Does experience matter?

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching, Martial Arts skills

Karate Instructor, GKR Basingstoke, GKR Region 38, Fort Hill, Everest, Go Kan Ryu, Go-Kan-Ryu, Shotokan, Wado, Shito, Goju, Karate in Basingstoke

Does experience matter?

From time to time that old chestnut pops up on the internet about people who are n’t Black belts teaching Martial Arts and whether this is an acceptable approach or not. The main thrust of the two arguments are:-

You don’t need to be a Black Belt to teach! 

The argument is that anyone can be a teacher of Martial Arts because its far more important that you can communicate well with people. Some systems proactively recruit junior students, in some cases with mere months of training experience to teach Karate or Taekwondo for them to an unsuspecting audience and this help them to grow their business or franchise.
Part of this argument is valid, in that in order to be a good teacher, you need to be a good communicator at many levels and in many different ways. In the past, I’ve seen people as high as 7th Dan, who technically were good at Karate, but were awful at teaching it and developing their students.

  You need to be a Black Belt to teach! 

The argument here is that in order to teach, one needs a certain level of technical knowledge and expertise, otherwise it becomes ‘monkey see – monkey do’ without any detailed technical depth of knowledge to back it up. As one progresses in Martial Arts practice, it becomes more demanding. Mentally with more things to learn, understand and develop and each year the person trains, they should develop new skills and enhance or even change existing ones. If they aren’t then they are simply doing White belt level Karate, even if they have been training for 15 years. I remember Vince Morris a well known Shotokan Karate 8th Dan asking us on a course about 28 years ago. “Have you trained for 15 years? Or have you trained for three years five times?” It took me a little while to understand the significance of his question, but after over 30 years of training, I find there is still so much more to learn.
People below black belt are unlikely to have the requisite depth of knowledge to be a competent and effective teacher, even if the syllabus that they teach is simplistic in the extreme.
 Part of this argument is correct, that you need to have a long term exposure to Martial Arts and be a senior grade before you can hope to teach it, perhaps I should caveat that and say teach it with any degree of depth or knowledge.

  What’s the reality?

In truth not only do you need to be an excellent communicator able to adapt to different learning styles, you also need to have a depth of technical knowledge and competence to back this up.
Martial Arts by virtue of what they are capable of doing can be dangerous for both the practitioner and also for their fellow practitioners if they are not taught correctly. This is due to the risk of poorly taught techniques causing severe long term chronic injuries to the practitioner or due to them injuring another student through inappropriate techniques. The other aspect to consider from a students perspective, particularly at the higher grade levels, is that in order to progress, its important to train with someone who is much better than you.
 I had a conversation with a friend of mine, who was ranked in Karate at Shodan (1st Dan) level, he told me about a conversation, he had with his instructor. He asked what more would he need to learn to achieve his Nidan (2nd Dan) and the reply was that the only difference was to learn a new Kata (A Kata is a sequence of moves, like a fighting dance.) Clearly something was amiss there, as the requirement was only to learn a new sequence of moves that he could already perform. Those clubs that encourage non black belts to teach are the ones that are typically part of a large business or a franchise model and are more interested in ££££ than developing good, competent students with a wealth of knowledge.
 So always ask what grade and experience the coach has with their Martial Arts. Don’t be fobbed of, by someone saying “my grade is Instructor.” If they say that, they are almost certainly not a Black Belt.
The other thing to consider is whether the teacher holds any recognised teaching/coaching qualification. As a minimum a good teacher must have a current First Aid qualification, hold an enhanced CRB form, have instructors insurance to teach you (don’t forget that the student should also have their own personal insurance too) and also hold a formally recognised external Martial Arts Coaching qualification. See the Martial Arts Standards Agency’s website for clear guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable for an instructor. 
 Sport England’s Clubmark
 (Sport’s Quality Kitemark) say this about coaches:-

Coaching staff have a key role in establishing an appropriate coaching environment and creating a successful playing programme. All sports have to demonstrate that coaches are trained to appropriate levels and that the activity undertaken in the club reflects best practice in the development of young people. For example. coaches are required to ensure that young people do not train excessively or in conditions that may cause injury or discomfort. The emphasis within Clubmark is that coaches are supported in their professional development, so when new ideas or updates (e.g., LTAD) become available the NGB supports its coaches to understand and implement them.

Both coaches and students need to aware and mindful of what they are doing and who they are doing it with. Good training.


Women can’t learn a Martial Art! Can they?

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts skills

Woman, self defence, lady, Karate, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Basingstoke, Judo

The Martial Arts are primarily feminine.

Many would think this a strange statement until they start to look a bit deeper.

By nature men are linked to the sun (yang) and women to the moon (yin). Women have a 28 day biorhythmic cycle and their emotions change to reflect where they are on it, their range of emotions tends to be on a far wider spectrum than men. Some say that this would make them unsuitable for martial arts, but if they can use this range of emotions in a positive way they have the ability to become better martial artists than men.

Men are on a 24hour biorhythmic cycle. It’s often said that men are like dogs and women like cats. Dogs are generally the same each day, as long as their basic needs are looked after on a daily basis, they are usually happy. Cats can be moody, one day they respond to you with love and affection, others they are aloof and on some days will hiss at you and are liable to scratch you.

