What, if any, is the relationship between philosophy and Martial Arts in today’s society?

Written by Sue. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

Philosophy & Martial Arts

Susan Pogmore



What, if any, is the relationship between philosophy and Martial Arts in today’s society?


Sophie and I recently attended an England Squad training session in Loughborough with Bryan and Lindsey and several other members from Shin Gi Tai. We were both incredibly nervous, not knowing what to expect. It certainly was hard work and an incredibly opportunity to watch and learn from other members of the England squad. I was fortunate to work for a short while with a lovely girl, called Maddie Moore. She was lightening fast and very good, she was also very humble and gracious.

Turned out that this young woman is something of a superstar – she won the Junior European Championships in the Female Cadet Team rotation category and the bronze medal for Female Cadet Kumite team Sanbon in 2011. In 2013 she is ranked 1st in Senior Kumite, open weight; 2nd in Senior Female Kumite U60K and 7th in Senior Female Ippon Kumite, open weight. She is seriously impressive and yet there was no hint of an ego, no arrogance about her at all. She was kind, friendly and encouraging.


An Excerpt from Modern Bushido: Living a life of excellence

By Bohdi Sanders


It’s not about getting a black belt; it’s about being one.

To so many people, getting their black belt is their ultimate goal, and once they accomplish that goal, they are done with the martial arts. Their black belt is basically no more than a trophy or a certificate of participation for them. They worked hard to get their black belt and now they are happy.

This is wrong thinking. For the martial arts to really be what they are meant to be, they have to become a part of who you are. Martial arts are not really about winning trophies and getting belts. True martial arts are a way of life. In the same way, your goal should not be to GET a black belt, but to BE a black belt.


Any fool can go online and buy a black belt for very little money. I understand, people who just want a black, don’t want to buy it, they want to earn it and that is admirable. But hopefully, their instructor will instil the love of the warrior lifestyle into them during their quest, and it will become more of a quest to BE a black belt, than to get a black belt and put it in their trophy case.

So what does it mean to be a black belt? It means different things to different people, but to me it means you have shown perseverance and dedication to the martial arts and are ready to continue your learning, along with helping others who are just starting their journey. It means greater responsibility to both your dojo and the lower belts who train at your dojo.

New students in the martial arts look up to the black belts. As a black belt you have a duty to set a good example for the novice martial artist. You are a mentor to these students and should show the honour and character that once were considered a part of being a black belt. You represent your martial art, your instructor, and you organisation. And you represent yourself. Do so with honour, character and integrity.

Once you are a black belt, people have greater expectations of you. These traits and expectations should have been taught to you during your training to become a black belt. Character training is a vital part of martial arts training, but has fallen to the wayside over the past years. Maybe it is time to bring back honour, character, and integrity back to the dojo and produce real black belts instead of just presenting trophy belts.


The relationship between philosophy and martial arts in today’s society is as varied as it has ever been. When Karate was in its infancy there was a very strong moral code of conduct. The Japanese culture, especially at that time, was full of tradition. Times have changed and even in Japan, standards have lowered. Honour and chivalry are not valued as they once were.

Once karate made the international journey, it travelled away from these traditions and was in some ways corrupted by other cultures. Karate then made the transition into a competitive sport, where for some the acquisition of trophies is the primary focus.

There are clubs all around the world that operate on a franchise basis and there is no quality or experience within the dojo, just the desire to make money.

Then there are clubs like Shin Gi Tai, where the quality and experience of the coaches is WORLD CLASS. The dedication from the coaches is second to none. The students, both young and old, learn the values of the ancient warriors. There is a strong feeling of comradery, friendship and loyalty.


I’m losing! What do I do?

Written by Zane. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

Question C:

The question is:

When someone is in the middle of a match and they are losing, what do they think and do to encourage themselves to win?

What this question tells me:

I believe that the question tells me to fight, be outstanding to impress other clubs. It tells me to trust others and not to stop. I am going to write how I feel when I am losing, the answers and ask for people’s opinions outside of karate and then link it to karate.

