Tempo Tempo TEMPO!! (9th July)

It’s a problem! Needing to learn a new skill set, we take our time and make sure we get it right. Steady as she goes you might say. Of course the more complex the skill to be learned, the more steadily we take it.
But what if the skill we are trying to understand and practice is not dry-stone walling but self-defence related!? There are no better reasons to use tempo and speed than when we perform the skills required to avoid a push or block a punch! Also a slow strike in return is somewhat pointless! So taking our time becomes counter productive within the world of the martial arts.

Often as instructors we need to encourage or push you into going faster, for tempo is the essence of combat. Any situation that requires your combat expertise will start very quickly and be over very quickly!
So the sooner we start practicing the moves and our forms as quickly as possible the better.
Part of the problem, I think, is that students often don’t wish to make mistakes so they perform their moves too carefully, which is ultimately too slow!
Tempo is like the melody in a song, while techniques are the words to this song. Now we would like students to be in perfect tune and know all the words of course! But this takes time, so try and pick up the tune first, for the tune is the thing that drives our learning and improves our martial arts. Spending time perfecting the words will only take you so far, and eventually will bore you and may make the practice futile when the technique is required for real. But the melody will get you dancing!
Combat is never (nor should be!) a perfect experience, so the golden rule is; ‘do something’ – even if that something is running for it! Trying to get the technique right in that moment will do you no favours.
So learn to move quickly, enjoy moving quickly, sometimes you may feel your instructors are pushing you to go faster too soon, while you want to slow down and get it ‘right’. But we know the life of the technique is in tempo, so really…its always better if we have to tell you to slow down!!

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One Layer At A Time (30th June)

You know, as an instructor there’s nothing better than laying out a structured lesson. Taking a concept from the ground up. You start with something basic then add a little bit to get the students to the next layer/depth of understanding. Then you add another and another and by the end of the lesson – boom!! A fully formed principle to knock the socks of a would be opponent. But you know, it never really pans out like that 😀

Wednesday nights session for me was the epitome of this NOT WORKING!!! The students were great as always and the concept was pretty cool too. But some how we experienced what I have come to call ‘concept blindness’…

I started with the basic concept… they got it quickly. ‘Cool!’ so onto the next concept, again they got it quickly – most of it anyway. So I pressed on to the 3rd layer of the concept. Great again – at that layer, although for some reason layers 1 and 2 were now not being practiced which is such a shame cos layer 3 really rather depended on those!!! Never mind, I press on to the next layer in the hope that they will catch up and all will come out in the wash – it didn’t, but they were again pretty good at just layer 4????

Reluctantly I deliver layer 5 which as before they did just great. But would have been so much better if they could just manage layers 1 thru 4 as well!!! The lesson for me here is that students always do their best. They don’t deliberately forget things. The outcome of a great lesson is down to the instructor. And if the students don’t get it then, however great the concept, it’s the lesson structure that’s flawed. To conclude…if it really is a great lesson then EVERYONE LEARNS – especially the instructor!!

See you in the dojo !

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The Beginners Mind! (22nd June)

By Tor Laurel.
As a martial artist who walked into a Judo club some 40 years ago, I’ve often found that it is very difficult to gauge my overall progress, and I’m sure this is something that I have in common with most of our students. We show up every week and look to see how much we have improved, and the most realistic comparison we can make is whether we are better than we were seven days ago. Unfortunately for the most part, we cannot see that we are any different. But over a period of months and sometimes years we do improve.

This week, I was reminded of our inability to perceive our long term advancement, when I was lucky enough to be asked to teach two of our brown belts; who may well be grading by the end of this year for their black belts. And later one of our beginners who; at the age of sixty has decided to come to us for self defence training. He has like all beginners no preconceived idea of what’s involved, or even what he is supposed to look like, just a refreshing approach to the subject and some great questions!

The lessons weren’t particularly complicated; only one pattern for the high grades repeated over and over, with corrections in between each repetition. While for the lower grade some of the important concepts of defending yourself based on defending the centre line, and less on correcting ridged techniques. I answered all his questions, and at the end of the hour I watch this beginner guarding his centre line, confronting the attack and retaliating with a strike.

