Thursday, 17 December 2009

Don't Look Down

Have you ever climbed a high mountain?

I can’t say that I have although I would suggest that I’ve climbed quite a few proverbial mountainous ranges in my time, whether that be the tough challenge of a real fight on the cold honest pavement, or battles with some internally dark times and a few other things in between.

I can’t speak from experience when I say how tough it is to climb a real mountain but I can equate, from my own experiences, some of the analogies that I have heard fellow climbers talk of.

Have you ever been up high and to avoid the fear that the dangerous height triggers told yourself “not to look down”?

“You’ll be fine”, encouraging friends will say, “just don’t look down”.

And they would probably be right.

The problem, however, is that, when scaling your own Everest, whatever that may be, only looking up can be quite a daunting thing. When dragging yourself up each leg-aching rung of the life ladder that will lead you to your ultimate goal, the top can appear so far above you that you never seem to get any closer.

The soul destroying feeling that you are working at your maximum, tirelessly towards your dreams and never feeling as if you are making any headway can be hard to continually handle.

It can be very frustrating, and it can pull you back down like a dead weight in your rucksack, triggering all the negative emotions that make so many people stop in their tracks, turn around and head back down for base camp again.

On these occasions, this is where we need to ignore the advice "Not to look down" and take a good long hearty look below us.

Take stock of just how high up you already are.
See how far you’ve already come, how many hurdles you’ve already climbed over and just how far along the path you’ve actually trodden.

In a previous article, “It’s all about the journey”, I spoke at length about how we need to enjoy the journey and not become fixated with the end destination, and this week’s article is no different.

We can become so focused on the end target, the summit of our ambitions, that we allow ourselves to become disheartened if it seems to be taking us far longer than we had planned or hoped.

Trust me, if you were to ask those closest to me they will tell you I am the absolute worst at this, but I am working on it and that is why I am writing this article.
We need to stop every now and then and take a look back down. It can often be surprising just how much we’ve already achieved.

Things that were huge accomplishments at the time, but somehow, their difficulty and rewarding achievement has faded as time has moved on.
We’re on the run up to Christmas as I write this article and it’s always a time when we look back over the year and have a review of the things we’ve done, the places we’ve been, the good and, hopefully the not too many bad times we’ve come through.

So there’s no better time than now time to review your progress on your own ascent. Treat it as a milestone to stop and measure your successes and achievements, you may be pleasantly surprised at just how far you have come.And if your end goal still feels so far away that it seems un-reachable, then why not take a rest and enjoy where you are right now.

Unless you’re comfortable and able to cope with and enjoy the view from the height you’ve reached this far, there’s no point in racing on any higher anyway.If you can’t appreciate the level you’ve reached, why should you be given any more.

The trick here however, is not to get too comfortable with this period of respite and reflection.

If we stop for too long, admiring our handy work thus far, we may get stuck and find so much comfort that we lose all will to continue on to our original goal.

There’s lots of options here and far more than I could cover in this short article. For example..Perhaps you are now truly happy with where you are, in which case there’s no need to move on anyway.Perhaps, by continuing on, you actually aren’t happy with your lot and you really need to accept that perhaps this is as far as you will ever get anyway, so accept it and enjoy it.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we can often lose confidence in our ability to reach our goals and the best way to keep ourselves motivated and on track is to stop, take a breath and look back on how far we’ve already come.

Celebrate and enjoy the progress you’ve made, in whatever it is you desire.Enjoy those around you; enjoy the person you have become.

Then re-kindle the passion and the drive that has taken you this far and re-light it to give you that boost you need in order to press on and venture higher.
So, whatever your own Everest may be, remember to take a look back down every now and then – good luck with your climb

Thank you for reading

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Sunday, 6 December 2009



Like most of my articles, I get inspiration for the general theme from either something that has happened to me recently, or in the past. Something I’ve read about, something I’ve questioned, or even something that a friend may have mentioned in passing.

This week is no different, and it was on our weekly journey south, for another night of training, that my great friend Mick told me about a tough day’s training he’d had on the mat with another of our friends, Brian.

It reminded me of the countless times I had been in a position of vulnerability as a student with my long time instructor Geoff. Struggling to free myself from another of his elbow snapping arm-bars or closing my eyes and regulating what was left of the breath in my body as he squeezed out the last of my oxygen reserves in a classic choke hold.

Trust me, if you’ve ever been in such a position where the only option left for you is to tap and submit before everything goes dark, you’ll know how vulnerable, and totally at someone else’s mercy you are.

I’ve been fortunate and unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, to have been on the delivering end of similar chokes and strangles when working the doors of Coventry for many years and knowing that ow the life of a complete stranger lies, quite literally, in your hands, is a very sobering thought.

From many many hours on the mat, I know there is now way I would willingly put myself in the same vulnerable positions with a complete stranger off the street as I would with my training partners, students and instructors. Why? Obviously because I have complete Trust in them, as I hope that they do with me.

