Posts Tagged ‘Free Karate classes Basingstoke’

You’ve got real potential!

Written by bryan. Posted in Coaching

Karate, Kung Fu, Basingstoke, Martial ArtsYou’ve got real potential!

How many time do we hear this said of ourselves and then then start to feel really proud of our accomplishments because someone has said this to us. For most of us this would be the norm. Why? Because it makes us feel good about ourselves, doesn’t it. Be truthful, we all like to have nice things said about us.

Not many of us have thought what may be implied with the comment “You’ve got real potential.” What do I mean, well for example, someone saying this could also mean:-

1 – “You’ve got real potential” – Why don’t you start working hard and get good.

2 – “You’ve got real potential” – You’re not very good because you don’t have the discipline.

3 – “You’ve got real potential” – If only you’d bother to try and achieve your potential

4 – “You’ve got real potential” – You’ve got real potential, sadly you are never going to reach it.

5 – “You’ve got real potential” – Umm, I can’t think of anything nicer to say

6 – “You’ve got real potential” – Keep practicing hard and correctly and you’ll stay on the path to achieving that potential.

So the next time you get told “You’ve got real potential”  be honest with yourself and ask yourself what it really means for you. We all hope it’s number 6, but it’s up to you, to make sure it is #6 rather than one of the others.

Look at some of the sports stars, who had potential, Paul Gascoigne from Football, you could even argue Johnny Wilkinson from Rugby, although a superb Rugby player never reached his full potential due to injuries, Tim Henman, great for British Morale and bringing the country together at Wimbledon’s Tennis week but again never achieved his full potential and lets not forget about Iron Mike Tyson, one of the best boxers ever and he threw it all away whilst still in his prime. All of these stars were in their own right very talented (much better at something than most of us can hope to achieve) and very good, having had some great successes, but they never really nailed it, so they are unlikely to be remembered in the same way as Bobby Charlton, Gareth Edwards, Roger Federer or Muhammed Ali, who all ‘made it’ and are remembered, revered and respected because of it.

What was the difference? Maybe a little luck and certainly a lot of skill, but not to forget the words of Gary Player when asked about his ‘lucky streak.’ “It’s funny, the harder I practice, the luckier I seem to get.”

If you want something badly enough, then work hard enough to achieve it and depending upon how important it is to you, decide what you are prepared to sacrifice to get it. Be prepared for setbacks and knock-backs along the way. Sometimes your short term plan won’t work out, don’t get despondent, keep working on the plan, make corrections, make improvements. Analyse what you do and why and how it’s working for you. That is of course if you want any chance of reaching your full potential.


Remember the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.


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?”….


Kata doesn’t work in a fight!

Written by bryan. Posted in Martial Arts, Self Defence

Karate Basingstoke, Martial Arts BasingstokePeace is earned, if your mind and emotions are weak, you are more likely to cause violence or respond negatively to it.  People that have to respond to violence on a regular basis such as police officers and security personnel are taught to remain calm and to deal with a situation ‘appropriately’ to re-establish and keep the ‘Queens Peace’ and a martial artist’s response should be the same.

The problem with people that constantly create ‘aggressive and violent situations’ in which to train is that they are still not ‘real’ – you know it’s your mate acting, and if anything engenders fear of the ‘real’ thing, and makes people neurotic by focusing solely on ‘reality based’ training.

The paradox is that to deal with confrontation and dangerous situations of any kind you need to be calm and keep your wits about you; developing wisdom and strategies for all kinds of situations.  You also need to have a vigorous, sustainable health and fitness regimen; this is different from an athlete’s fitness, as they have to produce that extraordinary fitness for specific events, whereas martial artists need all round health and fitness to apply to different kinds of situations.

Is kata a good training tool to produce that fit, versatile and well controlled martial artist?

