi dependant methodologies do nothing to meet any of these needs. They have the same value as “snake oil” and love potions that have been peddled by con-men for centuries.

The real way to learn a martial art, and be effective at it, is no different to learning anything else of value; hard work, dedicated learning of quality technique form a reputable, trained teacher and practice, practice, practice.

As for Chi, it was originally a Chinese word for breath or the more precisely originally described the vapors given of a dead corpse, as it decayed. Hardly something that we can project as a useful self defense power unless you have particularly bad breath that is so offensive that people do not want to come near you.

It was only later that it began to be used as an abstract term to define something that is, to this day, still not understood well, the essence of life, what constitutes life and consciousness.

The better explanation of the state that Chi seems to represent, from what practitioners say about it, is an extremely focused state of mind and power that permits the practitioner to reduce thought interference and concentrate more fully on performing the techniques that they are executing.

The same state that an athlete experiences “in the zone” or that can be induced by hypnosis, however, it is a state only practical for self preparation and usage. Attempting to use hypnosis or other mind-altering phenomena, in a fight situation as a means of trying to defeat an attacker is a thing of fantasy and will get you killed or at least severely injured.

For anyone interested in learning martial arts as a means of developing their confidence and ability to look after themselves, should they be attacked, spend your time, money and energy learning a practical and evidence proven martial art.

Techniques are of little use, in MMA & BJJ, if you cannot obtain and maintain the position to execute them from.

Recently I was analyzing some statistics on the UFC, in particular the submission finish statistics, from 2010 until the present day. It came as no surprise that the Back Choke from the Back Mount was the highest percentage finish, followed by the Straight Arm Bar and Guillotine Choke. In fact these three made up 84% of all finishes by submission.

When we look at the methodology of application and the ease with which these submissions can be obtained together with the difficulty of escape, particularly for the Back choke, it is again reasonably clear as to the success rate of these finishes.

With that in mind, putting a lot of emphasis on these finishes, in training, is a very good strategy and will be well rewarded in the competition arena.

However, neither of these techniques will be of any use if you cannot establish the positions for applying them and controlling those positions well enough to execute the necessary steps to obtain the finish.

A smarter way to approach these finishes is to learn and drill several robust entries and control techniques for maintaining the position necessary to apply the techniques. One of the first principles that we learn in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is that position is the key to a solid game.

In addition, develop ways to escape the positions, should an opponent get them on you, and also develop a set of follow up techniques or position recovery transitions should the opponent escape your attempt to apply them.

This “game” preparation and drilling will provide you with a very powerful fighting methodology built around solid high percentage finishing techniques.

Develop an attitude of not just learning a new, cool finish or sweep but ask yourself why do I need this and what am I trying to achieve by doing it. Is it going to get me closer to a place of advantage that is in turn going to lead me to a finish, or is it going to place me at risk of being put in a position of disadvantage.

Unfortunately  the tournament  mentality, of many grappling systems now, has resulted in many students pursuing complex sweeps and maneuvers that are very low percentage and require complex set ups that are open to disruption at many points. And while they may score a few points sometimes, due to their surprise factor, their value in a real encounter or full contact fight is very limited unless you can follow through to the a useful finish.

In summary, spend your time developing solid position acquisition and maintenance tactics that will enable you to execute your specialty finishes or high percentage finishes. Build your game around position. This was one of the basic principles of BJJ when I started and nothings changed in that regard; position, position, position.

A potential cause of loss of training enthusiasm: the transference of the self challenge to a competition with others.

One of the greatest problems that a student, of the martial arts, is faced with is that of maintaining interest and enthusiasm for the art they have chosen to learn

To achieve a reasonable level of competency requires many hours of dedicated, quality practice.

When we first start to learn the art we have a high level of interest for the new novel thing we have taken up, which is further reinforced by the personal challenge it provides, in which we compete with ourselves to develop the coordination, skills and attributes of the discipline.

This period when we first start learning, in which we become aware of and work to acquire the skills of, the new discipline and in fact any new skill, involves the learning phases defined as the consciously incompetent and consciously competent together with the transition between the two.

In our early stage of learning a new discipline, especially the martial arts, this is a very technique rich learning time and the maintenance of enthusiasm is very easy to accomplish, especially if the teacher and the learning environment are committed to the learning of quality technique in a safe, enjoyable environment.

This is an environment in which the student should be taught and encouraged to develop an attitude in which the training and learning is undertaken as a competition with the self to achieve ever increasing levels of performance quality and expertise; it is a competition with the self.

This is the best attitude to maintain throughout your life as it will keep your enthusiasm strong and lead onto higher levels of performance that are not reliant on competition driven ego intense attitudes of domination and winning, which interferes with the quality, controlled training to develop new techniques and skills.

In my experience I have noted a definite change in many students enthusiasm, to train and learn, once they turn their attention to training in a competitive manner against others. Once the learning mind-set and self competitive attitude takes a back seat to an ego driven competition attitude, enthusiasm to train is put under pressure and many students drop away.

