Connect your feet to your hands

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching, Martial Arts skills

On the wall in our martial arts centre in Basingstoke facing the students when they train is a list of 8 words, these 8 words represent the 8 principles that we need to fully understand to make our Martial Arts work.

The first of these words is ‘Feet’.  Our feet is our contact to the ground that we stand on and the pressure of our feet to the floor is what gives us the power and energy to stand upright and move around.  Most people usually do this mindlessly not realising that the skill as a Martial Artist starts at this point.  Each part of the foot can engage a myofascial chain up the leg, which in turn engages the body core to power the torso and arms through to the hands.

To engage the feet properly we must first stop balancing the body on the skeleton and suspend most of the body weight into the ‘body suit’ of myofascia. To do this we have to soften and connect the body core from the head down to the feet and enhance this by disengaging the joints upwards. As we then gently spiral in the feet we can feel the myofascial chains connecting upwards.

The balls of the feet engage up through the front of the thighs, the outer edges the sides of the legs, the heels the backs of the legs and the insides of the feet up the insides of the legs. All of these connect into the large muscles of the deep waist and around the spine Which can be manipulated in a highly complex and variable manner to add power up into the chest, upper back and shoulders and out through the arms to the hands.

On contact with the opponent the hands work in exactly the same manner back down to the feet.  The thumb side of the hands connect through the chest, the little finger side through the back, the heel of the hand through the underside and the upper or ‘ball’ of the hand through the forearm, the disengaging and opening of the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints and spiralling motion out through the hands whether balled or open, connects to the spiralling in the feet through the body core and legs.

The arches of the feet will pump energy as you soften, loosen and pulse from the feet, the spiralling action of the feet will bow the legs, opening the hip joints, lengthening and opening the spine, sending energy to the joining of the bowing of the lower and upper back and neck to enhance this flow out through the bowing of the chest, back and arms to the cupping in the palms of the hands.

In this way we are connecting, rooting, stabilising and empowering the entire body from extremity to extremity.  The harmony and manipulation of upper and lower body feed each other to multiply power and animation.



Have you reached a plateau in your Martial Arts training?

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching, Martial Arts skills

plateuxLearning any Martial Art in Basingstoke, it doesn’t matter whether it’s hard martial art like Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu or Judo, is difficult. Many people even say that learning a soft Martial Art such as  Tai Chi, Aikido, Pa-Kua or Hsing is even harder.

There is a typical scenario that happens with practitioners. When they start practicing, they know nothing, so progress can be made rapidly and new things are learnt almost constantly. The beginner tends to feel energised and is generally pleased with their progress.

As they consolidate these skills and hone, things become flatter in terms of the feeling of success and accomplishments. Many students become unhappy or disillusioned with their seeming lack of progress and quit their training. For those that stick through this phase the rewards when they come out of the plateau are great. It’s often like a light switch has been turned on and that persons skills  have been multiplied.

By the time a student gets closer to their coveted Black Belt, their Instructor is by now, pushing them much harder, both physically to perform their techniques and mentally to demonstrate their understanding of the art. Their skills are much greater, speed and power are really starting to come together and their understanding of the art is much greater.  However it’s generally one of the most dangerous phases, because many people lose heart and the will to persevere and give up, when their goal is so close.

All of us who have reached their Black Belt have experienced these plateau in our own training and if we are honest, we still experience them as Black Belts. Personally speaking I’ve had times when I’ve felt like I’ve regressed in terms of skill and ability. When I was a 2nd Dan, I went through 12 months of everyone in the Dojo from Yellow Belt upto Black Belts being faster than me, stronger, more skilful and basically able to beat me every time I fought them, and beat me convincingly. One day at training it all fell into place and the  old me was back. Actually that wasn’t quite true, it was the new highly improved me and I could do it again, only better than before. I reflected long and hard about that experience and my conclusion was that my belief in training had handsomely paid off and the will not to give up had proven itself invaluable.

So next time you go through that feeling that you aren’t getting anywhere. Dig deep and keep training and learn from the experience to make yourself a better Martial Artist.

On the other hand when the going starts to get tougher, you could always just give in to that little voice and give it all up. Just remember though that little voice will years later say “If only I’d………………………..”

You can be a Black Belt or lazy. You can’t be both.


Sensei, can I ask a question?