As an observer I saw two things; firstly the growing frustration of the two brown belts, every time they thought they’d “nailed it “ there was something else for them to work on. While secondly the beginner, with no such expectations looked confident in what he was doing, and had as much fun receiving the lesson as I had teaching it!

Unlike our frustrated ‘high grades’, who couldn’t feel any improvements, only faults to improve. But I saw improvements, not just within the space of the one-hour lesson, but over the years I have taught them. I remember them both as uncoordinated and awkward beginners, and here they were performing powerful and demanding Karate moves, and then later in the evening also using effortless Aikido!

So to you students who struggle (and really that should be all of you!) and who may hit a plateau, and doubt your ability, here is a message; We “your instructors” see your improvements…we see how great you have become since you were those white belts. So have compassion for yourselves while you struggle towards being the best you can be, but don’t lose the joy a beginner feels with no expectations!


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Get in to shape! (13th June)

Thoughts on shapes (By Richard Trafford)

This week has definitely been a focus on weapon work for me, the Jo staff playing a big part of course; with some of our students hoping to grade in it soon. Of course this theme was started of by the usual Monday nights sword session. I must say like a lot of students, when i first started to learn weapon work, i struggled somewhat to find the joy. Be that staff work, nunchuka, baton or even sword. It seemed an awkward skill set to learn, so difficult controlling an object outside of oneself. I’m even sure the thought that it was perhaps a distraction from my main lessons in Karate, might of crossed my mind!

But so often the mind of new martial artist (like mine!) fails to grasp the truth being taught to them, and weapon work, if pursued; has many truths to reveal.

What focused my attention this week was ‘shape’, so often overlooked and ignored by you students in your absorption with task at hand, but never by your watching instructors! But within weapon work it is brought vividly into focus. Its not just about swinging a piece of metal or wood about, but the symmetry and artistry within the shapes you create, between the weapon and yourself. Its an old truth…but a good one; if it looks right it is right! As some of the students this week, (I think,) started to grasp this understanding within their Jo or sword work. They just looked so much better in shape. Less awkward, the lines of their body extended, posture and fluidity improved. Stances flexed to withstand the impact of the weapon they carried, they relaxed and fused with the Jo staff or the sword they held. A relationship was formed.

So maybe our new weapon students, can grasp an idea that us high grades make work for ourselves…Don’t try to just remember the movements, or imagine hitting and cutting people, but instead make shapes between yourself and the weapon that feel good and feel right. Then you may experience the art within the martial arts.

Martial Arts Revisited (By Tim Dickerson)
During my lesson with the black and brown belts on wednesday we got into a neat little concept that I think shows we can all revisit something we thought we knew well only to find we can always know it better. Reflexes was the starting topic which took in a variety of drills to encourage greater awareness. But where we ended up was worth the meandering path. Reflexes are one thing but to have a rough plan for personal defence is a must. So we finished with a remarkably simply “3 strike drill” that got the thumbs up all round. Its great to see people grasp what you teach but its even better when the class cottons on and quickly moves from “I got this” to “hey this is easy – I can really use this!!” Simply put, it encapsulated the element of surprise with the idea of not beig a victim. Great work guys and when we revisit this again in the future we’ll all be even faster 🙂

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Weapons Seminar ahead! (May 23rd)

Now almost half way through 2014 and the year is flying along! We all feel that the year so far has been very busy and successful. We’ve had a fair few people come along and join Wisewarrior to study Aikido, Karate and Sword. Many of our existing students have passed National and Wisewarrior gradings. We have at least three brown belts that are now looking good to be grading for Black Belt this year. Also our once a month black belt evening is going from strength to strength.

However there is one aspect that we’ve not been very good at….So far we have not managed to organise a single seminar! This is now due to change and we will be running our first 2014 seminar next month on Sunday 15th June. So this is an important date for your diaries! The subject is weapons, which seemed to be the favourite choice of workshop when we asked you.

