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THE WARM-UP 06 Publisher’s Letter Blitz Publications CEO Silvio Morelli discusses the protection of children in martial arts clubs

08 Movers & Shakers Martial arts industry news & insights

16 Gearing Up New products and services to help the martial arts business owner

18 Success Story Hapkido master John Gill reveals how he used his martial arts skills to break into the entertainment industry

20 Motivators Words of inspiration from your peers

DOWN TO BUSINESS 22 King of the Kids US martial arts business guru Kyoshi Dave Kovar offers nine essential tips for attracting and keeping junior members

26 Just Sign Here… Hapkido instructor and founder of Black Belt Business Nathan McDonald debates the value of student contracts

30 Start Up Smart Barrister, entrepreneur and martial artist William Lye looks at key things to consider when starting a martial arts club


34 Child’s Play Freestyle martial arts instructor Shihan Matt Charnley reveals how he and his team keep the kids coming back for more


37 The Way of Success Dave Kovar discusses the importance of early success for new members

38 All Systems Go Kovars’ business systems specialist Dave Chamberlain explores what can go wrong if you’re not prepared to take a break

40 Martial Law Barrister William Lye reveals how you can protect your system’s name and image

ON THE MAT 42 The Chameleon Effect The Institute of Martial Arts founders Phil Britten and Graham McDonnell offer


some tried and tested teacher–student communication tips

44 The Original Player Aikidoka and sociologist Fred Donaldson reveals why play is essential for our development and interaction as humans

52 Bullies Be Gone! Shotokan karate instructor Jonathan Rabinovitz explores how martial arts can help bullied kids in non-physical ways

56 Upskill: Time to Try Thai? Taekwondo master Joe Ingrati explains why adding muay Thai to his school’s program has seen his business boom


60 Small Talk Melody Shuman, creator of specialist MA programs for kids, shows how to manage disruptive behaviour in a positive way

62 A Will & A Way BJJ/MMA pioneer John Will explains why scenario training is vital for self-defence

64 The Physical

EDITORIAL MANAGING EDITOR Ben Stone EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Samantha Emms REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS Matt Beecroft, Phil Britten, David Chamberlain, Nathan McDonald, Graham McDonnell, Andrea Harkins, Dave Kovar, William Lye, Melody Shuman, Ricardo Vargas, John Will ART ART DIRECTOR Javie D’Souza GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Diep Nguyen, James Steer, Zeenia Bhikha DIGITAL & ONLINE HEAD OF DIGITAL STRATEGY Karl Nemsow SENIOR WEB DEVELOPER David Ding ONLINE CONTENT EDITOR Christine Assirvaden PHOTOGRAPHY Charlie Suriano, Getty Images, Thinkstock Cover photo: Thinkstock ADVERTISING SALES Mark Unwin – MARKETING MARKETING & EVENTS MANAGER Frances Richetti

Strength and conditioning expert Matt Beecroft debates the value of Pilates for core strength and rehabilitation

68 Drill Master Shotokan karate sensei Iain Abernethy demonstrates a reality-based pad drill

THE COOL DOWN 70 Peer to Peer Karate instructor Morgan Duchesney discusses the ethics of compromise for martial arts business owners

74 Budo in Business Jeet Kune Do teacher and ethics professor Ricardo Vargas on how to better manage public perceptions of our martial arts


CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Silvio Morelli GENERAL MANAGER    Mark Unwin CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Stefania Minuti ADMINISTRATION & CUSTOMER SERVICE FINANCE Min You SUBSCRIPTIONS MANAGER Angelina Modica CUSTOMER SERVICE Angelina Modica, Frances Richetti Email: Phone: (03) 9574 8999 Fax: (03) 9574 8899 PO Box 4075, Mulgrave, 3170 Web: Articles published in this issue of Martial Arts Business magazine are copyrighted © 2017 and are published by Blitz Publications and Multi-media Group Pty Ltd under license from Bushi Pty Ltd. PRINTING


DISCLAIMER Opinions and viewpoints expressed in Martial Arts Business do not necessarily represent those of the editor, staff or publishers. Responsible instructors, individuals or organisations with something valid and relevant to say will, whenever possible, be given the opportunity. Reproduction of any material without written permission from the publishers is strictly prohibited. The acceptance of advertising does not necessarily imply endorsement of services or products. All articles, photographs and other material submitted by mail for publication in Martial Arts Business must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Contributions are submitted at the sender’s risk and while all possible care will be exercised, we cannot accept responsibility for loss. Please see for location of our privacy policy.





ow more than ever before, children make up a huge part of the membership in our martial arts clubs and organisations. For the future of the martial arts, this can only be a good thing — and for the future of your school, probably likewise. With that in mind, in this issue of Martial Arts Business we’ve focused on children: teaching them, communicating with them, encouraging them into our schools and towards their goals, and even managing their behaviour when things get a little unruly on the mats. (On the latter topic, check out Melody Shuman’s excellent column on page 60.) But there is also one other important topic we need to tackle. Unfortunately, as martial arts centres become magnets for active kids, they also become more attractive to people who wish to abuse children. I say this not to scaremonger; it’s simply a fact that those who seek to prey on kids look for easy opportunities to do so. In practical terms, that means they will seek work or volunteer roles where they are able to form relationships with children, exercise control over them and — in a sick twist of irony — be left in charge of their care. From such a position, abusers can then more easily manipulate, isolate and assault their victims. It is for these reasons that martial arts schools (and any other organisation where staff or volunteers work with children) are required to have Working with Children certifications for all staff members who have contact with children. To obtain this, as you probably know, a check of their police records is required to ensure they don’t have a history that should prevent them working with vulnerable young people. And if a certified person is subsequently charged or convicted over any sexual, violent or drug-related crime, their card will be cancelled. So, Working with Children cards are a good and vital first line of defence. But they are by no means foolproof. After all, not every offender has a prior criminal record; there’s always a first time, and some are opportunistic rather than serial offenders. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), less than a quarter of offenders have a prior conviction. This means that a police check will be of no use in identifying around 75 per cent of would-be abusers! Other research cited by AIC indicates that 37 per cent of offenders do not begin offending until they are aged in their thirties — by which time, of course, they can be well ensconced in their role and have built a solid reputation as a person ‘who would never do such a thing’. This is, of course, one of the


