Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching

How many times do we hear……….. “I can’t do it”… “It’s too difficult / impossible”… “I’ll never”… “why can she / he do it”… “It’s not fair”…………. As adults we all recognise these phrases, often coming from (disgruntled) workplace colleagues unhappy with their lot in life. Usually the culprits are ‘the worker bees’ rather than from those in a managerial position.

Green eyed monsters are everyone. The people who won’t put in enough effort to improve their skills and worth to their employers or those that think society owes them a living and a decent one at that.  Martial Arts practitioners are sadly often exactly the same.

Most practitioners of Martial Arts find learning their art challenging, regardless of whether they are learning Karate, Taekwondo, Kung Fu or Kickboxing for example. It’s not meant to be easy to learn the techniques in any depth, yes there are some shortcuts, namely having an experienced teacher and training properly and consistently, but the biggest shortcut of all…. Don’t ever give up trying to be the best you can be.

We probably need to take a step back into our childhood to find the origins of the mentality “I can’t do it.” Usually the adult is telling the child “You can’t do that” this is further reinforced at school with the teachers telling the kids “You can’t do that.”  So by the time the poor youngster is a teenager, they have been brainwashed into thinking “I can’t / won’t be able to do that” So by the time we become adults, the vast majority of us will follow the herd and also “Won’t be able to do that.”

There are a small number of people who break this conditioning. They are the people that see opportunities that others do not AND then through self-belief, commitment, determination and sheer hard work deliver the opportunity, in business terms, they have a special title. They are called entrepreneurs. Have you heard of them, people like Bill Gates or Donald Trump or closer to home with Alan Sugar, James Dyson or Richard Branson. Each and every-one an entrepreneur who fought and overcame adversity to become successful and then once successful through their own self-belief, drive and hard work, stay successful.  

 Positive Mental Attitude, Self Confidence, Self visualisation

So we should act in our Martial Arts practice. Rather than focussing on the problem or what we can’t do, focus on the solution to overcome the problem and keep working on it until we achieve the results that we deserve.   All the time we need to continue to foster a mental ‘can do’ attitude by visualising ourselves performing that perfect technique, each and everytime we do the move. Imagery of ourselves in a positive light can make a real difference to what we achieve, if we use it as a tool, both frequently and persistently.

Think about the little Pussy cat looking at itself in the manner, it sees a magnificent Lion. Do you?

The only time you fail is when you give up trying.

Written by Bryan Andrews

19th March 2011. 


Children’s Martial Arts Progress

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching

Tuesday, 07 December 2010 18:50 Written by Steve Rowe


Karate, Martial Arts, Taekwondo, Tai Chi, Ju Jitsu

“C’mon kids – let’s go, basic techniques!”  Sifu’s voice was infectious; the kids loved the repetition of basics and counting in various languages….

“Punching in Chinese!”  The children all shouted as they punched…

“Yat – yee – sam – sei? – ng – yuk?- chaat?- paat?- kau!”

“Good….. Front kick in Japanese!”

“Ichi – ni – san – shi – go – rokku – zitch – hatch – kyu – jyu!”

“Well done guys!  Sit down…. legs crossed and arms folded.” The kids sat down immediately with their legs crossed and arms folded, wide-eyed and eager to learn.

Sifu looked around at the group and absorbed the eager energy. “What do you have to remember when you do the front kick?”

All the hands shot up….. “Sir, Sir……”

Sifu looked at little Damon and smiled, thinking that he might burst if he didn’t get the chance… “Damon….  It’s ‘Sifu’ – not ‘Sir’….”

“Sorry Sifu”, said Damon, “You have to remember to…” Damon started to count on his fingers… “pick the knee up to the highest point..”

Sifu smiled… “Good…..” but Damon hadn’t finished..

“Don’t fully extend the leg and pull it back to the knee high position,” he went to the next finger, “put the supporting foot directly to the finished position and don’t move it again, oh…. and hit with this part of the foot, he pointed to the ball of the foot just behind the toes. ”  Everyone clapped and cheered Damon as he waved his arms and whooped, obviously pleased with himself.

Sifu nodded, “well done Damon, okay then guys let’s get up and do it!”

The rest of the session was spent on improving the basic techniques, working on pads, putting them into workable combinations and then using them for self defence drills.

At the end of the class Damon’s mother approached Sifu.  “Can I have a word?”

“Sure” replied Sifu, “what can I do for you?”

“We’re a bit concerned that Damon isn’t working enough on his grading techniques and form..” said his mother in a concerned tone.

“Damon’s very happy with his training, he’s doing well for his age and needs to work on his basic technique to get it right” answered Sifu.

His mother responded; “I understand that, but he’s not getting the training he needs on his grading syllabus.”

“He is…” replied Sifu; “It’s not what he knows, it’s how well he does it that counts, all grades have to consistently work and improve on basic technique to get to each grade.  Therefore most of their work is on basic skills, he’s being taught appropriately, both physically and mentally for his age, as he progresses through the grades, it will take longer each time, but he’s mentally prepared for that.  He’s 7 years old and an orange belt, we aim to get him to black belt at about 12 years old, it’s going to take time, work and repetition particularly on those basic skills to get him to that standard.”

Damon’s mother was getting a bit frustrated by now… “But he needs more work on his green belt form…. Otherwise he will be getting fed up and bored…”

Sifu’s eyes narrowed, “Damon is perfectly happy and perfectly placed right now, his new form is made up of the basic techniques and skills that we are working on at the moment, he is learning the valuable lesson of never neglecting the basics in anything that he does, quality repetition is the cornerstone to success.  It’s not good to try and rush progress, as you will only have to return to it later to improve and then it will require a lot more work.

