Monday, 7 February 2011

Full Circle

Last weekend saw the first seminar of 2011 for myself and CSP, joined by my ever ready teaching partner, Mick Tully.

We were invited up to teach a group of martial artists in Sheffield, at our friend, Michael Keys, Ronin Self Protection Systems, club.

Unfortunately, as fellow martial arts instructors will be all to familiar with, my vehicle tends to take quite a pounding each week. Carrying lots of kit around from one class to another and doing considerable miles at weekends, driving from one end of the country to another teaching on seminars and workshops.
So, it was only inevitable that at some stage we’d have some car troubles on one such journey and this weekend was the one.
It resulted in me having to call out a very nice AA man, who turned up in quick time and spent the next 40, finger freezing minutes, taking my car apart and repairing the problem. The guy was a legend, and we were obviously most grateful for the help.

Mick and I got chatting to our friendly AA man and I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but we spoke abit about the history of the AA.
He told us that it was formed in 1905 when motorcars were just beginning to appear on roads around the country.
What was fascinating was that the original purpose of the AA was to have employees stood on the roadside and warn motorists who were displaying the AA emblem on their cars, of police speed traps further down the road. The motorist would slow down from 14mph to something more acceptable, and then pass by the policeman, who was probably timing their speed with a calendar and everyone was happy.

As time went on, the AA obviously branched out into other services for their ever growing client base. However, what was even more interesting (well, to me anyway as I knew it would make for a good theme for an article) was that in 2005, the AA went full circle and posted on-line a map of all speed camera locations so as to warn all of their members where speed traps were placed. Apart from the uproar this caused with the Police, it was a classic example of how you never forget your roots and how things often tend to go full circle.

“So”, I hear you ask, “What on earth has this got to do with Martial Arts”.
Well, let me tell you….

When we’d finished the martial arts, we all sat down and spoke a little about what we had covered and how it was just a small part of what we do. I explained how I was a traditional martial artist by trade and the whole “Reality Based” image I seem to have acquired is just an extract from my real passion and beliefs, which is “The Arts”.

I’m sure most people think I’m just a “Reality Based” instructor when in actual fact, I consider myself a “traditional” martial artist.
I have grown up in the traditional arts, working up through the ranks, marching up and down doing technique drills and repetition, performing the prescribed one step sparring and the dance like patterns we know as kata.
These arts are have formed me and shaped me into who I am today. They have given me my solid foundation, upon which I can build almost anything.
What I didn’t do is then move completely into the world of Reality training, all I actually did was teach and train that aspect as a small part of my syllabus.

If I only taught what works outside, my syllabus would be very short and brief and most of that would probably be taught outside of the dojo.
What I do is teach The Arts, the limited few I have experience with and to the best of my ability. From these arts I will highlight what I have found to work outside but I won’t stop at just teaching those parts.
And this is what we were doing at the seminar. Going full circle and introducing people to the arts, with a touch of what works for real and probably a bigger portion of what doesn’t or most likely won’t work as well.

You see, I see martial arts as a language. OK, brace yourself for another one of my analogies here….

When you learn a language you try to gather as much of the vocabulary as you can. Learning as many words and ways to say things as you can so that you can converse at any level, to anyone and in a manner which fits the situation. More importantly, you dive into the structure of the language, understanding the rules and principals of how words should be strung together in order to make the most sense (my article writing is not the best example of that…. Ah, such irony!).

What I may do is also learn a few swear words, for those moments where only a swear word will do. Something that requires a short sharp response that gets straight to the point and exhibits a little more assertiveness and aggression that any other statement simply could deliver.

To me, the structure of the language is the Basics in Martial Arts. The stances, the balance, the posture, the body mechanics, the art of combining techniques, forming long strings of flowing moves.

The vocabulary is the techniques, the moves we learn from different ranges, some long, some short, some which work best when coupled together, some which are fine on their own.

The swear words are the “Reality Based” techniques, the ones which are more appropriate and most effective in violent confrontation.

Swear words, on their own, would make for quite an assertive language. It’s fair to say that people would be quite sure of your intent and attitude when you spoke, however, it does limit your ability to make friends, to converse in a more rational and welcoming way and also limits you in terms of what you can actually communicate.
And even when you’re only swearing, the structure of the language is still quite pertinent in order for you to make some sense and have some effect, just as the basics in your traditional art are vital when you are delivering your “reality based” techniques.

There are no short cuts, there are no “Reality Based” fast tracks and to kid yourself that there are, or to sell to others that you have some is misleading and wrong, in my humble opinion.
To get good, effective reality based techniques, you need a solid foundation, with great basics. And if I’m going to go to the trouble of learning those basics, then I might as well pick up a few other "words" while I’m there. Get a better grasp on the whole art, where those reality based techniques have come from.
It won’t be time lost, it will be time well spent, as this knowledge will make you a far more rounded and competent player.
And finally, when I want to hone my street based fighting further, I simply need look no further than the basics. By going back and improving my foundation, my techniques, reality or otherwise, can then grow stronger and more powerful as they have the right support beneath them.

So yes, just like the AA and it’s 106 year history that has seen it do a full circle in one of the services it offers, I have done the same. I started in the arts and I continue to train and teach in the arts, it’s just that I’ve learned a few swear words along the way!

Stay Safe and Have Fun

Al Peasland
Personal Safety Expert

If you are interested in experiencing a wide range of arts, without the commitment to other clubs and associations, why not consider the CSP Masterclass for 2011.

We are teaching over 12 different arts, with specialist guest instructors helping out each month to bring you world class instruction in arts which will blend and compliment what you already do.

Equally, if you’re considering getting into martial arts, this course is a fantastic way to gain a taster in a diverse selection of styles so that you can move on in the direction you like the most.
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