How I feel when I’m losing:

When I’m losing a match I feel gutted and ashamed of myself. I want to run away and give up. Then I ask myself why did I want to do this in the first place? Then I remind myself that I’m representing the club with true power and pride. Now I’ve got to this level there is no turning back. So all I can do is think positive and try my best.

My answers:

If I was in the middle of a match and I was losing I would see what techniques my opponent is using and see if I have a possibility of stopping it and hopefully add in a counter attack to gain points and maybe retrieve a comeback.

I would never think negative but have a PMA (positive mental attitude). I would be angry and imagine that they insulted me or broke my most treasured possession and I want to fight back because I should.

I also listen to what my coach is trying to tell me because I know he is the one who I could put all my trust into. They are the ones who I should listen to the most because they got me to this level and have as much faith in me as I have faith in them.

If I am being beaten I would just give it my all and just confidently and happily carry on and represent our club and show how we are dedicated to perfection by being brave and fight.

This is what I know I must be doing but in reality it is sometimes different.  In previous competitions I have found that I get angry at myself and get upset because I lost. I get upset because it makes me feel embarrassed and want to run away but there has to be one winner and one loser. Considering that the opponent was good I would learn from the way they successfully won and use the techniques that they used so I could add them in my next match or in the future. I will remind myself this in my next competition and I will remember not to get upset!

Other people’s opinion on the question:

My mum (on running):

When I start thinking of quitting early, I try my best to start thinking positive. I do not want to have the feeling of failure at the end because of stupid excuses like my legs are hurting or I’m too tired and that I can’t complete it, so I block the negatives outside of my brain.  I don’t want to let myself down, or then have to explain to my running friend why I didn’t finish! I remind myself about the good feeling of achievement at the end when I am given my time.  I know I can do it so I put in all effort to get to the end.

Michelle Maddocks (being team captain in netball):

Well as a captain I would look at where the team are weaker. First analysis would be on the opportunities at goal, are we getting plenty of opportunities, but have we weak shooters or is the ball never reaching our shooting circle. From this I would rearrange players accordingly. Then I would look at tactics, so what the opposition are doing and think of ways to interpret their play. Also look at the oppositions weak points and use them to our advantage, for example if the opposition has one shooter better than the other, then we would aim to deliberately block the stronger shooter. The team will discuss this at quarter breaks. On the field I would give more vocal direction and words to keep morale up. If we were losing by a fair amount, I would then set a new aim of getting at least half the number of goals of the opposition has got, which would mean we could gain a higher goal difference in our league. I would also say to the team, losing a game is good practise for future fixtures.


Thomas Maddocks (based around football):

Never give up and always encourage others right to the end. It is very difficult for a team or an individual to stay on top for the full duration of the game; you will get a chance. Knowing this fact not panicking and staying positive and determined is really important. You must however take advantage of your opportunities when they arise keep working hard and keep encouraging when you sense the opponent’s heads going down. I personally hate losing and that is all the encouragement I need.


The thing all these things have in common is the encouragement you must give to yourself and to give to others; either if they are winning or losing. You have to sense the smell of victory. This links to karate by supporting others and yourself. This mainly relates to the corner chair person who will give you feedback for example: hands up!!! Quick! In out really fast!! Although it is hard to listen when you are thinking about beating your opponent. So you need to keep an ear out.


Finally, to answer the question in a simple sentence:

You should encourage others and yourself to win by thinking positively, having the confidence that you can achieve it and focusing on the end result.


What can we learn from Animals being hunted?

Written by Pete. Posted in Black Belt Research Project 2013

3rd report by Peter Syckelmoore

What can we learn from studying animals hunting/being hunted?

Animals Hunting


Animals have come up with hundreds of successful efficient hunting strategies in order to catch their prey, many predators will rely on outrunning, outweighing or out-muscling their prey but there are many ways other than size or speed to get a successful catch. After all, dinner tastes just as good whether you’ve tricked it, tased it, punched it, paralysed it‚ or just spit at it hard enough to knock it over.


Here are a few examples of strange but effective hunting strategies some species have come up with


Archer fish:

To knock insects on low-hanging leaves into the water, the archer fish shoots them with a precisely aimed fountain of spit, then swims over to retrieve the new meal.