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching, Martial Arts skills

Asking questions in Karate, GKR question Sensei, Wado, Kung Fu, Shotokan, Goju“Any questions?”

A sea of blank faces look back.

“Did you understand the principles taught?”

Did I almost see a nod from one person?

The Martial Arts is a funny old game.  We are told that it is traditionally taught by blind acceptance/faith.  The Instructor stands out the front of the class and barks orders occasionally moving an arm or leg of the student and if anyone DARES to ask a question he is immediately used as the demonstration model as to how the technique works and is left in no doubt as to what the consequences of asking questions in the future are.

But I love questions.  My whole life has been one string of questions; I discovered that finding the right question is so important because that’s the only way to get the right answer.  Your Instructor can only know what your understanding of a principle is by the questions you ask and the answers you give to his questions.

Now, I appreciate that some academic questioners are a pain in the backside and some ask questions because they are lazy and don’t want to do the physical training and some people are naturally argumentative but questioning is a skill and needs to be taught like any other.  We have to encourage students to seek out and ask the right kind of questions….

So when I ask “any questions” I’m dying for a bit of feedback!  I’m not looking for praise, which is often assumed by students, but a genuine desire to know how much of my teaching has gone in.  It also helps me to structure my future teaching and is an aid to work out how to frame it.

It’s a two way street.  As a student you require properly structured feedback on your progress.  In my club we do this in writing to each student every month and verbally every lesson.  The Instructors make sure that they get around to every student every session and give them some “personal” assessment and instruction, if the student is a child we try to talk to the parents on a regular basis as well as the child and support that with the written assessments.

We then need to encourage proper questioning from the student and  (quite often) teach them how to do it!  It amazes me how “dull” the minds are of much of the youth today.  I recently gave a lecture on Buddhism to a group of 6th formers as part of their religious education and expected a lively discussion on the subject – I even deliberately made it a bit controversial to get the discussion going….  At their age I would have had a million questions but……  nothing.  I was amazed!  The feedback I got from the teachers later confirmed that they had enjoyed the session but seemed to be unable to phrase their questions!

I received much of my best teaching by having private lessons because it gave me the chance to ask questions without holding up the progress of other students.  Much of the information that I was taught had never been taught before because the no one had ever asked the question! 

It had never occurred to my oriental teachers that we would either want or need that kind of teaching, yet it was vital to my progress!  Often it would involve my Japanese Instructor drawing the Kanji for a principle and explaining the pictogram and its parts to help me to understand the cultural background to the idea.

There is another aspect to questioning that is important, we don’t just teach a student and then they know it.  It’s more like they “give birth” to the understanding.  The instructor acts as kind of “midwife” by encouraging the idea and understanding to take place.  To produce this a positive interaction of 2 way questioning and feedback is essential.  If you’ve been training for a while you will understand what I’m saying, it’s just that a negative training environment where the Instructor doesn’t encourage or use the tool of questioning and feedback stifles this. 

You only have to look at those clubs to see the clones that look like robots on the outside and have no understanding or development on the inside and the instructors act like Sergeant Majors in the army  – and god help you if you think for yourself!

So questioning and feedback is an efficient tool to be used both ways between instructor and student, it can also be an effective tool between instructors as well, to improve their efficiency and working relationship, often they are too wary to discuss each other’s shortcomings and qualities directly.  This is why we have Instructors sessions and courses in my club and association that are not just “advanced” technical courses but include a heavy dose of personal development as well – and this doesn’t exclude the Chief Instructor!

It is also a useful tool to use with the parents and families of the students, it gives you background and feedback as to the effect that the training is having on the student and his family outside of the Dojo.

If the company that you work for does not use it effectively, or the school that you attend, then why not suggest that they learn to employ it?  By bringing up all the problems and challenges that you face working as a team it means that you will all be “singing off the same hymn sheet” once they have been resolved and function far more efficiently.

The same for your home life and any other relationships that you have, it encourages more openness and honesty and the more that you learn the skill of honest questioning without rudeness and are genuinely aspiring to be the best that you can you really will be able to live in “harmony” with those around you!

I’m writing this in a hotel room in Hong Kong – I’m here to train with my Taiji teacher and there is no finer music to my ears than when she asks “do you understand?”  or  “any questions?”….

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 Safeguarding

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Telephone (01256) 364104.


Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy,
The Annex @ ITT Industries,
Jays Close,
RG22 4BA