child abuser’s key means of protecting themselves: the ability to make any abuse allegations by children seem implausible. Remember UK karate instructor Harry Cook? He abused five young girls over a period of 20 years before finally being convicted and jailed. Unfortunately, it’s often not until several victims come forward after similar experiences that charges can be made to stick. It’s also worth noting that even since the introduction of the Working with Children checks, there have been crimes committed against children by people whose certification had lapsed or been cancelled. How could this happen? Because their employer wasn’t notified, or the offender had simply moved from one state to another. Whether due to an offender hiding or changing their identity, or a government body failing to communicate with others, predators can fall through administrative cracks. The fact is, legal and governing bodies can only do so much — the rest is up to us. So, what more can we do? Well, plenty. But it requires vigilance, education and rigorous standards. The best way to prevent the abuse of children is to empower the children themselves, and educate them and their parents in preventative strategies. As instructors of selfdefence, it makes sense that we give kids the tools to protect themselves — and given that over 90 per cent of abusers target a child they know well or are related to, the most vital defence tactics have nothing to do with hitting or kicking. Knowledge, as they say, is power. The first step, as an instructor, is of course to educate yourself. The more you know about the methods of child abusers and the circumstances in which abuse occurs, the easier it will be to ensure that your school set-up and activities provide no opportunity for it to occur. Knowing how to identify signs of abuse within children is also vital. To those ends, take a look at these helpful links:

• • • • •

Child Wise Child Safe Brave Hearts Australian Childhood Foundation Fighters Against Child Abuse Until next time, keep fighting the good fight!

Silvio Morelli, CEO of Blitz Publications & Multi-Media Group, co-founded Blitz magazine in the late 1980s. Morelli is a lifelong martial artist and founder of Geido Kai freestyle karate.

@BlitzMartialArt blitzmartialarts


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ON THE MAT | • 7


Okinawan karate master coming to Canberra

100 belts for Brazilian kids Following a recent move from the US to Brazil, martial artist and president of Warrener Entertainment, Don Warrener, saw first-hand the hurdles that many Brazilian kids must overcome to train in martial arts — and he decided to do something to help. Warrener recently contacted Blitz to tell the story of a night spent at a class run by his friend and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Sylvio Behring: “Last night Master Sylvio invited me to a grading at a school of his in the favela (ghetto) just outside Rio. There were well over 100 students waiting for him with huge smiles on their faces, waiting for him to run up and give them a warm hug. He is only able to get there once every six months, and his driver carries a gun in case they are attacked. “After they started training, I saw a girl collapse off to the left and the instructors rush to her; she had collapsed because she had not eaten all day. Then a teenage boy went down and, believe it or not, another one went down. In total, four kids had to be revived during the grading; the girl was taken to a hospital and the others just left the class. “I asked Sylvio if this was common and he said yes — very much so in this area. He explained that these kids and teenagers don’t pay for gradings or instruction, and they train in uniforms that are donated or handed down, in a building supplied by a church for free. Their martial art is all they have, and most train four times a week for 90 minutes each class. “Many of those who get promoted to a different belt colour don’t even get the belt, as they cannot afford them. I saw a Black-belt grading and the belt was very old and used, probably handed down three or four times already.” Warrener’s solution is The 100 Belt Project, through which he plans to send the dojo 100 second-hand belts to be used and handed on from one kid to another as they grade. “I know many of you might say, ‘Well, let’s just buy the 100 and send them’…but I think we need to send used belts, with all the pride and effort of our kids in those belts going to these Brazilian kids. It will have a lot more meaning,” he said. Used belts of all sizes and colours can be sent to: Alfonso Camerotte Rua Gustavo Corção, 784 Recreio dos Bandeirantes,  Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22790-150,  Brasil

8 • | WARM UP


New belts are a rarity in Brazil’s favelas

Okinawan Goju-ryu karate master Yoshio Kuba Sensei, 10th Dan, will visit Australia for the first time in late September to hold seminars in Canberra, ACT. Kuba Sensei’s mission will be to impart a deeper understanding of the movements in Goju-ryu kata and their applications, but a solid knowledge of karate basics will be required to participate. The seminars will be open to practitioners of all styles ranked Brownbelt and above. Director of the Goju-Ryu Karate Kenpo Kenbu Kan, Kuba Sensei has been studying his homeland’s indigenous fighting arts since he began training as a 15-year-old in Okinawa’s Shorei Kan dojo under Seikichi Toguchi, a student of Goju funder Chojun Miyagi. He is also a professional acupuncture therapist in Okinawa City.