Grabs a mountain goat by the leg and pulls it off the cliff to its death

Mantis Shrimp:

Wielding the fastest punch in the animal kingdom‚ its clubbed arms reach speeds of 50 mph‚ the mantis shrimp maims its prey with only a few blows.

Tentacled Water Snake

Fish reflexively turn and swim in the opposite direction when they sense a disturbance in the water. The tentacled water snake positions itself with its tail on one side of a fish and its head on the other. When the snake flicks its tail, the fish swims straight into its mouth.

Trap-Door Spider: 

The trap-door spider hides in a tunnel behind a camouflaged door of twigs and leaves. When an unsuspecting insect walks nearby, the spider reaches out and pulls it into the tunnel to eat.

Killer Whale: 

After driving a shark towards the surface, killer whales stun it with a swift smack. Since sharks enter a state of paralysis when upside down, the whales grab the shark and flip it over, turning a deadly enemy into an easy dinner.


When an enemy is within range, the crane will slap with its wings and stomp with its feet, thereby creating openings for impeccably timed beak strikes. Its long, flexible neck enhances its attacks.


The animal coils its body for speed and power, then strikes without hesitation or fear. It’s a relentless hunter that uses every muscle to push, slide, penetrate, wrap and eventually control its prey


A ferocious meat eater with strong bones and muscles, the tiger is physically gifted for combat. It boasts thick legs, huge paws with sharp claws, and an enormous head with razor-sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Its sturdy mid-section, back and neck help it generate maximum ripping and tearing energy. It hunts with great stealth, instinctively using ninja-type tactics to hit its prey from behind. The tiger’s speed comes from relaxed muscles; the more relaxed they are, the more quickly and silently it can move. Filled with pure power, its thunderous roar induces shock and fear in its enemies.


Other examples can be viewed on you tube under Amazing animal’s moments! Best animal’s moments! The best animal fights! (Part 3) Animals vs. Animals

I especially like this video as its shows a wide variety of hunting strategies with successful and failed attempts (you can see the margin for error is very small between success and failure) many of the strategies shown are similar to one another but with different outcomes due to timing of attacks/ aim of the attack on the preys vulnerable spots, using the environment (drowning prey, knocking running prey into water, taking advantage of distractions e.g. Prey fighting each other), ambushing prey which are fleeing or passing by, getting lucky because the prey makes a mistake e.g. Trips over something, loses balance, fighting multiple opponents, using teamwork to overwhelm larger prey.

The failures we see are a female lion getting too close to the running zebra who bucks the lion in the face. Lesson for the lion, watch your distance from the opponent be aware of any possible dangers prey could inflict at any time, to avoid this incident the lion should run to the side out of line of the zebras back legs, from here it is safer for the lion as it can sweep/claw at the legs with its paws or run alongside the zebra and try get its teeth into the zebras neck bringing the hunt to a quick end.

Another example includes a young Lion getting pushed along the ground by antelope as it made the mistake of not avoiding its horns. This lion looked quite a young hunter I’m guessing it made a big mistake in its attack and its prey took full advantage to counter attack and make its escape, hopefully the lion will realise where it went wrong and not repeat its error or it will soon starve to death.

The behaviour of the antelope here is a very interesting one as it simulates a self-defence situation and shows how we as martial artists would use our skill and training, not to be a predator but to be able to fight off predator’s if the need arises making them regret there foolish attempt followed by a swift escape.

What the Prey has to do well in order to avoid becoming dinner


1) Detect presence of predator:


By sight/fresh scent/sounds/feeling vibrations

2) Avoiding Predators:

Assess situation and plan response to avoid detection, being silent seeking refuge, camouflage self, the prey try to avoid encountering the predators in the first place by avoiding known habitats occupied by predators and by being active at different times in the day to the predators. some examples include decorator crabs they can attach external objects including plant matter or stones, to their bodies to allow them to better match their background, Behavioral postures and movement can also allow animals to disguise themselves; chameleons and walking stick insects mimic the motion of plants in the wind to avoid detection, and the mimic octopus takes on the shape of dangerous or unpalatable animals to deter predators. Animals can also camouflage their scent cues. Squirrels do this by chewing up shed rattlesnake skin and spread it on their fur, thereby masking their scent and identity as potential prey”.