Working or training with a group of men is much the same on a day to day basis the usual banter, jokes and conversation doesn’t change much, working or training with a group of women is not, the moods and conversation can be very diverse depending on the emotional level, it’s also said that when women are together on a day to day basis their ‘moon cycles’ will gradually harmonise. So women are capable of greater emotional depth and if that can be tapped in to and controlled, it will increase martial ability.

The Martial Arts require empathy, they also require the ability to yield, blend, stick, follow and subtly redirect the opponent, these are all feminine qualities. They call for a low centre of balance, which is more common in women, they require grace, fluidity and a natural ‘ease’ of movement and as women tend not rely on strength, technique comes more easily to them

Men enjoy martial arts ‘sparring’ it’s much like the sexual preening that goes on throughout the animal kingdom, where the males of the species lock horns to show females that they are the ones that they should mate with, these shows rarely result in death or permanent damage and the human male enjoys flamboyant shows and techniques that go with Dojo sparring and competition.

The female of most species is deadly. Their role is to protect the family and the young. Threaten any woman’s’ child and watch them turn into a venomous avenger! There is no time to ‘play’ – the female job is to kill and do it fast. Women are also great strategists with the ability to use guile, the weapon of choice is more likely to be poison or a pair of scissors in the back whilst you were asleep or have your back turned than it is to have a toe to toe stand up fight. Traditional martial arts techniques are more designed to suit the female purpose than the male, it’s only as the sporting aspect has come to the fore that the male way of ‘sparring’ has become more popular.

Women are also more intuitive. This comes from the 28 day cycle and their wider emotional range, it makes women function more heavily from the right brain than the left. The ability to read the subliminal body language of a prospective opponent and to read a situation more spatially is a feminine skill.

Women have a greater capacity to accept and deal with pain using emotional strategies than men and once committed, are more likely to maintain their training schedule.

There are many records of female warriors throughout history, the Rig-Veda, an ancient sacred poem of India, written between 3500 and 1800 BC recounts the story of a warrior, Queen Vishpla, who lost her leg in battle, was fitted with an iron prosthesis, and returned to battle. On the walls of Hittite fortresses dating to 1300 BC there were paintings of woman warriors carrying axes and swords.

There are also legends of the Greek Amazon women warriors who may have been based on Scythian women of the 4th and 5th Centuries BC in what is now called Iran.

In 39AD two Vietnamese women named Trung Trac and Trung Nhi led a Vietnamese uprising against the Chinese. They gained control of 65 citadels and reigned as queens until 43 AD.

Even Japan was ruled in 200AD, by a warrior priestess queen called Himoko.

One of the most famous British female warriors was Bouddicca, who was the widow of King Prasutagus of the Iceni tribe. She was regent for her two daughters who inherited half of the kingdom, while the other half was given to Rome. The Romans objected to being given only half of the kingdom and provoked a revolt in 61AD. It was said that in the ranks of her soldiers there were more women than men fighting.

Women have always been fighting alongside men at war or keeping the home and economy safe whilst the men were away and often doing it with deadly efficacy.

More and more women are attending martial arts classes nowadays because they want more than just exercise. Health and fitness play a large part of the training, but self-defence, prevention of abuse and the mental and emotional aspects also play a large part.

In my Dojo 50% of both the adult and children participants are female. This is also reflected in the senior grade classes and the females easily show as much determination and resolve as the male participants.

There are still misogynist instructors around, but they are rapidly becoming a feature of the past as women prove themselves in class and become instructors and chief instructors in their own groups.

The way was paved in karate by people like Pauline Bindra, the first karate black belt in England and now 8th Dan and Chief Instructor of her own Shotokan association. Pauline has been followed by hundreds of female karateka rapidly climbing the black belt ladder. England has had many top world class sport karateka like Tricia Duggin who has proved herself on the world scene time and time again to be a very powerful person and able to knock out most of the male karateka around!

Any good technical martial art will suit women, they can still train in those that rely on strength and size, but will have to compete in their own category and the art will not be so suitable for self-defence. Joining an all female club or class defeats the object if you want self defence and mixed classes certainly seem to spur everyone on to train harder.

The standards for men and women should be equal with women making up with skill what they may lack in size or strength.

When looking to join a new club a woman should look for other females in the club, what their grades are, what their standard is and how many are there, as I said earlier it’s not uncommon nowadays for there to be 50% split between male and females in hard working classes and in the higher grades. It’s good to have people of the same gender in the club to aspire to.

She should look to ensure that the coaches are properly qualified and that they have an equal opportunities policy in practice and not just stuck on the wall.

karate, taekwondo, basingstoke, ladies martial arts, womens martial arts, self defence

Joining a good martial arts club gives the opportunity to take advantage of the feminine qualities that a woman has. Most clubs have a good training policy for women and treat them equal to men. The training will hone the mind, emotions and body in a progressive way for the rest of her life, something that most gyms lack with mindless repetitions of whatever the latest exercise fad is.

It’s also a great holistic lifestyle, giving new friends, new opportunities for travel and many related ways of training, exercise and the fun of investigating the orient and related cultures.

We at Shin Gi Tai positively encourage equal opportunities in the Martial Arts, there are many fine examples of women training in the Martial Arts including our own Lindsey Andrews, who is currently ranked by Karate England as the British #1 for Kata. If you are interested in learning something like Karate, Taekwondo or Kickboxing. Come and see what our ladies can teach you.

This article was written be Steve Rowe


Martial Arts Standards Agency British Judo British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body The World Union of Karate Federations Shi Kon Martial Arts British Council for Chinese Martial Arts – National Governing Body

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