Traditionally kata and forms have a trinity of development.  That trinity is:

  • Health
  • Skill
  • Application


Kata teaches:

  • Postural alignment
  • Breathing technique
  • Mental clarity
  • Tension reduction
  • Fluid motion
  • Internal connection
  • Core strength
  • Connected movement
  • Body awareness
  • Energy movement


The mind/body/breath connection is a powerful one with kata like Sanchin dedicated to it.  The connected core strength of the body, coupled with postural alignment and mental clarity gives that rude health and natural strength that we all admire in a good martial artist and gives the adaptability to deal with changing situations.  The natural skeletal alignment and smooth, powerful myofascial movements prevents stiffness and unnatural strain on the body reducing injury and problems later in life.  The health side of kata training gives a yogic kind of health but not in a static way, it’s in movement and within combative strategies.  In old age the martial artist also maintains an excellent training method to assist in the healthy enjoyment of life and extended longevity.


A martial artist has to learn the basic fundamentals of movement to encourage good health and then gradually chain those together into the fluid motion of martial technique.  The strategies of the art have to be employed within those techniques and these have to be mastered to a reasonable level before being put into natural combinations and practiced two-man drills.  When put into combination, the beginning and end of each technique changes to accommodate the former and subsequent move.  This requires an element of adaptability and the ability to ‘think on your feet’.

From the health training, a natural power will arise with the ability to utilise postural alignment, breath, mind, core strength, and internal connection and these should flow naturally through the strategies and technique within the connected movements.

In kata all this is taken into a more advanced form of training.  Different kata serve different purposes in training.  Some focus on the health aspects, some on power training, some are complete training systems and some are ‘filling in’ skills that may not be trained elsewhere in the system.

With an element of mastery over fundamental and basic technique, some combinations with different entry and exit to and from technique in fluid motion and basic application to the movements, it’s time to ‘up the ante’ in skill training.

Kata is specifically designed to enhance skill training, the combinations might not be what you would typically find ‘in a fight’ but they will train and enhance those combative skills in a way that takes the practitioner to a very advanced level that could not otherwise be achieved.

Notice how kata cover the entire range of body movements and how you move from high to low, from one direction in the most difficult way to another, how the powering of one technique is enhanced from the previous movement and then the motion can add power to the next (if you can move fluidly).  See how specific skills are categorized so the kata can act as a mnemonic reminder of the system.

When many kata were devised, most people were illiterate, there were few books, no DVD’s, no internet, not much travel, people communicated long distance by minstrels and storytellers, information was passed down through the generations in dances, songs and rhyming poetry so that it could be accurately remembered.

After 30 years of training I decided to try and invent a kata that summed up all my knowledge, when putting together all the strikes, blocks, locks, throws and dislocation techniques and strategies for entering, sticking, blending, redirecting, breaking down and destruction I discovered that the basic body skills and movements behind all of them came down to eight principle ideas, as long as these were rigorously practiced, they could be adapted into all the techniques.  This made me look at he existing kata with new eyes as I realized that I was ‘re-inventing the wheel’!

It is the skill training that is fundamental, the more advanced that training becomes – the more skilful and powerful the practitioner will be. 


By looking at kata through the equally important eyes of health and skill, the plethora of applications becomes apparent.  It’s like unraveling a knot, you examine the skills and see how they can be applied to striking, blocking, locking, throwing, dislocation, evasion and entering and you realize that what you have is a method of training a complete skill base that can be unraveled into a complete arsenal of techniques.

Even the ‘health’ kata is full of skills that are essential for three hundred and sixty degree self defence.  The ‘boxing’ applications of kata will not work properly without knowledge of the health and skill aspects as they permeate and empower every part of the application of technique.

The word bunkai means ‘to break down and explore’.  So when working on bunkai it is essential to understand the trinity of kata and examine each part to get to the ohyo (practical application).

The ohyo are the peacekeeping skills that enable an experienced practitioner to re-establish and keep the peace, even if the situation is life threatening.

Kata is an invaluable tool in training in Karate and will certainly help develop your skills to prevent you from having to ‘fight’ with anyone and will enable you to deal with violence and confrontation more skillfully.

Written by Steve Rowe 2nd April 2009
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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