It gives us plenty of scope to offer you all kind of goodies; Jo staff, Tomfa, Nunchuka or the black belts currant favourite…Baton! So bring along any of these weapons if you own them, we can also supply most of them, also there will be a special weapons order going in soon if anybody wants to stock up!
As usual this is a free event for all our students, if you know of anybody who might be interested then they may attend this 2 hour event for £10. All we ask is that you register in advance if you are intending to turn up. If you would like any more details then just speak to Richard or Tim San.

Also a quick reminder that another Black belt only session will soon be upon us! (2nd June) So if you wear the belt try and get there! As we have a weapon seminar coming up soon, we will be leaving weapons alone for this session and concentrating on ‘very’ close quarter advanced combat drills!

Lastly….just a reminder Wednesday nights at Deanclose is now booking only! This helps us maintain the standard of personal tuition, by making sure we have the right instructors for the numbers of students turning up. Which of course benefits you guys!
If you are going to miss Wednesday night, then simply let us know so we may offer your place to another student. Remember you can arrange a lesson on another day with Richard San, or come to the Monday night session at Deanclose of course.

See you in the dojo!

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Back in the room! (April 29th)

Wisewarrior Cheltenham 44And… we’re back!! After a brief leave of absence (for the blog!), what with Easter Bank Holidays and all, but here we are again doing what we love most – Teaching Martial Arts!!!
Since we last posted about the cracking grading results from our grading students we have had a busy few sessions, with an awesome Black Belt night, that had a really great mix of stick work and unarmed combat drills that all the black belts really got stuck into! Plus we enjoyed Tim San’s demo routine and Richard San’s kumite lesson of Wednesday just gone, as well as some great bokken sparring on Monday sword nights!

Also time to mention that its Seminar time again soon!! Yes watch this space, Richard San, Tim San and Tor San are busy planning a seminar for May, so watch this space for date, times and subject! Will it be sword, or maybe the new baton work, or a mixed combat style session…wait and see!

With the pressure of gradings a distant memory (for a short while at least) the 1-2-1 sessions and other lessons are free for us instructors to focus on other skills including focus, dexterity and spirit. Its this time of year the instructor team gets to experiement with new training methods and concepts that can be integrated into normal training.

Other than basic fitness and self defence, the martial arts have a great deal to offer those wishing to develop themselves. First and foremost there is a tremendous potential for personal growth. The training is obviously physical, presenting the student with adversities which give a great sense of achievement when conquered. But also the greater ones skill becomes, then the greater our sense of personal security and well-being also develops. This type of growth goes with you beyond the dojo, and begins to filter into your everyday life. You talk to people differently, hold yourself differently and people will notice that your outward persona has changed. Increased fitness gives you more energy which in turn can be infectious…

So where ever you are and whatever you’re up to… keep up the practice, it has more far reaching benefits than fitness alone.

See you in the dojo 🙂

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(9th April) Making….and taking the grade!


Another busy and productive week of grading frenzied 1-2-1 training last week with lots of great work done both Monday and Wednesday. All in preparation for the big day on Sunday.
And we are pleased to announce it was another great day for our Cheltenham Dojo students, with all in attendance making their respective grades. Some really great performances and great spirit throughout from the Cheltenham gang. A special mention must go to D.Tam who achieved her Blue belt in Sword, a great warrior comes back after some testing years of injury and set backs. A very special grading to watch, Brown belt next!

A grading is one of those rare things that every student loves to hate! Nobody particularly wants to take one but they know they should. And when they do and they are successful they get this tremendous feeling of accomplishment having come face to face with their fears and come out on top.

Being tested is an important step in any form of personal development. Adversity brings out our spirit to rise to a challenge. Without these tests and challenges the student has little sense of what they are practicing for. A grading helps to focus the mind and bring our personal efforts into perspective.

Congratulations to all. See you in the Dojo…!

Posted in Aikido, Cheltenham Martial Arts, Combative Arts, Instruction, Japanese Sword, Karate, Martial Arts, Personal Development, Personal Training, Self Defence, Seminar | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment