Posts Tagged ‘Elite Athletes’

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?”….


Hampshire and IOW Sports Club of the Year 2011

Written by bryan. Posted in Awards, News

Martial Arts Club in Basingstoke are the championsAt the Sport Hampshire and Isle of Wight awards on 23rd March, our Martial Arts Academy from Basingstoke won the prestigious award of ‘Hampshire Sports Club of the Year.’


Katherine Wight, Sarah Godley and Alison Lee from Biscoes, Oliver Andrews on their shoulders, Lindsey Andrews and Nicola van Meerkerk. 

The awards ceremony was held at Southampton Football Club and was organised by Sport Hampshire and Isle of Wight, The event was hosted by Roger Johnson of BBC South today.

This award represents the culmination of a very successful year in Basingstoke for Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy, which included.

  • Moving into it’s own full time professionally equipped Martial Arts centre
  • Providing Martial Arts classes in Karate, Kung Fu, Judo, Ju Jitsu, Tai Chi and Vale Tudo and fitness classes in Les Mills’ Bodycombat, Pilates and Circuits.
  • Becoming Basingstoke and Deane’s Sport Club of the year 2009/2010
  • Achieving Sport England’s Quality Kitemark ‘Clubmark accreditation’
  • Hosting numerous courses during the year with world class coaches
  • Teaching quality Martial Arts at all levels from recreational users to successful national level elite competitors and ages between 4 years old and 60+


Programme Director Lindsey Andrews, Coach Katherine White and Centre Manager Nicola van Meerkerk represented the club at the Sports awards along with 9 year old Oliver Andrews who is one of the students. This years Sports Awards saw a record number of nominations, with over 200 from all over the Hampshire region in 17 different categories and nominees included many international and Olympic level athletes. There was stiff competition for the coveted title of Club of the year with 20 clubs from the region put forward. The award was sponsored by Biscoes Solicitors ( and the three shortlisted nominees were Chawton Park Indoor Bowls Club from East Hampshire, Warsash Wasps Football Club and Shin Gi Tai.
Heather Windust from Sport Hampshire IOW commented “The awards are a fantastic celebration of sport throughout the county, and reflect not only the quality of local sporting achievement, but also the dedication, commitment and excellence of the many unsung heroes.  The club of the year category had over 20 nominations, it was a tough decision to whittle them down to just 3 and even tougher to decide on a winner. However the work Shin Gi Tai do in the local community and the dedication they have to developing their coaches and members made them deserving winners.”

There were a number of other Sportspeople from Basingstoke also made it into the top 3 in their respective categories, they were:

James Feighery-Murphy (Karate) –  Junior sportsman of the year
Rob Tobin (Athletics) – Senior sportsman of the year
Ben Hazell (Athletics) – Senior sportsman of the year
Rebecca Jane (Football) – Senior sportswoman of the year
Basingstoke Teamgym squad (Gymnastics) – Senior team of the year
Nigel Long (Tennis) – Performance coach of the year


The Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane Cllr Keith Chapman said: “I am delighted that this forward thinking and proactive club won the award against tough competition from other strong clubs across the county.  It was very well deserved and is a testament to the hard work of the club and its many volunteers.  The club is a credit to the borough, making a contribution not only in the area of sport but to the local community, for example running self-defence classes and anti-bullying sessions. The council has worked in partnership with the club on various sports development initiatives and great links have been established with schools and voluntary organisations.  The club is very highly regarded locally.”

Chief Instructor Bryan Andrews said of the award “We have a great team of highly experienced coaches and staff and many enthusiastic members taking part in our classes. This award is really theirs and it is down to their hard work, effort and their determination to be the best they can. I’m delighted that their efforts have been recognised by Hampshire County”

Martial Arts in Basingstoke, for those that want to be winners. Karate in Basingstoke, Judo in Basingstoke

Certificate presented to the winning club at the Hampshire Sports Awards 2011


Further information on Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy: –  Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy is Basingstoke’s only full time Martial Arts center teaching a range of Martial Arts including Kung Fu, Karate, Judo, Tai Chi, Ju Jitsu and Vale Tudo. In addition there are a number of fitness classes including Pilates, Body Combat and Circuits based classes.

There are specific class for adults and children to train in seperately. Children’s class are split into age specific groups of 4 – 6 yrs, 6 – 9 yrs and 10 – 15 yrs. In addition there are family classes where parents and children can train together.

Classes take place during the day time and evenings.

Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy is registered with The Martial Arts Standards Agency, Shikon International, The British Council for Chinese Martial Arts, Karate England, British Judo Association, World Union of Karate Federations and is accredited with Sport England’s ‘Clubmark’ Accreditation.

The award for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Sports Club was sponsored by:- 

fitness, lose weight, health, gym

Quality Kitemark, Clubmark, Sport England, Martial Arts Basingstoke

Clubmark Accredited Sports Club