February 2014

Quality Martial Arts Training Requires Experienced And Qualified Coaches.

One of the major effects of the current internet availability of information, particularly video, is the acquisition of knowledge that is shared.

This, together with the ease of travel about the globe, has lead to an incredible growth in most areas of human endeavor.

The martial arts have certainly undergone a huge surge in knowledge and development with the emergence of BJJ and MMA combined with a growth of, and more readily accessible, Muay Thai information and instruction.

However, it must be used properly to obtain best results.

It is a resource that parallels the earlier means of information storage and dissemination, books and as a resource it is best used together with a competent teacher or coach.

I am frequently approached by students who either want me to teach them something, or try to make something work for them, that they saw on Youtube.

While it is great that they are so enthusiastic about their game that they seek out information, it brings to my attention the problems that it sometimes may cause with a student’s training and development, if he/she does not handle it correctly.

As mentioned it is a valuable resource and should act as a guide. It cannot replace a good coach being present and teaching hands on.

Another rather unfortunate effect, of this readily available information, has been the emergence of training schools that use this as their resource of knowledge, and have little if any connection to qualified coaches.

The coaches teaching at these schools are teaching students with either low rankings, in a system, or in some cases none at all.

Another effect is that this type of practice downgrades the value of a good coach, who can cut the amount of time to obtain proficiency markedly, and produce high quality students that are well rounded and technically very strong.

A great example of the value of a good coach may play in a students development presented itself last week at my school. Within a period of 2 days I was asked on 2 separate occasions, by 2 different students, how to apply a particular no-gi choke that they had seen on Youtube, but just could not get to work. It had been demonstrated by a very proficient grappler and in great detail but they just could not get it to work correctly.

I had them both execute the choke on me and immediately identified the problem. Again it was the same problem in both cases and once I remedied it and added an extra small detail as well, to further improve the set up, they were able to execute the choke effectively every time.

That is value of a good coach and I have come across this same thing many times in my career as a professional martial arts instructor. Having the resource of an experienced and knowledgeable coach will greatly increase your ability and enjoyment of the martial arts, faster and more safely.

The ultimate way to do this is to take private instruction, in addition to your regular training. This is routine in most areas of human endeavor, overseas particularly if a student wishes to perform at the highest levels of accomplishment. However, here in New Zealand particularly, and in the martial arts it is very rare. However, in Australia, USA and many other regions of the world it is common place. The Academy of Combat Mixed Martial Arts school, Christchurch offers private and Group semi-private training to all levels of students in the disciplines of Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, self defense, stick-fighting and other weaponry disciples.

One only has to compare the number and quality of athletes that the USA has compared with NZ to see the value of having good coaches that are paid their worth and the use of private coaching by athletes in their development, compared with the worn out, cliché pitched, results of the “she’ll be right”, “no. 8 wire”, DIY type mentality of the NZ people. It is outdated and is a mentality that has to be changed if we are to seriously position ourselves in the global economy.

"Standing on the shoulders of Giants" and the Progress of Martial Arts

Standing on the shoulders of Giants.

  • The original quote ahs been attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, one of our greatest thinkers. Opinion has it that the actual wording was *** If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants.
    • Letter to Robert Hooke (15 February 1676): The phrase is most famous as an expression of Newton's but he was using a simile which in its earliest known form was attributed to Bernard of Chartres by John of Salisbury: Bernard of Chartres used to say that we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.

It is reasonably easy to see how this would apply to science as science is a discipline in which the testing and documentation of observations, theories and efforts are recorded and continually subjected to the scientific method.

The library and the internet is the depository for this continual flow of knowledge and information.

In early periods of our history the accumulation of this knowledge was relatively slow due to numerous factors: Communication ease, authoritarian inhibition, available technology, time available, existing knowledge level and  the dogma that may contain our thinking

These factors still exist today but the curiosity of man has continued asking questions and change ways of thinking such that our understanding of the universe, and all that occurs in it, continues. And our knowledge increases only to produce more questions by those who have the curiosity to ask. This has produced an exponential explosion of knowledge in many areas of human endeavor.

It is apparent that when a subject is brought out of a hitherto unknown or restricted access condition it is free to undergo essentially unrestricted investigation, review, experimentation criticism and improvement; all essential components of progress. It is when this is halted that progress stops.

The martial arts has been undergoing this emergence in modern times since the 1970s probably pioneered by the larger than life character Bruce Lee who, questioning the then current dogma, asked martial artists to challenge, explore and experiment.

This continued with the emergence of kickboxing in the West followed by the appearance of Muay Thai, the Filipino fighting systems and several other less known systems.

Then came Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Vale Tudo, the Modern predecessor of MMA, both of which systems ultimately led to The MMA explosion.

And each of these systems themselves have all undergone their own explosions in knowledge and technical expertise, helping drive, along with it, an MMA specific shift in the fitness industry.

One element stays consistent with all of these changes, as it has done in all areas of human knowledge that of the quote by Newton, which paraphrased means that those of us who has made progress and helped develop systems, by adding to the knowledge, have done so by learning from and using the teachings and findings of our predecessors.

In my mind it is part of being human, if not a duty, for us to develop and add to the knowledge of those that came before. It not only adds to our understanding and knowledge but also honors their work, giving it substance and validity.

It is important that we recognize and mention their contribution, when we present our work. This not only respects their contribution but also gives the source from which our thinking and findings developed from and may help others who wish to work in this area also.

I also consider it our duty to continue the work of those that came before, in whatever discipline we have an interest in, because it is the underlying factor behind our progress and success as a species on this planet.

The Value of Passion, Dedication & Commitment

A friend of mine sent me a video link, recently, of an excerpt taken from the TV show, Holland’s Got Talent, the Dutch version of the well known talent show.

This particular performance was from a young 9 year old girl, Amira, who sang O Mio Babbino Caro, a very beautiful operatic piece for a Soprano. To say that it was outstanding would be an understatement; it was amazing, bringing many in the audience, including the judges, to tears and at the end received a standing ovation.

 Of even more incredible note was that she was basically self-taught. She related how she had practiced, listening to and watching other singers perform and then mimicking them. This was a 9 year old girl with such profound passion, a powerful example of dedication and what can be achieved by someone who becomes totally immersed in the skill or discipline that they have embraced.

The clues to how she developed the level of ability she had acquired are in what she said about how she learned. She had taken the principle of “acting as if” to its fullest expression.

Could this capacity to learn and methodology to acquire skill work for other skills and disciplines?

That is a question that can only be answered by trying it and testing the result. However, the level of commitment required is very high and requires and very special mind-set. I believe that anecdotal evidence of some champions of sport and great performers demonstrate that it is possible and is a very powerful way of developing many abilities.

The NLP and Neurosemantics principle of “modeling” is based on this “act as if” principle.

At the Academy of Combat, when I am teaching my young students I see the same elements there, the determination, the interest and the consistency in their work. I also see how they are turned off by, and avoid others that just want to mess around. Again these are young students between the ages of 8 to 12 that I see this.

They have acquired a mind-set that is promoting very powerful learning abilities that go way beyond the usual rote, memory dependant techniques used by the majority. A mind-set that if nurtured and encouraged will benefit them for the rest of their lives and surely lead on to great things.