Competition down, martial arts up: poll Recent polling of Australians by the Roy Morgan Research institute shows that just one in five Aussies now regularly play competitive sports — a drop of 27 per cent since 2001. According to Roy Morgan’s survey on people’s sporting participation habits, over the past 15 years more people are walking for exercise, jogging, cycling, hitting the gym and doing yoga, but fewer are playing sports with a win-or-lose outcome. There were some notable exceptions, with soccer becoming the most-played competitive sport in Australia with 623,000 participants country-wide (205,000 more than in 2001), with basketball and athletics also recognised as being on the rise. Roy Morgan’s summary of the survey also stated that martial arts was notably gaining in popularity but included it in the ‘competitive’ category — perhaps not recognising that the vast majority of martial artists do not compete. The finding in martial arts’ favour, however, reflects the recent AusPlay survey by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), which listed karate as the 12th most popular out-of-school activity among children, with martial arts generally ranking 20th.

Burton Richardson training weapon defences

JKD for the Streets Down Under Hawaiian Jeet Kune Do Unlimited (JKDU) founder Sifu Burton Richardson is set to arrive in Australia on 24 August to give a series of seminars in Sydney and Newcastle, NSW, hosted by Beston–Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The creator of the Silat for the Street and BJJ for the Street programs, Richardson is a student of Guro Dan Inosanto, the world’s most highly regarded Jeet Kune Do (JKD) practitioner and one of only two people directly certified by JKD founder Bruce Lee to teach his method. As well as learning JKD and Filipino martial arts under Inosanto, Richardson is a qualified muay Thai instructor under Master Chai Sirisute, a Penjak silat instructor under Pendekar Paul De Thouars, a 3rd Degree BJJ Black-belt under Egan Inoue and an accredited instructor in kali Ilustrisimo. As a teacher of both civilians

How to cut weight safely: research New research by University of the Sunshine Coast PhD student and Brazilian jiu-jitsu Black-belt Reid Reale has uncovered the best way for combatsports athletes to reach fighting weight without extreme dieting and harmful dehydration. In conjunction with the Australian Institute of Sport, Reale spent three years studying top-level athletes in the four Olympic combat disciplines — boxing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling — to determine how to maximise performance and minimise the health impacts of rapid weight loss before a weigh-in. The study found that eating light but calorie-dense foods such as protein bars or confectionary provided athletes with sufficient energy for peak performance while enabling them to get into lower weight categories. Reale, now based in Melbourne, said bodymass manipulation through crash dieting and dehydration was widespread in combat sports, and current health guidelines in sports ignored this reality. “If fighters have a certain amount of weight to strip off, they’re still going to do it in some fashion,” he said. “We wanted to work out the safest way for them to do that and maximise their performance… Severe dehydration can be very unsafe, and obviously if you have a major energy deficit for a long period of time, particularly before a competition, you’re not going to perform well.

and law-enforcement personnel, the Hawaiian’s focus is strictly self-defence. “We train to be effective in the street environment, then make adjustments to the training for students who wish to enter sporting competitions — not the other way around,” Richardson explains. JKDU programs are designed around the principle of being prepared for all facets of combat — standing, clinch, ground, multiple opponents and weaponry — and facing them in a variety of environments and scenarios. As part of this, Richardson stresses the principle of ‘progressive resistance’. “A real attacker is going to resist your effort 100 per cent. If you want to learn how to fight, you have to practise fighting against someone who is fighting back,” Richardson explains. “Progressive resistance allows everyone, regardless of experience, to do this in a safe, fun training environment.”

Pre-fight nutrition expert Reid Reale

“Someone without any education in this area might try to achieve their entire weight loss target through restricting water and sweating. My research was about introducing other strategies.” Reale’s study involved conducting full-body scans of almost 100 elite athletes, including national teams from Japan, Thailand, Brazil and the Philippines. It found that in the two-tothree days prior to a weigh-in, athletes aiming for rapid or acute weight loss should manage water intake and avoid eating fruit, vegetables and grains, instead opting for low-weight, highenergy foods. “Someone trying to chronically reduce body mass and body fat over time will be looking at low-calorie, bulky foods like salads,” Reale said. “But this does not work for rapid weight loss, as these foods leave undigested fibre in their gastrointestinal tract. So instead of having one-to-two kilograms of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains or meat over a day, a fighter might have a few protein bars, a handful of lollies or some chocolate. They will still get the energy they need, but it’s not going to sit heavily in the stomach. And mere grams can make the difference.” Reale himself is a high-level BJJ competitor and last year won the Black-belt Heavyweight title at the 2016 UAEJJF World Championship Trials in Sydney.

WARM UP | • 9


Real first aid for Raw Combatives Melbourne’s Raw Combatives hosted Ben Krynski of Real First Aid at their club ‘The Garage’ in Glen Waverley to deliver Level II first aid and CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) training on 25 March. Along with their chief instructor Jim Armstrong, the Raw students worked through a series of realistic self-defencerelated scenarios such as treating a knife slashing victim to control their bleeding, and attending to a person who’d been bashed with a baseball bat to manage their wounds and administer CPR. As well as learning how to deal with the after-effects of violence, Raw students learned how to manage an epileptic fit via a restaurant role-play, how to recognise an anaphylactic reaction and administer an EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector), and how to manage and cool the wounds of a burns victim. All the scenarios incorporated stage make-up and props to make the injuries hyper-realistic, adding to the learning experience. “All of the scenarios had a lot of

detail in them, from the make-up used to the backstory given to those involved in the scenario,” said Armstrong. “After every scenario there was a detailed debrief of what happened, what was done correctly and what could be improved upon, which helped all of the students take on board the lessons learnt. “In the self-protection world, we’re all taught how to strike, defend, identify pre-incident indicators, de-escalate confrontation and how to become a ‘hard target’ — among many other things — but we at Raw Combatives feel it’s more important to learn how to help others, as to us this is true meaning of self-protection.” Armstrong added that the course was “by far” the best of many he’d done over 30 years. “The information given was driven by base principles, which made it much easier to understand and retain,” he said. “The big difference between this course and others on the market was not only the principle-driven delivery but the in-depth scenarios that were run.”

Inoue Hanshi teaching at AYNSW

10 • | WARM UP

Jim Armstrong looks the part for a first-aid training scenario

Aikido luminary in town Sydney’s Aikido Yoshinkai NSW (AYNSW) and Aikido Shudokan in Melbourne again hosted Japan’s Kyoichi Inoue Hanshi, 10th Dan, in late April. The joint seminars were attended by local, interstate and overseas aikidoka keen to learn from the living legend and former kancho (director) of the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo in Tokyo. Accompanied on this trip by his wife, Aiko Inoue Shihan, Inoue Hanshi imparted words of wisdom from his many years studying and teaching Yoshinkan aikido. Students were also lucky to see him demonstrate his subtle and effective nuki waza technique of absorbing and neutralising opponents’ power, before being given the opportunity to try it themselves. One of the first direct students and uchi deshi (live-in disciples) of Yoshinkan founder Gozo Shioda, Inoue Hanshi co-developed the Yoshinkan techniques and basic kata that form the foundation of the syllabus used around the world today. Inoue Hanshi was also the head aikido instructor for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police for over 25 years and then became the head of Yoshinkan Honbu. This was Inoue Hanshi’s second visit to AYNSW, run by chief instructor Darren Friend Sensei and Senior Instructor Peggy Woo Sensei, who both learned directly from Inoue Hanshi during their many years at Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo. “Both seminars were a great success, with students learning invaluable skills and principles of aikido, relevant to not only within the dojo, but also in life,” said Woo Sensei. “Thank you, Inoue Hanshi, for all your years of dedication to the art and your pearls of wisdom.”

TKD stuntman runs courses on Gold Coast

Visiting karate master tests locals During his recent visit to teach Down Under, Japanese Goju Kensha karate master Michiro Noguchi awarded Dan-grades to 17 Australians, including host Kyoshi James Sumarac, now 8th Dan, his wife Shou Mei, 5th Dan, and son Casimir, who was the last of five Sumarac children to have been awarded 1st Dan Black-belt. “All my five children began their karate training at the age of five — the reward is they are taken to Japan by their father for training and sightseeing. It is a Sumarac tradition,” said Kyoshi Sumarac. As well as training at the Sumaracs’ Wu Lin Retreat dojo in Lancefield, Victoria, Casimir also trains in Melbourne under his father’s senior student Richard Kay, 6th Dan, in both karate and Systema. Casimir was one of a group of Goju Ryu Kakurin Kan International members who were tested on kata, application basics and sparring at the group’s annual training camp in November 2016. To receive their diploma, they were then required to perform a kata in front of Noguchi Sensei in April.

International stunt performer and action actor Ryan Handley recently returned to his father’s Gold Coast Stunt Academy, where his career began, to run courses for budding fallguys. Handley, who recently played lead villain ‘Zoom’ in the hit TV series The Flash, began training at the Australian Stunt Academy at the age of four under the supervision of his father, seasoned actor, Hollywood stuntman and former taekwondo fighter, Colin Handley. “As soon as he could walk, Ryan was running around the dojo and was a regular at the Stunt Academy when we first opened 22 years ago,” said Colin. “I’m so proud of the successful career he has made for himself in Hollywood and across the globe.” Handley is one of the many successful stunt performers to come from the professional training facility, with Stunt Academy Graduates having worked on recent projects including Hacksaw Ridge, Suicide Squad and Jackie Chan’s Bleeding Steel. Handley now works all over the world and resides in Vancouver, where he plays Prometheus on the TV superhero series Arrow. He returned to the Stunt Academy in Nerang, Qld to replicate a spectacular stunt he performed at just 15 years old, jumping though flames in front of the academy building. He also surprised current students by choreographing the fights for their final assessment — a filmed action scene. The Australian Stunt Academy runs four 2-week professional courses per year on the Gold Coast, as well as multi-level courses overseas.

L–R: Master Noguchi Michiro, Casimir and James Sumarac

“Dan gradings are not usually given on one performance, rather over several weeks or, in most cases, months,” Sunarac explained. “Each applicant is invited to perform different aspects of their grading requirements at different appearances, which helps to give me a clearer picture of their requirements or strengths. If I am not satisfied with an item, they can repeat it or it may delay their certification. This way there are never ‘failures’!”