The truth is that you are getting impatient, not him.  He’s fine.”

Damon’s mother’s face reddened, “you’re holding him back, kids at the other clubs are progressing through the grades faster, he’ll get his black belt next year in the club down the road.”

“Indeed he will,” replied Sifu, but his standard will be the same as a green belt here and in any other quality martial art club, he will also be the laughing stock of his friends that practice good martial arts, he will think that everything in life is ‘easy’ to get – and never stick at anything that requires real effort – and heaven help him if he ever has to use his skills to save himself from serious injury or from being killed…”

“Can’t you at least teach him more of his form as a result of this conversation?” His mother asked.

“Madam,” Sifu replied, “I’ve been teaching children successfully for over 30 years, I only know how to do my job properly and to tell you truth.  I wouldn’t tell you how to do your job, and I’m quite happy for you to question me on mine and I will explain the reasons for my actions to you, but I can’t do my job badly to please you, or lie to you or your son. I have to live true to my art and pass it on the best way I know how.”

“Well I’m not happy with that,” retorted the Mother and stalked away.

Sifu shook his head as he watched her leave knowing the light was about to go out for a lovely, bright, talented child….

Parents…. Who’d have ‘em?


Sensitivity In The Hands

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts, Martial Arts skills

tai chi push hands“Sifu, in my mate’s class they learn to harden and desensitise their arms by bashing them together with the blocking movements, why don’t we do that?” Rod had lots of martial arts ‘mates’ who trained at different clubs and they would get together on a regular basis to ‘share’ their knowledge.

“What purpose do you think our arms, hands and fingers serve Rod, why do you think we have them?”  Sifu answered the question with a question in his usual ‘Chan Buddhist’ way…

“To hammer the crap out of our opponents?”  Rod was being mischievous, as he knew Sifu was looking for the opposite answer.

“Rod………..”  Sifu gave him ‘that’ look….

“Okay… To be able to touch and feel things not directly attached to our body..”  Rod conceded..

Sifu continued – “and would it be better to desensitise or increase their sensitivity to improve the skill in their use?”

Rod was still being a bit awkward, “depends on what you’re using them for…”

Sifu patiently allowed the conversation to take its course… “okay, why would you want to desensitise them?”

Rod became more animated given his chance to explain, “surely in combat it must be better to have hard arms that don’t feel pain?”

“Only if you’re unskilled,” replied Sifu, “the more sensitive you are in your arms, hands and fingers the more you will be able to stick, blend, follow and redirect your opponents force.”

“That’s true” replied Rod, but what if the other person hits your arms?”

“Pain is in the mind, not in the arms” said Sifu.

“That’s true….” responded Rod thoughtfully.

Sifu continued, “If you bash your arms together like that you will damage nerves and bones and deep bruising will block and damage the pathways that blood uses to renew itself from the centre of the bones, what you’re describing is the old ‘peasant’ training and not that used by the more intelligent members of society.

We’re looking to improve the capability of our body not reduce it.”

“Increasing sensitivity just seems to be the opposite of what so many people are doing” said Rod.

“And that’s why skill levels in the Martial Arts is being reduced, everyone wants a ‘quick fix’ and the sort of ‘emotional trauma’ training caused by winding themselves up that’s shown in the movies, causes long term damage and can’t be sustained,” replied Sifu.

He continued…..“Our mind needs to be refined; this is a painstaking process achieved through meditation, qigong and form.  When we are in harmony with our own mind, breath and body, we learn to ‘listen’ to that of others through touch with push hands drills and pairs work.

Mindful repetition is the cornerstone to success, under pressure we will react in the way we have trained ourselves to, providing we have trained with sufficient mental and physical focus.

Our arms are our ‘tentacles’ and our fingers are our ‘tentacles on tentacles’, because we’ve always had them attached to us we don’t tend to think of them in this way.  To get the idea, imagine that you were an alien being that was a nice neat circle shape and you rolled out of your space craft on Earth and met a human…

You’d be shocked by our ‘shaven monkey’ appearance with eyes that swivel in our head and when we smiled and showed our hidden teeth as a sign of friendship, we’d look quite scary!”

“I’d be horrified!” laughed Rod.

“And yet these would be ‘friendly gestures to us” continued Sifu… “and of course when we extended our ‘tentacles and tentacles on tentacles’ in greeting, for the alien it would be like a human meeting the creature from ‘Alien’ for the first time….”

“I’d probably roll back into my spaceship and leave at top speed..” joked Rod.

“My point is that they are our ‘feelers’ and therefore the softer and more sensitive we can make them, the more effectively they work.  Utilising the ‘touch reflex’ or ‘listening energy’ we are able to tap into the opponents parasympathetic nervous system and sense their balance, posture and intention, often before they can realise it themselves, but we are only able to do this if we can control our own and be ‘open’ to sensing them, this takes training.”

Rod was now staring at and wriggling his fingers…. “tentacles…… it’s kinda spooky really, we look at animals with tentacles and find them creepy, yet we’re probably the most creepy looking animals on this planet!”

Sifu laughed, “well you certainly are….. but as Martial Artists we have to learn to ‘think out of the box’, to be able to step outside of who and what we are and be able to see things as they really are, this gives us a rare perspective that others don’t have.  Our training and meditation should give us this ability and mean that we are not ‘duped’ by the manipulation of thoughts and emotions of others.

Rod was still compulsively wriggling his fingers….  “tentacles…….’

Sifu walked away smiling enigmatically.


Wednesday, 01 December 2010 10:56 Written by Steve Rowe who is the Chief Instructor of Shi Kon Martial Arts, which Shin Gi Tai are members of. Steve Rowe can be contacted at steve@shikon.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , his website is www.shikon.com