I posted on my facebook profile a questioning status of TRUST IS... and received many fine responses from my friends. Alot of which surrounded the martial arts, as you might expect and all eluding to the same thing
The trust we have when we are training with someone who is in a controlling and winning position. The trust we place upon them to be fair, to be respectful, to be compassionate, to be gentle and dare I say, to be loving in the lesson they provide.

My instructor Terry talks about loving as an instructor, and I think this has been another inspiration for this particular article of mine. For, as an instructor, it is the love of the arts and the love of teaching, the love of passing on the truth as I see it and the love of seeing my students progress that spurs me on to be the best instructor I can be.

But all this Love will be wasted if Trust is missing.

The trust a student places in a teacher will directly reflect how much they will learn. This is a trust that must be nurtured and cherished, for just as I put my life in my strangle holding partners hands for a brief moment in time, so a student places their entire education, learning, growth and direction in their instructors hands for a lifetime.
What a teacher says to a child can stay with that child forever, and as a martial arts instructor, what I pass on to my students in their very first lesson can shape their impression of me, the arts and it’s place in their lives forever.

For any teacher, this is a very powerful position to be in and also a fantastic opportunity to help guide and direct students towards whatever it is they wish to achieve.

It’s been said that Trust can take 20 years to build and 5 minutes to knock down, and it is this juxtaposition of great power and fragility that I see Trust as one of the most important attributes an instructor must give to all students and conversely, students to their teacher.

A trust of a student means they must always receive the truth, in the form of honest training from solid foundations. If we talk Physical Self Protection then the techniques taught must be tried and tested, they must work and must not be created simply to bolster a small syllabus.
If it is the arts that are being taught then they must also be taught correctly, with integrity and accredited to those who have invested their lives before us to develop and evolve them.
If it is personal growth then an instructor must teach with empathy, compassion and with love to build a trust that will allow the student to go forward with courage born from faith that their teacher has given them the right lessons and the right instruction.

So yes

Trust Is when you know your partner will release the moment you tap out.
Trust Is when you turn up to your first class, knowing nothing and placing your future in the hands of your instructor.

So I guess my message this week is a simple one.

Who trusts you?

George MacDonald said
“To be trusted is a greater compliment that to be loved”

What I love the most about this whole process is that it also works in reverse.

For me, personally, I would say I learn as much from my students as I do my teachers. Everyone has something to teach, and who better to learn off than my students whose trust I have built up and honoured.

TS Elliot says
“Those who trust us, educate us”

So finally I say

Who trusts you and what can they teach you?

Thank you for reading

Stay Safe, and Have Fun

Al x

Thursday, 19 November 2009

When to Get Physical?

When should we become physical in a confrontational situation?

eaching on a recent Geoff Thompson masterclass, I was explaining my own interpretation of the Fence Concepts and clarifying each stage of these principals using my own Fence Flowchart.

I explained how the Fence must be natural and invisible to those around. I then moved onto the Controlling Fence, explaining how this should be a momentary position, not something which is static and prolonged as taught by most instructors it would seem.

I then moved onto the important Decision Making stage which is where we have to decide how we’re going to deal with the situation in hand, assuming we’ve let it get that far and haven’t been able to employ an effective avoidance strategy.

I simplified the process with my chart to show how, ultimately, we only have one of two routes to take.
We can become submissive and feign weakness to our attacker, or we can flip this coin and become totally aggressive and enraged.

The submissive option, I would suggest, through many years of personal experience is highly likely to result in physical conflict, either from your pre-emptive strike or from your attacker’s onslaught.
To tell your would-be assailant that you don’t want trouble and to beg “please – I don’t want to fight” is a great way to tell your attacker that he/she has just picked the right victim.
This is great if you then intend to follow up this action with a pre-emptive strike, as your attacker will have momentarily relaxed in the thought that they now have an easy target. The result will be a more likely chance of success with your first shot.

It’s worth nothing that in all my time working the doors of Coventry, I cannot recall one incident where I have told an aggressive assailant that “I didn’t want trouble” and to “please not hurt me” only to have them respond with “Oh – ok mate – really sorry”.

So, as I state more clearly, and in more, detail in my Fence Concepts book, going Submissive is usually going to be followed by physical action and I would highly recommend that this action is yours in the form of a solid pre-emptive strike.

The alternative to this is to become massively aggressive. To explode in a rage of fury. And to balloon and posture like a rabid animal ready to lash out at anyone or anything stupid enough to get in your way.
The intention is to totally shock your assailant and make them completely believe that they have picked the wrong victim and that now they are the prey instead.
Trust me – this works!

The upshot of this action is that it can give you a far better chance of surviving this encounter without even having to resort to physical action such as fighting. By inducing this “adrenalin filled” state in your attacker, you can at the very least buy yourself a few seconds to escape, and at the best you can totally bottle-out your attacker and have them back away from you.

