Back To It..!

Well that’s Christmas done and dusted. A great break and an opportunity to come back refreshed and ready to, quite literally, kick start the New Year.

Training resumes at the Dean Close Dojo on Monday January 5th, 6.45pm – Don’t be late!


With the new year comes a new look to our web site plus the full launch of our Cheltenham Martial Arts Class and our Sword Class. Check the web site for the details. And you can expect regular updates, hints and tips via our twitter feed to keep you posted on what our exciting new and established classes will be covering each week.

Our focus for the New Year – other than getting you guys combat ready for your next gradings – is to help students with their personal fitness goals. Which of course is just a cover story to justify us beasting you on a regular basis!!!

We also have the treat of seeing our new 1st Dans and blackbelt, (well done Chris San!) wear their new grades on a regular basis, after their great efforts in the National Gradings. They should now especially enjoy our regular dedicated; ‘High Grade Class’, every first Monday of the month. As always a special night where those guys get the chance to – how you might say…stretch their high grade legs! Unencumbered by having lower grades in the way! 🙂

So if you are wearing a Brown belt or above, then… just come on down!

See you all in the Wisewarrior 2015 dojo!!



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Combative Body Positioning Seminar ( 9th Nov )

Our body position in relation to an attacker is what our next Wisewarrior Workshop on the 9th of November (1pm) will be about.

As you can imagine, this fundamental principle gives us huge scope to cover some great ideas and concepts, no matter what grade we have attending. The martial arts that people study; and at what level, is defined by this concept. Is their style aggressive and confrontational, passive and deflective, quick and manipulative, or ones designed around a competitive strategy or a fitness target? (And we haven’t even mentioned the martial arts that use weapons as part of their combat strategy!) Also as the students expertise develops they can deploy multiple strategies.

All their training will be about placing their legs (stance), in positions relative to the body of the aggressor, in such a way as to achieve their desired outcomes. Be that a block and punch, or a kick, maybe a lock, a sweep, a throw etc. or even – to just run away!!

Sometimes our body position can change with the objectives we might need to achieve, based upon things such as; controlling the target with distance, avoidance and deflection or even multiple opponents. Or maybe even to move in close for striking, manipulation or disarming.

But the important idea to keep in the forefront of your mind is that your body position is an active choice; it is not a ‘dodge’ away, or an instinctive lunge, it’s a ‘choice’ based upon your training and not just your instinct. It is something that is often referred to in the Japanese martial arts as: ‘Tai-Sabaki’.  

So, you can see there is plenty of exciting and useful material for us to work on this Sunday!

Sensei Richard Trafford.

See you in the dojo 🙂

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Eureka Strikes…! (8th Sept)

By Tor Laurel.

“…And then it hit me!”

Normally this phrase is used to describe some sort of  revelation, and certainly it has been. However on a far more literal level over the last fourteen years I have indeed been hit (and thrown and locked up and occasionally strangled) by Richard Trafford who has been my Sensei during this time. Ok not my normal pitch on how to sell a martial art to people, but to be fair an important and underrated element of martial art learning.

What I’m talking about, in Aikido, is traditionally call the role of “ Uke”. I’m not sure what the karate equivalent is called. (My suspicions are “punch bag” – I did mentioned that I’ve been hit for the last fourteen year!!) . Well then “Uke” …what’s it all about?  A rough translation is the “one who receives the technique”.  So it is the person that initiates an attack and as a result gets thrown (hit, locked, strangled etc.). Let’s think about it then… hands up who wants to be Uke?…. Ah, no takers.
Unsurprisingly when people walk through the door they want to do the technique. If they’re learning Aikido this may be a throw. They make the assumption that by learning how to throw somebody they have learned the technique, and the only reason why they endure being thrown is to allow their training partner to have their go.  In traditional Aikido however you only truly begin to understand the technique when you have both performed the technique and been on the receiving end of it. The reasoning behind this is simple. As Uke you are not passive. You are not just being hit or thrown but trying to feel your own vulnerability whilst the technique is being applied. In a self-defence situation the ability to be aware of your own vulnerabilities and weaknesses is equally as important as your ability to deliver a good retaliating technique.

So for all our students, especially our teaching assistant brown belts, the next time I, or any other of the Senseis, hit, kick, throw, lock or strangle you, just remember….. we are really trying to help you…!

See you in the dojo 😉

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Working Backward… (20th Aug)

When we learn a technique we start from the beginning of that movement and progress to the finish – hopefully culminating in some profound effect upon the opponent. But this is all because we are learning the technique ‘second hand’ – that is, from someone else.
But if we were the creator of some new fantastical technique things would be a little different.

As a creator we would begin with the effect that we want – see a need, fill a need!! We would then be working backward to get us to the start and every minute movement of this new technique would be geared and engineered toward that finishing effect. A completely different perspective to the normal approach.

As an example lets imagine that you are the ‘inventor of punching’ – it’s never been done before, it’s a completely brand spanking new concept that you have created… (go with me on this!)
So where do you start your creative process – right at the coal face, that is to say the target.
So you decide its best to hit at 90 degrees, so you angle your wrist. You decide the wrist is a weak point so you align it properly and strengthen it with exercise. You decide you ought to punch straight, cos its quicker so perhaps you should keep your elbow in and then after a couple of goes at hitting something (someone!?) You think, hey there’s a lot of recoil in this I’d better brace my stance so you plant your feet. In fact every detail and nuance of this new move has been carefully thought out, refined and tweaked so that your technique has evolved into a weapon as much as a move.
Every detail has a purpose – to improve the effectiveness of the strike.
Hopefully by now you are getting the point!!
When learning a move we adhere to the details because ‘somebody said so’ but by thinking backwards we are creating a new move every time we practice.
Just try this ‘Thinking Backward’ Mind-Set to your techniques, then hopefully you’ll have a eureka moment, slap your forehead (optional) and say to yourself “so that’s why sensei says keep my elbow in!!” – At that point Sensei will probably slap his own forehead saying “finally – he gets it!!”