Reid all about it: Kyokushin legend returns for kudo by former top Kyokushin fighter Jukucho Azuma Takashi. Fast and full-contact, it includes all bodily weapons (including headbutts) as well as throws and groundfighting, but competitors wear full-face helmets to minimise damage. The seminar will cater to all styles and skill levels, and is expected to draw many participants from both the karate and BJJ/ judo ranks. For more information, visit www.facebook. com/KudoAustralia

Ryan Handley in full flight

Shihan Judd Reid


Kyokushin instructor and 100-man-fight veteran Shihan Judd Reid returned to his home town of Melbourne in May and will be giving seminars around the country throughout June. He will also be one of several high-profile martial artists attending the National Kudo Seminar in Eltham, Victoria on 17 June, which will also feature a series of single-match fullcontact kudo bouts after the workshop. Hosted by Sempai Kiley Baker, 3rd Dan, at Eltham Martial Arts Academy and captained by Kudo Australia chief instructor (and Blitz columnist) Paul Cale, the kudo event will draw instructors and fighters from across Australia. UFC fighter and BJJ Black-belt Brendan O’Reilly will attend, along with Kudo World Cup bronze medallist Anton Zafir, national champ Ian Bone and some of Australia’s most experienced Kyokushin exponents. Along with Reid, the likes of Canberra’s Shihan Glen Gibbons and Parkes’ Shihan Darren Jordan are among senior Kyokushin instructors now bringing the sport of kudo into their schools. Kudo (originally Kudo Daido Juku) is an exciting mixed martial art from Japan, devised


WATCH FREE FROM BULLYING’S VIDEO Internet connection required

Martial arts family take on bullies As a Black-belt in various styles of martial arts, Sensei Mark McConnell was continually being approached by people who were scared for their physical safety or that of their children, and were looking for help. The instructor of many years decided something needed to be done — but the issue was too big for one bloke, or even his whole family. So, along with wife Lynda and son Joshua, both martial artists, Gold Coast-based McConnell founded the community action group Free From Bullying. “Recommendations from experts in the field of bullying indicate that we need to create community alliances to combat this problem,” said McConnell. “From schools to businesses, churches, the police service and the wider community, we need to combine our efforts to make a real impact and save lives.” Since starting the organisation almost two years ago, McConnell has recognised the need to deal with bullying and violence on two fronts: present and future.

“With our newspapers filled with stories of bullying, abuse and domestic violence, we are striving to make a difference in society,” he said. “While education is the way to changing the future, which we are working towards, people still have to deal with the present and, in particular, their physical and mental safety. “At Free From Bullying, we are aiming to provide as many resources as possible to help those in need, from information sheets to community workshops, DVDs and links to counselling.” Coinciding with this year’s National Day of Action Against Bullying in March, Free From Bullying organised a community event called ‘4Warned is 4Armed’ where instructors from four different martial arts ran workshops. McConnell hopes the event will be one of many, and encourages instructors to get in touch and get involved in future initiatives. To find out more, visit

12 • | WARM UP

Qld karate kid seeks help for Olympic quest With the possibility of an Olympic berth becoming ever closer, 16-year-old Queenslander Alannah Schramm is on a mission to tackle the world’s top sport-karate tournaments in 2017 — but she’ll need sponsorship to keep her dreams alive. With 10 years of training already under her Blackbelt, Schramm has accumulated an impressive trophy haul, winning both the Australian Karate Federation (AKF) National Championships and Australian Open championships for the last three years running, as well as the last two Oceania Championships (2014 and 2016). Having reached a peak world ranking of third in her division, she has also won bronze at the Commonwealth Karate Championships 2013, silver at the US Open International Karate Cup 2014 and fifth place at the Junior Karate World Cup in 2015. Schramm’s mum, Diane, said her daughter is now focused on trying to make selection for the AKF team for the 2017 World Championships in Spain and next year’s Youth Olympics in South America. “Alannah is extremely dedicated and committed — she has been doing karate since she was six years old,” said Diane. “She’s very determined and has achieved some amazing results.” However, for Aussie karateka to stay globally competitive, they must travel frequently interstate and overseas for tournaments and training camps, incurring considerable costs for them and their supporting families. “To date, we have self-funded all of her international trips to Europe, Asia, the South Pacific and USA,” said Diane, “but as parents, we know we now need to pursue some form of sponsorship to assist in taking her to the next level. “As a fit, healthy, dedicated young woman who has also had exceptional academic success at her school, we feel she would be a very worthy and committed ambassador for any organisation… [we] would be appreciative of any type of support and of course would look to make sure it was mutually beneficial.” Schramm is on Instagram and Facebook. Schramm in action at the QKF State Championships


Bullying has been recognised by Gold Coast’s council as a problem worth tackling

Aussies awarded Dans in Japan Nearly 2000 Kyokushin karateka competed in the International Karate Organisation (IKO) Kyokushinkaikan’s sixth World Weight Category and International Karate Friendship Tournament in Japan — but only two attendees, both Australians, received 7th Dan promotions. Held at the Tokyo Taiikukan in April, the event included a special awards presentation, during which IKO director Kancho Shokei Matsui presented the rare 7th Dan grades to Shihan Trevor Tockar and Shihan Nik Cujic. Both men are Australian branch chiefs of the IKO, with Shihan Cujic also being the South Pacific regional representative. Shihan Cujic has been practising karate for 50 years and was Australia’s first full-contact karate champion at heavyweight, as well as the open-weight grand champion, winning both titles in 1977. Kyokushin founder Sosai Mas Oyama personally promoted Cujic to 2nd Dan in recognition of his achievement. Cujic was also selected to represent Australia at the World Tournaments in 1975, 1979 and 1984, but due to injury he only fought in the 1984 event before retiring from competition. He has since coached many of his students to state and national titles as well as international representation — including his son, Steven, who has won several Australian Open

Championships and trained in Japan for more than five years before winning the All Japan Open heavyweight title in 2014. Sensei Steven was recently promoted to 4th Dan and Shihan Cujic’s wife, Joy, also a 4th Dan, is one of the highest ranked female karateka in the IKO. The Cujic family operates several dojos in Australia, with the main one located in Caringbah, New South Wales. Shihan Tockar has been training in Kyokushin for 48 years and competed at national and international level in both allstyles karate and full-contact Kyokushin between 1969 and 1982 in his native South Africa. He was in the South African team at the first World Open Karate Tournament in Tokyo in 1975 and later coached the team from 1979 until his immigration to Australia in 2001. Tockar was promoted to 5th Dan by Sosai Mas Oyama in 1981 and 14 years later was awarded his 6th Dan by Kancho Matsui. As chief instructor of North Bondi Kyokushin, Shihan Tockar has coached his two sons, Anthony and David, to Australian titles and to compete internationally. The Aussie shihans were presented with their 7th Dans in front of family members and a large group of students who had travelled from Australia to attend the ceremony.

Shihans Cujic (left) and Tockar after being awarded their 7th Dans

Karate fighters battle in Bendigo from which a standout was Loong Fu Pai (freestyle) stylist Emma Tui Whatarau, whose excellent technique won her the Open Kata title against strong competition. In the afternoon, the standout full-contact fights included a very strong Female Open Middleweight final that saw Lisa West take a heard-earned victory over Camilla Barker, while the Female Open Heavyweight final saw Bree Ward and Rebecca Weller fight hammerand-tongs for the duration of their spirited bout, with Ward taking the win. In the Open Male Lightweight final, Andrew Hume-Laver was victorious in a hard-fought match with John Bougias, while the Open Middleweight finalists put on a very technical fight before international representative Mathew Ah Chow won by wazari (half-point for a stunning blow) over a very game and much-improved Zac Mawson. The last fight saw strong kickboxer Masoud Kashami come out with all guns blazing against Alexander Kocic, landing hard body punches and thigh kicks to good effect, when suddenly Kocic (another international

representative) connected with a fightstopping round kick to the head, scoring an ippon (full-point victory) and the title. During the event, a special presentation was made to recognise two of Australia’s Kyokushin pioneers, Hanshi Ivan Zavetchanos and Hanshi Eddie Emin. Zavetchanos, 9th Dan judo, trained at Kodokan Judo headquarters in Japan with Kyokushin founder Sosai Mas Oyama and, in the 1960s, he brought Shigeo Kato to Australia to promote Kyokushin. Emin, 9th Dan, is a pioneer with more than 50 years’ experience and taught many of today’s Kyokushin instructors.


More than 200 competitors did battle at the annual Victorian Kyokushin Karate Championships, which was held for the first time in Bendigo, Central Victoria, on 2 April. Held at the Bendigo Events and Exhibition Centre, the tournament featured traditional Kyokushin ‘knockdown’ full-contact fights (no gloves, but no punching to the head) as well as kata and continuous non-contact sparring divisions. Attracting a diverse range of competitors and styles, the event was held under the auspices of three major full-contact karate organisations — Shinkyokushin under Shihan Peter Volke, Melbourne Kyokushin Karate under Shihan George Kolovos, and Kyokushinkaikan, directed by Shihan Steve Hardy and Shihan Barry Johnston — with assistance from local instructor Sempai Tamara Thomson. The Bendigo community also got behind it, with strong support from the City of Greater Bendigo and Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke, along with sponsors Bendigo Bank and Barry Plant Bendigo. The morning session consisted of continuous non-contact and kata competition,

WARM UP | • 13


Kata champion Mihn Dack

NZ’s Barney Gill in action

Aussie Karate Open the biggest ever The 2017 Australian Karate Federation’s annual Australian Open Championships was an action-packed three days of competition in Sydney’s Whitlam Centre on 7–9 April. With over 1300 entrants from eight nations, it was described by NSW AKF president Hani Zara as “the biggest ever”. This year’s event again opened with the Schools and Universities Age Championship, which gives student athletes the opportunity to compete not only for their club but as a representative of their educational institution. The competition in this now traditional curtain-raiser is lifting each year and action on all five mats ran like clockwork. With karate now officially on the cards for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, local organisers are also ramping up the opportunity for athletes across the Oceania region to gain the experience necessary for Olympic contention.

Incorporated into the Aussie Open this year was the 17th Senior Open Oceania Karate Championships, which brought together the leading contenders from New Zealand, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Fiji and Australia. The New Caledonia team led by world championship kata contender Mihn Dack showed that they will be a force to reckon with: Dack won the gold medal in male kata, with teammate Kim Faucher grabbing bronze in the women’s division, with a second bronze going to New Caledonia after a strong performance by Angelique Mondoloni. New Zealand also displayed some grit in the tough field, with Alexandra Anacan taking gold in women’s kata and Issac Hoshi scoring a bronze in the men’s division. In kumite (point-sparring), Australia had the home-ground advantage, fielding 24 of the 49 competitors. This lifted the Aussie

medal tally overall but it was testament to the high standard of competition in the region that the podium featured representatives of all the competing Oceania nations. The Australian Open was, however, the main event. The major medals in Female Open Kumite went to Melbourne’s Mandy Yap over Kristina Perrin and Aurore Vaysset of New Caledonia. The men’s division had the crowd on their feet as Barney Gill from New Zealand took the Gold from Aussies Dean Hollowood and Carlos Maya. Female Kata went Australia’s way with Marijana Dimoska taking gold from Jasmine Rafiq, with Chloe Battaglia (New Caledonia) and Mishela Dimoska sharing the bronze medals. The Male Kata division was of course all about Mihn Dack but saw great performances from Aussies Kyle Robinson (silver) and Shaun Yuen (bronze). – James Carrett