The reason for this article was a result of an innocent question from one of the students on the course and that was...
“How do you know which of these routes to take, Submissive or Aggressive?”

A simple question but quite a complex answer if I’m totally honest.

Firstly, I emphasise again that to have let a situation get to this point, means you’ve most likely missed warning signs earlier on that would have helped you to spot this potential encounter ahead of time and take the appropriate steps to avoid confrontation in the first place. Good awareness skills are vital and if performed well, this decision will be required far fewer times than you think.

However, we are where we are and so we must make the right decision.

In a confrontation we really have 4 options on how we can proceed.

Comply – Give the attacker everything they ask for.

Diffuse – Talk the situation down or perhaps talk your way out of the situation rationally and calmly.

Escape – Run away at the first opportunity – possibly after employing an aggressive fence.

Physical – Start hitting – possibly after employing a submissive fence, asking a question, engaging the attackers brain (what there is of it) and then knocking him out.

Which of the latter two options we take will depend on a variety of factors and logical decisions such as:-

Your legal position and what you are allowed to do in the situation that fits within the law.
Your own ability and being honestly aware of what you are capable of physically.
Your environment, who is around who can help or hinder your chances of success.
The level of threat you are facing.
What you stand to lose, who or what are you protecting.

The list could go on, and in another article I will elaborate more on how we can deal with a lot of these issues ahead of time so that we have less decisions to make should the time arise and more clarity of thought when we need it most.

These are all logical questions and decisions that all have a bearing on how you should act and the route you should take when choosing Submissive or Aggressive.

One thing which often gets missed however is this...

When we talk about being pre-emptive, we mean being first with our physical punch. Hitting first in order to defend ourselves as efficiently as possible.
The danger is, that if I stand in front of someone who is about to attack me and I decide to hit first for any reason other than it being my absolute last resort, then I am in danger of becoming the bully that I am trying to protect myself from.

To choose to hit first before employing every other option is to make the assumption that the person in front of you is less skilled than you and going to be vulnerable to your punch.

If, for example, I was to stand in front of a group of attackers, knowing full well that I don’t stand a chance if the fight kicks off, you can rest assured I’m going to try every tactic under the sun to avoid physical confrontation with this crowd. Using an Aggressive Fence could afford me the option to defeat or escape this crowd without having to go physical.

I would only become physical as an absolute last resort. If I thought that no other course of action was going to have the desired effect.

It is with this same mentality that I would argue you should approach a lone attacker.
To hit first before you have exhausted the other options, or before you have reconciled that none of those options are going to work, is to become the bully.

To clarify. If I believed that becoming aggressive and posturing and ballooning against a single attacker would actually work, but I choose not to use this strategy and instead start punching, then I am the bully.

Don’t get me wrong, I am totally in favour and in fact, a massive advocate of hitting first. To employ anything less in your physical strategy is to open the door for personal attack and possible defeat.
However, what I am also saying is that this strategy must still be your last resort.

So in a nutshell, your decision to choose either a Submissive or Aggressive Fence should be governed by a whole host of logical factors. It should also be a gut instinct and an intuitive decision based on the situation as it happens.

And remember, not only are you answerable to the law, you also have to answer to yourself.

Stay Safe & Have Fun
Al x

Thursday, 5 November 2009


When I started my martial arts journey in Shotokan Karate, at the age of 12, one of the things I remember being a large part of my training was Balance.
I remember the repetition of front leg kicks whilst standing perfectly still and poised on one leg.
Slowly raising alternate legs until my knee was above waist height and then, with as much control as possible, extending my kicking leg out in front and pushing my hips forward for more reach and powerFinally, holding my leg fully extended for what seemed like a thigh burning eternity, and then retracting at the same steady speed and finally coming to rest, both feet together.
This simple and basic, static drill, developed many attributes. It broke the kicking technique down to it’s constituent parts so that I could hone each stage of the kicking process and then smoothly blend those stages back together once perfected.It increased my strength and muscular control, and aided my flexibility so that I could perform all of those high flashy kicks I so desperately wanted to be able to show off.
What it also taught was Balance. The ability to simply stand, stationary, without bouncing or shuffling around whilst I raised, kicked and lowered my other leg.It taught me how to focus and maintain good posture during this balancing act, which is paramount if you than want to take this technique into other aspects of the art.
We repeated this drill many times and worked it with the primary range of kicks the art contained. Front snap kicks, side thrust kicks, reverse thrust kicks, and front roundhouse kicks.
With each technique, balance became the primary goal; to be able to stand there completely still and in perfect balance whilst delivering and demonstrating each kick.
However, Balance has a much bigger part to play in Martial Arts and in life, than simply being able to physically balance yourself on one leg.
At the next stage we can look at how well we balance our training, with a well proportioned mix of heavy sparring, pressure testing, soft training, fitness training, technique and art training, solitary training, partner training, the list goes on.
In addition, we can also strive to achieve a balance with our training that incorporates research, reading, watching instructional DVDs, training with different instructors, seminar and class training.
From this we can start to cross train and get a balance with various sports and activities that all come together to supplement our ultimate goal. Mixing activities such as weight training, or gymnastic training with our martial arts, all geared towards improving our overall game.
And yet, the application for balance goes even further than this.
A book I read recently talks about having a Life Balance. In it, the author explained how we should all have a balance in our lives of Work, Rest, Play, Family/Relationships and Charity.
We should put back into society what we take out and at the same time have a balance of personal time and time for friends and family and relationships.
How you balance that is a personal journey.
Some people may be able to combine some of these so that perhaps your work is actually your personal fun/hobby time. Perhaps you work is also your charity and your route for tithing and giving something back.
Getting a good life balance is crucial if you want to be both successful but also be healthy and leading a full life.
A life that affords you the successes you desire without being detrimental to you or anyone else .
It’s interesting how this requirement for balance also then applies into our Personal Security strategies.
On the Women’s Self Defence days that I hold around the country, I talk a lot about awareness and assessment. The main emphasis however, is not just being aware of the bad things. When I show someone how to become more switched on, I teach them how to look for good as well as bad, safe as well as dangerous and places to move towards as well as places to avoid.It’s very important to keep a balanced approach to your personal security.
When I’m walking around I’m making note of people who might be a threat and also people who may be able to help me. I look for places that I should avoid, such as dark alleyways and lonely footpaths, and places that I could run to, such as busy shops.
By keeping this balanced outlook, not only do I afford myself a complete and comprehensive personal security strategy, I also stop seeing the world as completely negative. I find that I can spot far more positive, good things in my awareness drills than I do bad.
This balanced approach also then means that my level of security is more balanced and more appropriate for whatever situation I am in. The result is I am less likely to be paranoid, locking myself away in order to keep myself safe, but also less likely to be caught off-guard and unaware. I can lead a more fulfilling life with a more balanced outlook and approach.

Switched Off!!! A Little Too Overcautious???

So, from a basic martial arts drill that saw me standing steadily on one foot, I have been able to take that concept and apply it at many levels. A quite simple notion of balance can have massive effect on my martial arts training, my personal security and in fact, my whole life.
A final thought.

"When you are balanced, you are more difficult to knock over. This applies to attacks from your training partner and the kicks and punches that life can throw at you."
Al Peasland
So - Get In Balance!

Stay Safe and Have Fun
Al x

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Giving Generously

Tithing, as my mentor Geoff Thompson would explain, is the ancient belief that if you give without thought of personal gain, you will actually receive back ten-fold.

Giving not to receive, but knowing you will actually receive anyway.

This is a great notion and one that I am striving hard to achieve more and more. However, what I feel is even more important, is not just the act of giving, but what we actually give.
What I mean by this is that in order to give generously; for it to be true tithing, we need to gift things that we value and not things which are easy of us to replace or which we have an ample supply of.

For example, it’s easy for the wealthy celebrity to “do a lot of work for charity”, when they still have their private jet to fly home in. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m wise enough to appreciate that celebrities can offer charities far more with their public position and fame than they can in monetary terms, and this article is in no way aimed at having a dig at those people, far from it.

What I do mean though, is that giving something that you have worked hard to earn for yourself, or giving something which you have precious little of yourself, is a far bigger and more wonderful tithing.

Someone who I consider a close friend of mine recently reached onto their bookshelf to offer me a title that they thought I would find of use and assistance. I happily accepted their kind offer without first seeing the book in question. However, once the book was placed in my hand, I realised it was very old, very well read, and most likely, very difficult to replace.

My immediate reaction was to suggest I hand it back once I had read it, to which my friend replied and said,
“No, I want you to have it”

Now, perhaps, I thought, this book wasn’t that good after all, and that is why my friend was happy to see it go from his book collection.Of course, I was wrong. It was a fantastic read and one that I will continue to use for inspiration and assistance in my future articles and books.A truly generous gift.

And it was this gift which reminded me of another story that I’d like to share.

Forgive me for not re-reading the book in order to quote the story accurately, but it was a story from Anthony Kiedis’ life story, entitled Scar Tissue. Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, recalls a story when he was young and rummaging through the wardrobe of a celebrity friend.
He stumbled across a fantastic leather jacket and told the celebrity how great it was. His friend replied,
“Yes, it’s my favourite jacket... you can have it”.
Anthony being polite said,
“No, I can’t. I couldn’t accept your favourite jacket”
To which his friend replied,
“That is why I want you to have it. Why would I give you something which I don’t like myself”

And this is my point exactly.

True tithing is the giving of what we feel is precious to us. Something we have limited resource from, possibly something we cannot replace ever again.