So to summarise: Copying is good – but understanding is just better…

See you in the dojo!!

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Point Of Contact (10th Aug)

What’s the difference between a Sensei and a student? Well not as much as you might
think! We instructors think of ourselves every much as
students of the martial arts as our own students do. Can you ever ‘get’ martial arts? well I hope not! The subject is as deep and as fascinating as each persons mind will let it be. If you think the subject is just about hitting someone, then you will quickly reach a boredom threshold in that direction!

So what are the differences to how teachers of the martial arts see things compared to the students? Well I think students tend to want to ‘learn’ and keep something, while instructors tend to want to ‘understand’ the deeper principles.
For instance, working with my students over the past few weeks in a variety of subjects from Aikido, combat, Karate sword etc. got me to see and ponder on one of those deeper principles. It’s about how much the label we give the martial arts movement we are studying, is actually defined by the point of contact we have with the object\opponent that is moving towards us.
In Aikido, that first point of contact is lighter and fluid. Our block is moving at the same speed as the attack, the contact between say the opponents grab, and your block and capture movement will be a fluid movement that picks up the attack and then guides or manipulates it to a point of instability and weakness for the attacker.
While with Karate, the point of contact is hard and physical! The block will confront and ‘strike’ the opponents attack damaging and nullifying it. With weapon work the point of contact is in understanding how the weapon is designed to work and so moving it accordingly. Like the difference between the velocity of the Nunchuka or the slice of sword movements, which are enhanced when you understand the circular cutting nature of the swords edge. Think about it as a ‘hack’ and you will be working against how this sword (called a Katana) was developed over the centuries, to simply create as much damage at its point of contact!
So there you are – a Sensei principle…’point of contact’. Understand this then you can understand the style you are learning, and then the magic happens, the style will start to teach you!
We as people, moving about our daily lives, are in points of contact with the people we meet, and the moments we move through. Think how differently things might be in our daily lives if we could understand the correct response for each of those points of contact. But that’s for a different lesson!

See you in the dojo.

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Put some heart in it! (27th July)

Its close to grading time again and the students are once again under pressure to perform.
But this week they looked fine, no technical issues. Stances good, technique good, even focus good too… but something’s missing.

This weeks lessons focused on that little bit extra that makes a grading performance.  Because what gets you through a grading isn’t just knowing your syllabus, lets face it – if you don’t know your syllabus then you really shouldn’t be grading!
That something extra is passion. But what does that mean? Personally I think of it like this…
Lets say you’re called to defend your self in the street. How did that happen? Ultimately someone either said or did something to you or someone else that violated your personal values, so much so that you are compelled to act. In other words – you care enough to do something about it.
This passion for what you believe to be right is strong. It is your driving force. And this force is supported by your martial skill. Your values say you should fight while your martial arts skills turn this raw energy into meaningful action.
And this again is why a good grading is not a test of knowledge or even skill so much as spirit.
So in our performances we have to convey this vital element else our movements will appear empty and lifeless. What puts the bite back in your punch and the tempo into your sequences is this raw passionate energy.
Just show us that you care, that this pattern of a fight you are performing is real for you which means you perceive the opponents as real. And more importantly you perceive their actions and intensions as real also and this will lead to showing how much you care about your values.
Values are what you care about. But if you aren’t going to defend them then they don’t really exist!!!
Search for your values as the reason this imaginary fight began then show the examiner just how much you care.
Always remember – a spirited performance beats a technical display hands down every time!!

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Back To Basics (19th July)

(By Tim Dickerson)

This week I spent some time with one of our up and coming Brown Belts running through his basic Hand Techniques in preparations for his impending Black Belt Grading.

One of the things that occured to me while going through these was just how much advanced skill can be attributed to a firm knowlledge of th basics.

To be quite honest labouring through the a simple punch is a boring task at best but man, is it important! The humble punch is more than a move, it lays strong foundations for just about every other hand technique you are ever going to learn.

The ‘donkey work’ of learning to punch hinges upon repetition – and a lot of it! However I’d like to mention here a little thought that has helped me to put in the numbers over the years…

Although a punch is simple it has always held a great fascination for me… The alignment of the bones, the twitching of the muscles, the locking-in of the frame, the coordination of the stomach muscles at the point of impact… and so on.

All these points and more I am reminded of when I punch. Not even as a beginner did I ever think that a simple punch was as straight forward as putting one arm out then swapping it with the other.

The bottom line here for me with punching, or any technique for that matter, is that unless you can look deeper than face value into a technique its practice is gonna be dull.

But if you can see more to it, if you can recognise its significance in your future practice and marvel at a techniques’ intricacies, well then practice isn’t practice anymore, instead each repetition becomes one step closer to a better understanding – and that’s not dull, that’s exciting!! Practice then, doesn’t just improve a technique, it improves you. You grow with every punch thrown. So now, why wouldn’t you wanna practice that?

See you in the Dojo!

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