Ladies show the way at HKMA

New sensei: Raaymakers (L) & Thornton

14 • | WARM UP

Hoshiki Kiritsu Martial Arts Academy in Melbourne recently graded two of its highestranking female instructors to the title of sensei after 10 years of dedicated training, teaching, competing and contributing to the running and success of their club. To earn the instructor’s honorific title, Sensei Jane Thornton and Sensei Kate Raaymakers each constructed and conducted a two-hour class covering many facets of martial arts, including meditation/visualisation, impact drills, kata and its applications, and practical self-defence through developing peripheral awareness. The ladies also each gave a speech about their journey of self-improvement and spiritual growth through studying martial arts to 25 participants, who ranged in age and rank from seven years of age, Junior 6th Kyu, to 65 years of age, Senior 6th Degree. HKMA founder Kyoshi Matt Charnley, 6th Degree Black-belt, praised the new sensei for their efforts. “Both these ladies have displayed the attributes of a true sensei, such as humility, discipline, determination, self-sacrifice and an exceptional ability to teach, inspire and nurture both junior and senior martial artists,” said Charnley. “They are fantastic role models for the many junior and senior female students and have become only the eighth and ninth instructors to attain the title of sensei in my 25 years of running martial arts dojos.”

Aussie karate kid wins World Sabaki Challenge When the 38th annual World Sabaki Challenge included a junior division for the first time in 2017, young Australian Enshin karateka Marcus Kardas was ready, pulling out all stops and high kicks to win a world title in the prestigious full-contact event. The tournament, which is open to full-contact fighters from any style, saw combatants come from all over the world to compete in Denver, Colorado, USA on 22 April. It was the first year that a junior division was included as a prelude to the main professional event. Young fighters from many countries including Japan, USA, Peru and South Korea competed in seven divisions, ranging from primary-school age to high-school age. The children competed with the same rules as the adults — full-contact karate — but wore protective gear on the head, shins/ insteps, groin and hands. Each fight consisted of two 2-minute rounds. Marcus, a student of his father, Sensei Dino Kardas, at Enshin Dojo in Melbourne, fought three tough matches in the Junior Upper Elementary Division. He won them all via a combination of sabaki technique (redirection; the core principle of Enshin) and exceptional high roundhouse kicks to become the divisional world champion. Fellow Enshin Melbourne fighter Senpai Artem Zaytsev competed in the men’s Middle/Heavyweight division — one of three in total for adults, with the others being Men’s Lightweight and Women’s Open-weight. The competition for Zaytsev was ferocious: the division of seven fighters included three-time world heavyweight champion Lukasz Stankiewicz from Poland, 2015 World Lightweight and European champion Leon Muthunayake from Germany, and the youngest son of Enshin founder Kancho Joko Ninomiya, Jota Ninomiya, the winner of an All-Japan title and two world titles across different weight divisions. Zaytsev made it to the semi-finals before eventually losing by judges’ decision to the heavyweight champ from Poland, but the Melburnian’s technique and spirit won him much respect from his fellow competitors, with many noting his strength. The eventual winner Jota Ninomiya displayed amazing technique and timing to defeat the larger Stankiewicz to take the 2017 Middle/heavyweight World Sabaki Challenge title. “The Sabaki Challenge is a fighter’s tournament, designed to embody the underlying purpose of karate training, whereby the repetition and refinement of one’s technique, combined with constant effort, results in an inspired performance,” said Sensei Kardas. “Kancho Joko Ninomiya and Fuku Kancho Mike Ninomiya (himself a fourtime world Champion) wanted to provide a opportunity for the future stars of full-contact karate to compete on the world stage.” Artem Zaytsev in action

Marcus Kardas with Kancho Ninomiya

A scene from the Xu–Wei showdown

SEE THE VIDEO OF XU’S TAI CHI CHALLENGE MATCH Internet connection required

MMA vs tai chi match starts furore A video featuring a Chinese MMA fighter defeating a tai chi master in less than 10 seconds has caused uproar in China, with a wealthy businessman offering a hefty prize to any traditional martial artist who can beat the Mixed Martial Artist. After outspoken MMA exponent Xu Xiaodong destroyed Yangstyle tai chi master Wei Lei in a challenge match that racked up more than 1.5 million YouTube views in less than a week, Xu boldly issued an open challenge to martial arts masters across China to fight him one-on-one. Xu was quoted in the Global Times saying, “[I] crack down on fake things, because they are fake. Fake things must be eliminated. No question.” His comments angered many Chinese, who are fiercely proud of their famous fighting arts, including multimillionaire entrepreneur Mr Sheng Chen, founder of the Tiandi No. 1 drinks company. Chen, who hails from Guangzhou city in China’s far south, has responded to Xu’s challenge by offering 10 million yuan [almost AU$2 million] to any traditional martial artists willing and able to defeat the MMA fighter and “defend the dignity” of China’s fighting arts. Sheng will spread the purse across five fights, with the winner of each one receiving 1.5 million yuan (AU$294,000) and the loser 500,000 yuan. If Xu beats all challengers, the tycoon has agreed to give him the entire purse. Xu has said he’s confident he could beat two or three traditional martial artists at once. “I want him to understand, he used this kind of extreme method to provoke Chinese traditional culture, and will need to pay the price,” Chen said. So far, several Chinese have accepted the challenge, including tai chi masters Lu Xing and Wang Zhanhai, Shaolin Meihua Zhuang kung fu practitioner Li Shangxian and Yi Long, a tough sanda fighter often falsely promoted as a Shaolin monk, who has fought numerous Thai boxers.