The best example of that is our time.
We can get back pretty much everything else that we lose, except for time. Once it’s gone it’s gone and so to offer our time to others is the most generous of gifts. This has to be closely followed by things that we’ve worked extremely hard to earn and make our own, perhaps our knowledge and our skills.

And here we have it, the generous gift of teaching.

As a martial arts instructor, it’s my job to pass on everything I have spent the vast majority of my life learning and discovering. Often with hardships and pain along the way. True tithing is to gift my students with all that I know, the best that I know and not hold anything back. Giving them my time and my attention along the way.

We all tithe, all of the time, often without realising it, so we must make sure we do it generously. Selflessly not selfishly. From the monetary donations we make, to the time we spend with others, even down to the words we use. Because, just like any gift, the words you give to others are very difficult to take back, so choose them wisely and make them generous.

And remember...

"We make a living through what we get, but we make a life through what we give"
Winston Churchill

"Think of giving, not as a duty, but as a privilege"
John D Rockefeller Jr

Stay Safe and have fun

Al x

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Putting Paper in the Plotter

For those who know me, you’ll know I spend some of my time each week working for a formula one racing team.

My role is to manage all things relating to the CAD (Computer Aided Design) software that the engineers use to design and develop the racing car.

As an ex-design engineer myself, having worked on projects such as the Eurofighter wheels and brakes, or the Porsche Cayenne’s Four Wheel Drive gearbox, I have a good appreciation for what the designers do on a day to day basis, and dare I say, am quite well qualified to do their job myself.

My job role is quite varied and can range from presenting new process ideas to senior management, managing software upgrades which could potentially see the whole engineering effort grinding to a halt if done badly, down to fetching rolls of paper from the stores.

Who said Formula One was all fast cars and celebrities?

It was during one of my more menial tasks of re-loading paper into the large plotter that I stopped and had a moment of self pity.

“What on earth”, I asked myself, “has my life come to?”

A 1st class honours degree, and a fully chartered engineer, now stood forcing paper into a plotter that has decided it’s going to spit it straight back out at me with every attempt I make.
“Where did I go so wrong?”
“Is this what my life has come to?”

You know, all those massive, self pitying questions we ask ourselves when we have a moment of weakness.

I then recalled something that I heard on a talk by Nick Vujicic. This is a gentleman who was born with no arms or legs and now travels the world as a motivational speaker. Truly inspiring.
He said on one of his talks how, as a young boy growing up, he prayed and prayed for a miracle. He prayed that his miracle would be to somehow get arms and legs and if not that, then at least meet someone else who could tell him it was going to be ok. Someone who was in the same situation as him, who knew how he felt and could show him the way. This miracle never came.

Then, many years later, he met a girl with a similar condition, who had obviously made similar prayers for miracles. He realised that his purpose was to be someone-else’s miracle. He could be the person to show this girl the way.

Now, I have digressed ever-so slightly, as I often do, but my depressing task of putting paper into a plotter, thinking “is this what my life has come down to”, suddenly became more purposeful.

No, I have not lost the plot. (pardon the pun). I’m not writing this thinking I am suddenly the miracle that all of the designers have been waiting for. But what is important to remember is that, without me fulfilling this small task, the Engineer’s designs and ideas would not actually make it onto paper. The result would be that they couldn’t approve these designs and consequently, the company wouldn’t be able to purchase or manufacture the parts.
In addition, the quality departments would then have no parts to inspect and even if they did, would have no drawings to measure and check the parts against.
The result would be no racing car built this week and two empty spaces on the grid at the next race.

A little dramatic perhaps, as it doesn’t quite work as simply as this in these 3D – digital days, but you get my point.

My small job was to help serve others. This little task allowed others to continue to perform far more important tasks that ultimately had massive impact and effects on the company and team.

Sometimes we have to look a little wider than what we are doing to see how it can affect and help others. That makes the actual task at hand a little more worthwhile and gives us more purpose.

We may want to achieve great things, but we may also be able to do that by helping others to achieve great things.

This is why I teach.

Stay Safe & Have Fun

Al x

Thursday, 17 September 2009


I’m writing this article after a relaxing break with my gorgeous Lou in her favourite part of the world, Spain.The week-long break was a last minute thing that began with a conversation about us both needing some time out to recharge our batteries. The conversation including topics such as, “Can we spare the time”, “Can we afford the break”, “Shouldn’t we save our money and stay at home”, the usual stuff we all do when considering a last minute holiday.The conversation ended with “Let’s Just Do It!”So we did. To coin a phrase, we booked it, packed it and ******* off. (one for all you Peter Kay fans out there).

Once we’d made the decision to Just Do It, we were committed and there was no turning back as far as we were concerned.

Now I know, a short break to a hot climate is not exactly a challenge or a great demonstration of “Just Do It”, but it was the catalyst that inspired me to write this week’s article.
The moment you switch into the Just Do It attitude and mindset, nothing gets in your way and what’s more, the results come back to you thick and fast. Far quicker than skirting around whatever issue it is and pondering, musing on all of the what-if’s and allowing all those fears and negative stories to kick in.