Unfortunately it is not always the enthusiastic student’s fault. It could be the attitude of an ego driven student who may be stronger, more skilled or just more aggressive, that can spoil it for the eager and often dedicated student.

Schools that maintain this, as their main focus, are severely limiting both the number of students that they could teach and the development of the students that do come to them to train. It places a limitation on their training lifespan and may increase the risk of injury to those taking part. The rational given is that it is a necessary part of becoming competent at martial arts; this is just not the case and in fact is detrimental in the long term.

In addition, it may limit entry or give a bad first impression to new students who know little about the martial arts and just want to learn it for self defence, fitness or confidence building. When they are pitted against students who are already competent and engaged in competition, they are totally dominated and either forced to stick it out until they get good enough, to survive, or leave and give up on their aspirations

Research has shown that the desire to compete in martial arts is one of the minor reasons that people start to train, with the most favored being confidence building and fitness development. If we investigate this further we note that both confidence building and fitness development are self competitive in nature.

If we take note of commentaries from the masters of the martial arts throughout the ages and those that still actively train their martial arts, into their advanced years, you will become aware of their constant referral to a self competitive battle with their self. This is what drives them on seeking perfection, which they also understand they may never achieve.

This is, in my mind, the true essence of training in the martial arts, and will maintain enthusiasm far into the advanced years and long past the time when a student may have been driven by competition with others.

In summary, this brings forward two main points to keep in your mind as you train, that of (1) having an open mind in which you challenge yourself to improve and (2) respecting the desire of others to learn without being continually faced with a competitive ego driven training partner who only wants to dominate and win.

I encourage you, as a student, to develop a “competition with self” attitude in your training and also to respect your training partners and their ability to learn

At the Academy we provide a separate class structure for those that want to be competitive fighters so that they have an additional class structure focused on competitive fighting, this is in addition to the regular class structure that is focused on skill development and the learning of the martial arts as a very powerful lifestyle.  Thus providing the student with a way to develop a very high level of competency and continue practicing, training and reaping the benefits throughout their life.

Improve Your Martial Arts Game with NLP and Hypnosis.

Mental preparation has long been recognized as one of the most important parts of training and performance in all areas of human endeavor.

Often the difference between winning and losing is how much control we have over our mind-set so that we can stay focused and immersed in our performance.

A major requirement for this state of mind is maintaining the ability to shut out outside influences that interfere with our thinking.

For optimal performance we must be able to concentrate on the task at hand; any influence that interrupts this will compete for our minds conscious attention and require that we spend time processing it.

Contrary to popular opinion humans do not multi-task well and perceived notions that we do have been shown to be false with serious scientific studies.

We are incapable of focusing on 2 things at the same time but, when we are working on several things at the same time we, must switch our attention from one to the other in order to process the information and perform the tasks. This seriously reduces the efficacy of our performance in all of the tasks.

One very powerful methodology that has been developed, to provide mental tools, that will improve all manner of mental conditioning and mind tasks is the discipline of NLP which uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques together with hypnosis to facilitate change.

The techniques that it utilizes may assist with many aspects of an individual’s life from confidence building and habit breaking to skill acquisition and focus development.

Another excellent advantage with these techniques is that they may be taught, and programmed into the mind, in a very short time frame. Once learned and programmed they may be used as a tool that will be further reinforced with use, providing a technique that will enable the practitioner to use on and improve many different aspects of their mental conditioning.

At the Academy we offer specialist mental conditioning and mind training programs using the disciplines of NLP, Hypnosis and Neurosemantics facilitated by our Chief Instructor, Dr Geoff Aitken, a qualified NLP, Neurosemantics and Hypnosis trainer.

Pleases inquire at reception if you are interested.

Increase Your Chances of Achieving Your Goals This Year

For many of us the start of the year is the time we set our goals and map out a potential direction for the year ahead. However, if you have ever indulged in this process you may well be one of the many who has never reached or carried through on many, if any, of those original targets. We start a fitness gym, enroll in a course or start a diet and within a short time we find ourselves with excuses to change our minds.

It is with this in mind that I put forward the following suggestions to include with your usual methodology for setting goals and for adhering to the work to achieve them.

For those that do not have methodology check out my blog on goal setting here.

In the first instance the goal must be something that has meaning to you and preferably will assist in reducing a pain or problem rather then providing a pleasure; the more graphic and kinesthetic the scenario the better.

Another helpful aspect is to use the “act as if” principle in assisting in achieving the required end; as opposed to mantras and affirmations.

The behavior that you take on must be fitting with the end goal and “acting as if”, not just thinking about it, will assist greatly in efforts to achieve it.

Another observation that has been recorded is the 21 day rule for developing a habit, whether acquiring, changing or breaking a habit. Therefore devote an hour a day for 21 days of solid participation in the activity associated with your goal. Be sure that it is meaningful and focused practice, not just spending time idly dabbling in it.

Above all, persevere in the pursuit of your goal; nurture a mind-set of long term determination. Experience has demonstrated that anything worth achieving requires outstanding effort and perseverance, and that the quality and value of the outcome is proportional to the amount of consistent  effort and perseverance exercised.