3) Surviving an encounter:

If the above has failed the prey has to make a decision whether to take flight, use deception by intimidating using scare tactics or fight back to deter predator from attempting to kill and eat them or most likely to create an opening to be able to escape.


4) Choose the correct response:

Prey can work out successful responses to specific predators by understanding there tactics, motives and behaviours (predators however do the same thing working out the preys tactics and behaviours so both prey and predators have a tough time outwitting the other). The prey also need to judge the potential risk to themselves and decide an action plan, the risk maybe very minimal and not even need time and energy being wasted which could be put towards finding food or mates.


The above can become useful and be put into context for humans as there are nasty people out there, being prepared to act with an effective plan of action to detect them/avoid/survive encounters could be crucial for us to avoid or minimise dangerous situations before or as they arise. The context of potential threat comes into play too as running away or avoiding every possible potential threat is no way of living and would lead to a very boring lifestyle and lead to many unfulfilment’s in life.


Predators should be cautious the hunters can turn into the hunted one wrong move could be their last


Crocodile attempts to eat an anaconda snake, the snake is killed but the crocodile dies soon after as it’s unable to escape the snake which has coiled around it. Lesson avoid dangerous situations, assess each situation before you plan a response and don’t get involved especially if the risk for danger is high or you’re not adequately prepared for the task.


The hunters start their training from a very young age through play and learn through trial and error a kitten’s, for example, mother will often (if given the opportunity) bring an injured mouse for the kittens to practice their fundamental hunting skills, letting it go and re-catching it, effective holds to immobilise prey, effective areas to claw/bite to weaken, tire, maim and eventually kill,  this often goes on for over an hour with a single mouse cruel but fundamental for the kitten to practice its skills as a hunter as it will become a lot harder to catch and kill fully fit prey so it must know what its dong, they will also watch their mother stalk and hunt, which they then copy and practice for themselves, to begin with this nearly always ends up with failure not even getting anywhere near the prey before it spots the danger and flees however with practice they improve and learn to hunt more realistically choosing types of prey within their ability to catch and kill.


All species have different strength and ability’s which make these hunting methods work for them, any hunting strategy no matter how effective will not work 100% of the time as the prey also has methods of their own to escape.
We can use this method of using any means necessary to accomplish our goals, as long as there’s no major side effects e.g. damage to our joints, leaving ourselves vulnerable, breaking the law/breaking the rules in competition etc.


There are things out of the ordinary we see at competition which give the individual the upper hand in the fight, e.g. Bryan’s scare tactics leaving the victim wanting to either defend/flee or freeze and get whacked. Marks Nevola’s throwing the Gyaku Zuki as soon as the match begins, many opponents are not ready to defend quickly enough at this time. In a pro MMA cage fight a fighter uses the cage as a wall to run across before delivering a knock out roundhouse kick to his opponent risky but practiced enough by the individual to make it consistent and effective enough to use in a competition.


Everybody has different strength’s we as martial artist have to experiment and find those strength’s and work on training and improving the techniques which work best for us, it’s also handy to have a few tricks under our belt (as above) to give us the edge in a tight situation, most of the time however it is our fundamental skills which must be correct in order to fight effectively feet/posture/mindset/ power sourcing, as without these none of our actions will work as well as they should and will give the opponent easy opportunities to turn our mistake against us.


From analyzing hunters and the hunted I have learned that animals do many of the things we strive to learn and work towards in our martial art training and that we too could get to a similar level of skill if we did martial arts every day of our life’s and our life’s depended on it as is the case for wild animals who have to either fight for every meal or fight to avoid being eaten on a daily basis, having this mental approach of a hunter I feel would motivate us to train to the best of our ability’s and helping us to train with controlled aggression  /unpredictability (being relaxed springing quickly into moves) /focus (being smart conserving energy making moves effective/using strategy choosing the right response for the situation and finally just remember be positive belief in yourself this is the first step to success.