There is also no substitute for Just Doing It. Whilst we may kid ourselves that doing something less scary or less difficult may help us in our overall direction towards our goals, there is no better way to get the results you are looking for than just doing that very thing you wish to excel at.
I’ve read with great interest some emails I’ve received recently from lovely people who have emailed asking to train with me. They ask what I teach and how tough the sessions are, and then usually finish with a familiar statement of “When I get myself fit I’ll come down and train”, or something to that extent.

I am as guilty as most, if not more, of being afraid of training with certain people because my levels of fitness or skill will be no match for them or their class. Offering to go away and get my fitness better before I enter their class. In reality, this is usually just another way of saying, I’m nervous and fearful so will give myself more time to pluck up the courage. After all, in my experience, the best way to get fit for something is to Just Do It.

We can use supplementary training and cross training to help with conditioning and physical preparation but if you want to be a great wrestler, you won’t get good in the weights gym, you’ll get good being on the mat – Doing It!

I’ll give you another example:

Whilst sat on the beach, looking out to the awe inspiring vastness of the beautifully calm and flat sea that stretched for as far as I could see, I turned and said to Lou,“I wonder how far we can actually see today?”
Looking out at the horizon and swearing I could see the curve of the Earth in the distance I was just curious as to how far away that horizon actually was.

Now, being an Engineer, I put my analytical mathematical brain into gear and started to work out the trigonometry of where the horizon actually was. I knew the rough diameter of the Planet Earth (I know – I’m that sad!). From that I could figure out how high off the ground we were, stretching a line out tangentially to the radius of the Earth I should be able to calculate how long that line would have to be in order to meet the tangency of the Earth off in the distance.
I explained this to Lou and whilst I’m sure her frowned stare back at me was one of total amazement at my level of mathematical genius, she then replied.
“Why don’t you just get someone to sail out and you can radio to them the moment they go out of sight. They’ll know where they are and you will know exactly how far you can see!”

In other words – Just Do It, don’t theorise and don’t bother pondering and calculating and assuming, just get out there and do it.The beauty is in the simplicity and after all, it is only three little words.

In my other life within the Formula One industry, we spend vast amounts of time and money using the absolute latest and most sophisticated virtual systems for analysing designs and testing their performance before they are even manufactured. And yet, after all that effort there is still no substitute for putting the car together, getting it on the track and actually testing the real thing.

I intend to fill my life from this point forward with a lot more, Just Do Its.
As my mentor said to me a long time ago; We sit on the driveway of life watching the world go by, afraid to pull out into the traffic. So, I say to you, it’s time to get moving, get off the driveway – and Start Doing!
As always, thank you for reading and until next timeStay Safe and Have Lots of Fun!

Al x

Thursday, 20 August 2009


This week and last I have been experiencing change.

No, I’ve not been having hot flushes or moments of dizziness. Well, maybe one or two.

I have in fact taken notice of how many things have changed throughout the past couple of weeks. Some of these are changes imposed upon me, seemingly out of my control, and some are changes I have actively sought.
What has been most interesting is that, only once I had let go of what I currently knew to be right, and what felt comfortable and safe, did I really start to experience the benefits of the change.
I’ll start with a Martial Arts example.

If you were to ask me what I am as a Martial Artist, I would most likely answer, “A Karateka”.Whilst I’ve not donned my Karate Gi for many years, I still consider myself a student of the art of Shotokan Karate and if you were to take a look at my fighting style, I’m sure that would still be evident.The long deep stances may have shortened a little, and the traditional low guard ready for long reaching reverse straight punches may have morphed slightly to more of a pugilist form, but the signs will still be there.

No more so than in my Roundhouse, (Mawashi Geri), kicks.
Having spent 20 plus years developing and evolving the intricate body mechanics of this particular kick and countless thousands of repetitions on the heavy bag and with sparring partners, I’ve been quite content and comfortable with my kicking ability.

However, it is this comfort that I have used as my indicator that this is a time for change.

So, the past few weeks has seen me focusing with more intent on changing my body mechanics and trying to modify, not undo, all those years of muscle memory, in order to take on the Muay Thai shape.A big thank you, at this point, goes out to those who have spent a lot of time with me recently, sharing bruised legs along the way, to patiently help guide me on this journey of change.

Now I could take this article down the path of the benefits and the lessons I’ve learned about this particular new technique and the philosophies behind it; such as, throwing the kick with almost a carefree attitude; being nonchalant in the delivery to a point of almost casual relaxedness; trying less in order to achieve more. The lessons were plenty.

