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Simple is never easy!

“Simple is not easy” is a term that is used in Martial Arts frequently but what does it really mean. I often describe mediation as the same. How hard can it be just to sit still for 20 mins and let thoughts come and go. It really is that simple but many people struggle with it. In Martial Arts, instructors often state “keep it simple”, something I often say to my students but then I notice the vague confused look in their eyes. People learn in so many different ways but I often find that the students that think a lot and really want to get things right are the ones that find things harder to grasp. I am one of those students but after 40 years of studying Martial Arts I have learnt to just go with things and eventually with practice things will sink in. 

Our system of Kung Fu I must admit on the surface is pretty complex which is one of the reasons I find it so fascinating but once you understand the principles, it really is simple. In today’s world people have lost the art of moving in a natural way with computers, sofa’s to lounge on, cars to drive. There is a reason why Kung Fu is taken from animals, animals don’t think, they act on instinct and move in a natural way. 

In my classes, I often teach the advance syllabus to the junior students so they can see the reasons why they are learning what they need for the earlier grades. It is like a big jigsaw that you’ve just opened. As you start to put it together, you slowly see the picture. There are thousands of different quotes or metaphors within the Martial Arts, some of my favourites are “Confusion is good, it’s what you should be in every class” the reason being, when you are confused it’s when you are learning, confusion happens before a “aha” moment. Another one is that “every black belt should be made to feel like a white belt at least once a month”. As I’m often saying, “to grow you need to get out your comfort zone”. 

The reason for this random blog was from today’s Kung Fu lesson. It was good lesson and we covered a few joint locks, syllabus work, a bit of self-defence and concrentrated on one of our basic walks. This may of seemed a lot in an hours lesson but it all linked up to the same underlying principles of our Kung Fu system. It really is not that hard once you understand our 8 principles, which are Posture, Feet, Relaxation, The breath, Mindset, The wedge , Power and Spiralling. It really is that simple. 

The Kung Fu that we teach is a hybrid system mainly consisting of Southern Chinese styles. Matt has studied and trained in Lau Gar Kung Fu for a good duration of his martial art journey and has also had a love for Wing Chun Kung Fu. Both styles utilises close quarter fighting and low kicks which are more realistic in a street fighting scenario. Matt doesn’t like the thought of styles being restricted to a particular way and believes all have weak and strong points, all depending on what the student wants to achieve. Our Kung Fu system combines hard and soft style techniques to create a comprehensive martial art. Our aim is to develop the whole martial artist, by training the body, the mind and the spirit, In addition to physical body conditioning and the teaching of forms and applications, meditation is an integral part of the training.

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Swapping Therapy for Martial Arts

I was taking to a student the other day who has suffered from poor mental health for various reasons. What they said, took me back a little. I know the student has been having a lot of therapy from counsellors and psychologists over the last few years. The student told me that they had stopped seeing their psychologist as they are finding their training in martial arts is helping
more. I am not a doctor or qualified to tell anyone to give up any sort of therapy at all. It may be that the psychologist was just crap, I don’t know!  What I do know is that I am so passionate about how good martial arts can be for your mental health. I myself came off anti depressants around 15 years ago and had numerous hours of counselling in my time. 

Martial arts is not just about kicking and punching, well it shouldn’t be anyway, here are just a few benefits I have randomly thought of that will help with depression or anxiety. 

  • Becoming mindful and learning to be in the present moment helps you to shut off from your inner dialogue that people so often people listen to.
  • Becoming aware of your emotions and changing negative patterns.
  • Having continued goals and seeing yourself improve will raise your own self-belief.
  • Finding your voice and learning to be assertive or communicate better.
  • Mixing with a community of like-minded people and meeting friends who you wouldn’t have thought you would normally get on with. 
  • Increasing your fitness and raising serotonin levels, the happy chemicals in your brain.
  • Learning self defence will dramatically increase your own self-confidence. 

There are probably loads more than this. I have always said that martial arts is my own therapy and since I started teaching, I have lost count of how many times people have said similar things as the student above.

My biggest challenge with running a martial art school is getting new enquiries that have got in contact with me to actually show up on their initial free taster session we offer. When you are depressed or suffer from anxiety, your mind will come up with all sorts of reasons why tonight isn’t a good night to start.

If you have been thinking of starting a martial arts class, please be assured that so many people have been in your shoes and have taken the plunge to pop down to our classes. We aren’t thugs, just people working on becoming better people. We have plenty of coaches and we are happy to meet you outside if that makes things easier for you.  Since having our full time centre, I also offer time for you to come down and meet me in person while there’s no classes on. We can talk and see what class would suit you best.

Sometimes all we need is a kick up the ass (no pun intended) to make changes in our life.

* Disclaimer* At no point would I suggest to stop therapy sessions, these are my own personal options expressed. 

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Teaching children to fight young!

At 48 years of age, I am hoping that I will never need to use my martial arts for self defence ever again but I still practice just in case. In a human’s life span, the chances are that you will come under some type of confrontation whether its with a bully at school or a more life threatening situation,  the statistics are pretty high.  All it can take is a bad experience in a child’s early years to affect the self esteem and confidence for the rest of their life. Why would you leave it to chance whether your child is going to be confident and stick up to bullies. 

Sparring isn’t like a real fight, its done in protective gear and in a safe environment and can be great fun. The complete opposite to a violence encounter.  However sparring teaches children a good mindset to prepare themselves for physical encounters.  In our classes, we bring sparring into classes gradually, lets face it, not many people who join a martial arts class enjoy getting punched in the face, especially as people normally join to increase their confidence, not to get it knocked out of them!  Our students don’t need to spar until they go for green belt and above, that’s normally a year of training. Before that time, its sparring drills and learning the techniques needed.  Its a fine balance of preparation and getting people to learn about controlling their techniques before letting them hit each other. 

The photo included with this blog is my granddaughter, in her first ever sparring session.  As much as we attempt to minimise risks of students getting hit a bit hard, especially at the start of their sparring days, it can happen. I do believe that you get more injuries in other sports like football, rugby, hockey etc than in martial arts thou. As students progress and get used to the contact, we then move them onto the advanced sparring sessions. These are a bit heavier and believe me I hate seeing anyone take a hard shot, these students are paying me for their services, the last thing I want to do is scare anyone off but reality check! What do you think will happen if your child gets punched in the street and has never experienced it before?? 

I am so passionate about instilling confidence into children so they don’t live their lives running scared like I did for so many years. With all the other values and martial etiquette that we teach like respect, self-discipline, tolerance, patience, perseverance and emotional intelligence, our classes will turn out confident children who can look after themselves but with great ethics and morals.