But I’m focusing on the act of Change this week and so I will continue with this theme.What I noticed was that I only started to see improvements in this new technique when I let go of the old, familiar, comfortable, muscle memory that I had become so fond of.
This ability to let go of the past in order to take the most from the present is vital if we are to be able to manage and enjoy the act of Change.
In my other life, I have also had a very busy week of change, but this time, it’s a change that those around me have had to endure or enjoy, depending on whom you speak to.I have been tasked with supporting a large group of individuals as they return to work from a short break to be presented with a whole host of new computer software and applications to cope with.
This has been a fascinating demonstration of the power of change, and how its strength can either help or hinder depending on your own attitude towards it.
Those who welcomed the new software, who accepted it had changed, quickly set about learning it with a patience and tolerance that allowed them to grow. It’s not been easy for them, but it’s a fact that often things have to get worse before they can get better.
For example, try fitting a new kitchen without first ripping out the old one and turning your adequately functioning kitchen into an empty, dusty room. You get my point.Those, on the other hand, who refused to accept the new software, spent most of their time procrastinating at how poor it was and how they wanted the old software back. For a time they were effectively living in the past, reminiscing on how good the old times were which served no purpose other than to delay their progress with the now!

These past couple of weeks have reminded me of a great book I read many years ago, and one which I highly recommend you seek out.

Who Moved My Cheese?

This is a story of 4 mice that find cheese, and day after day take the same route from their home to this vast store of nourishment; until one day when the cheese runs out. Now, without their comfortable, familiar and reliable store of food, two of the mice immediately set out in search for more. Not knowing if they will find any but certainly not waiting around to ponder on where their first supply had gone.A brave and courageous decision, but their ready acceptance to this change in circumstance meant they were able to start their search still fit and energised from their last full cheese meal.
The other mice continued to take the same journey each day, in the vane hope that one day their cheese may return.Obviously, the cheese doesn’t return, and all they had done was delay their chances of finding new food, leaving them hungry and weak in the process.

I won’t spoil the rest of the read for you but suffice to say..

We all like comfort, reliability, and consistency. These things are great as they help us to plan and become efficient at what we do. For example, how many of us take the same route to work every day, even when it becomes tedious and boring. We continue on because we become familiar with the average time it will take, and can plan our day around it more efficiently.Repetition is also the key to success, so there is a lot to be said for having constants in your life and continuing to work and develop on the same thing.

However, we also need to have one foot on the starting block of change. Always being ready to adapt and move on to new things, new ideas, new software and new kicking techniques.
It’s said, you cannot steal second base without letting go of first and this is no more evident than when experiencing change.Only when we let go of what feels comfortable can we start to experience the benefits of the new. Yes this takes courage, but no one said it is easy.

And as Dr Spencer Johnson says in his book,

“The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese”

Author Philip Crosby said

"If anything is certain, it is that change is certain. The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow."

“Change should be a friend. It should happen by plan, not by accident.”

So be prepared to change, whether it is imposed upon you or better still, act first and make the change.

Until next time

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

'AS IF' Attitude

I have entitled this weeks article “AS IF” Attitude, but it could equally have been branded Intention or Commitment.
As always, inspiration for my articles comes from many sources and it’s always nice to see that various areas of my life often serve up the same menu of messages and directions. It gives me reassurance that I am on the right path or at least have a balance in my life that means I am surrounded by the right influences.
It’s said that..

“Good men usually have around them people who expect them to be better than they have any intention of being.”

..and I fully believe that this should always be our aim; to have great influence in our lives in whichever direction we turn. Do You?
Anyway, I digress, so back to the plot.

In NLP, we use the phrase “AS IF” quite a lot when we want to change the way we feel about certain events or occasions, for example.
If I have an event, or an occasion that I am particularly nervous about, I will apply an As If Attitude to this via deep concentration, or relaxed meditation.I will muse over the forthcoming event and then take myself past it to imagine myself As If it had already passed with a successful outcome.

If you feel you are not good enough, skilled enough, or experienced enough to accomplish a task, imagine yourself As If you have all the skills you need. Chances are you probably already do anyway. Imagine how your life would change if the outcome was a success. Shape your thoughts As If the event had now passed and everything went according to plan. How would you then feel?

In reality, we all do everything with an As If attitude it’s just that often it’s not quite the right one. We can enter into things As If we are going to be victorious, As If we are not going to succeed, or As If we couldn’t really care less, and many other attitudes in between.
So really, this article is about having a positive As If attitude rather than any random As If mindset.
Using the As If attitude will change the way you approach something and also change the way you feel about something.

On the Self Defence Forum this week, one of the members had posted a link to an article which suggested, through “extensive” research and trials, that positive thinking may not have a positive bearing on the outcome of an event. In fact, it went further to suggest that it could lead to negative results as the positive suggestions spoken internally by the test participants didn’t lead to a better result and so they became despondent.I’m sure the test results did give this feedback, but what I would suggest is that it’s not simply a matter of repeating positive phrases to yourself, you also need the right intention and the right mindset. Words will do nothing without intent and commitment behind them. So saying “I will succeed” must be coupled with faith that “I will succeed” and then an attitude As If I know I’m going to succeed, and knowing already what I expect to feel like when I Do Succeed.

This may all seem like positive claptrap but I use my final source of inspiration this week to highlight exactly what I mean.

During training this week with my instructor Terry Barnett, we started with some pad work, drilling some basic trapping techniques.
I won’t go into the intricacies of the drill here, except to illustrate my point.
Our first round was to simply trap and counter with a back-fist onto the focus mit.
Once we had this smoothly and efficiently with good body mechanics, and importantly, commitment in our back-fist strike we then expanded the drill slightly.
This next round the pad holder blocked our back-fist, cutting off its path to the pad, such that we then had to clear the obstruction and continue with a second attack to the pad.Again, we drilled this for some time.
This is where the drill became interesting because, what we noticed was how our initial back-fist attack changed once we knew it would be blocked. Our body mechanics, our positioning, our forward motion, or lack thereof, all changed as we began to pre-empt the block and better set ourselves up for the clearance and second attack.
This lack of commitment was exposed when the drill changed so that the pad holder was allowed to choose at random whether he would block the initial back-fist or allow it a clear path through to the pad.

We immediately noticed how, when we anticipated the block, if it never actually came, our back-fist was poorly executed and often didn’t reach the intended target.

The purpose of the drill was to throw each technique As If it was going to hit the pad; As If it wasn’t going to be blocked, which is how it would be thrown in reality.Once, or if the attack was blocked or covered, then we had to react to the new situation, clear the obstruction and continue with our forward motion and attacks.

There are lots of analogies in this simple drill and I have picked only one which is the As If attitude, but some others could be..

- To make every action a deliberate one.
- To not expect or anticipate failure.
- To be flexible enough to change our course of action when a block or hurdle is thrown in our way.
- To accept sometimes our first course of action won’t achieve its intended goal but to carry on anyway with a revised plan.
- To not try to continue forcing something through that simply cannot work, particularly when the situation has changed such that our original plan is no longer valid.
- To not be disheartened when our actions aren’t successful.
- To be sensitive to change, only so that we can identify it quickly and adapt and modify just as speedily, rather than be sensitive where we are unwelcoming and uncomfortable at the first signs of change.

The list could go on but I need to get back to my original plan.
We proceeded with every action As If it was going to achieve its desired result.So our initial back-fist had to be thrown As If it was going to be successful, and only when/if it’s path was blocked would we then adapt, clear the block and continue to attack.
When I translate this to my own area of Martial Arts, the Self Protection and dare I say, “Reality Based” arena, this As If attitude is probably one of the key mentalities that will make the difference between win or lose.

For example, should the need arise and I have to throw a pre-emptive strike, every single shot I throw will be with the commitment As If this one will be the knock out shot. I have to have massive intention and massive commitment with both the technique and my attitude; otherwise it most certainly will not achieve the desired result.

I throw my punch As If my life depends on it, and it probably most certainly will do.

The paradox with this however, is that I also keep an attitude As If even this first shot is still not enough. I must maintain a posture and a self control after my first shot As If the guy is still going to be conscious and upright and still posing a threat. Without this mindset and self control, I will over commit with my first technique and could end up in a vulnerable position after my failed first shot.

It’s a very difficult balance to get, to fully commit a technique with 100% intention that it will work, but also have a backup plan, just in case it doesn’t.

When we look at the specific mechanics of a good pre-emptive strike, we should always be throwing our shots, As If the pad or target was a little further away than it actually is. This means we will be punching through the target rather punching onto it.

Look at the best 100 metre sprinters and you will see they run the race As If it’s actually 110 metres. They sprint through the line not up to it.
And I would argue that anything you wish to achieve, anything you wish to accomplish you should apply the same commitment and intention and the same As If attitude.

Try treating or imagining your boring 8 hour day at the job you hate As If it’s going to be 9 hours. You’ll be pleased when you finish work earlier.

A silly example perhaps, but it brings me back to the As If mindset and the tools we use in NLP to achieve successful outcomes.
Visualisation techniques use the same principal.

"Before you create something for real, you must first create it in your mind and this is where visualisation comes in."

But successful visualisation relies totally on having the As If attitude, in order to see things As If they are already there and outcomes As If they have resulted in what you desired.
How many times have you experienced yourself or witnessed others who have had a negative, self doubting mindset before they begin a task, only to see themselves fail. Some would say this is a self fulfilling prophecy, and they would be right.After all..

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right.”

But what really makes the difference is when you apply the As If attitude. Enter any task As If you are already capable and already experienced enough. Have the mental approach As If you ARE going to be successful, and the results will follow suit.

So when I throw the back-fist at the pad, I do it As If nothing is going to get in its way and I do it As If the target is further away than it actually is. My action will then have total commitment with total intent.

And if I take this As If attitude and apply it wherever I need conviction in my actions I will, without doubt, increase my chances of success.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al x