THE WARM UP | • 15


PUNCH MEXICAN BOXING GLOVES Punch Equipment’s new ‘Fuerte’ Mexican Boxing Gloves are a premium boxing glove designed mainly for sparring opponents — and at 16 ounces, they are preferred size if training for a fight. Designed for a more accurate hand-feel and fit to improve fist positioning and power transfer in punching, the Fuerte glove also features a full-wrap Velcro wrist strap to protect your wrists, and thumbs attached to the glove body for safety. These true-to-weight 16-ounce gloves come in black, yellow or red and are ideally suited to fighters over 69 kg (see Punch’s fitting guide and video for more information). Price: $189.99 (RRP) Supplier: Sports retailers and GET ADVICE ON CHOOSING THE RIGHT BOXING GLOVES HERE

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TANS LEG STRETCHER Need help in the flexibility department? This leg stretcher can move your legs gently out to 180 degrees, and features a winch operating system with detachable handle, allowing for stretches to the left, right and centre. It also has a degree indicator to monitor progress, ensuring you don’t over-stretch. It has strong steel construction and high-density foam supports for the bum, back and legs to make stretching comfortable as well as safe. Price: $330 Supplier:


BOOK: SAMURAI IN 100 OBJECTS Showcasing a unique collection of original photographs of items from Japan and around the world, this book offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of Japan’s famous samurai warriors. Compiled by the world’s leading authority on samurai culture, Stephen Turnbull, Samurai in 100 Objects is a unique visual record of one of the world’s most important and revered military societies, which continues to have a great influence on martial arts culture today. The proud and enduring samurai tradition is exemplified and explored through the carefully selected objects, which tell the story of the samurai from acting as the frontier guards for the early emperors to being the inspiration for the kamikaze pilots of World War II. The artefacts, many of which are seen here for the first time, include castles, memorial statues, paintings and prints associated with the rise of the samurai along with their famous armour and weapons. The latter include the Japanese longbow, a 13th century bomb and the famous samurai swords. Price: $24 Supplier: Book stores or

16 • | THE WARM UP

Punch Equipment’s Urban ‘Softy’ Thai Pads have been designed with the pad holder, as much as the hitter, in mind. The Softy uses the same patterns and high-grade Punchtex® materials as Punch’s small Black Diamond pads — the major difference is that the standard injected-mould padding has been replaced with machine-packed synthetic fleece. This gives the pads a lightweight feel and a soft-impact face, making them easy on the arms, with the pad holder feeling greatly reduced shock from the kicker. Featuring only one forearm strap, the pad is much quicker to put on and take off than most, and comes highly recommended for class use and beginners. Price: $149.99 (RRP) Supplier:

HENTY COPILOT TRAVEL BAG The clever two-in-one Henty CoPilot consists of an outer garment bag and a spacious 20-litre inner utility bag. As good for carrying a perfectly pressed gi to a grading or competition as it is for getting a business suit to work on your bike, the garment bag wraps neatly around the utility bag, which can also be worn separately as a standalone backpack. Made from recycled plastic, when rolled the garment bag holds clothes in place to minimise creasing, while the multi-purpose Henty CoPilot has enough space for your business and/ or leisure needs, including laptop and other tech devices, two pairs of shoes, toiletries, accessories and gym gear. This durable carry pack features a large external pocket, removable laptop pouch, strong coat hanger with pivoting hook, adjustable buckled straps with comfortable padding, a leather handle for carrying briefcase-style and a high-vis waterproof jacket to protect the bag and belongings. Henty also offers several customised inner bag designs that are compatible with the CoPilot: Inner Tube, Dry Bag, Sports Messenger and the Sports Backpack. Price: From $319 Suppliers: Luggage retailers

BOOK: BRUCE LEE – THE TAO OF GUNG FU Bruce Lee not only popularised the practice of Chinese martial arts, and martial arts generally, he revolutionised it. Before he was a hero, he was considered a heretic for promoting the idea that students could pick and choose combat methods and training regimens to suit their own personal needs and fighting styles. At a time when martial artists were expected to study with only a single master, Lee lived his own philosophy, combining many elements from different masters and different traditions to develop his own method, Jeet Kune Do. As the first modern martial artist to really attempt this, today he is revered as the ‘father’ of mixed martial arts practice around the world. In addition to presenting the fundamental techniques, mindset and training methods of traditional Chinese martial arts, this martial art treatise from Lee explores Taoism and Zen as applied to kung fu, as well as Eastern and Western fitness regimens and self-defence techniques. Also included is a kung fu ‘scrapbook’ of Bruce Lee’s personal anecdotes regarding the history and traditions of China’s martial arts.

After Lee’s death, his manuscript was completed and edited by martial arts expert John Little in cooperation with the Bruce Lee Estate. It also features an introduction by Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, and a foreword from his close friend and student Taky Kimura. Price: $30.95 Supplier:

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Sydney-based hapkido instructor Master John Gill capped off a success story 38 years in the making when he became one of four martial artists to win Martial Arts Australia’s recent Action Star competition.


fter many years of competing in self-defence choreography competitions in the USA — and winning 13 of them — 7th Dan John Gill was primed and ready when he heard of the Action Star talent quest being run by old friend and creator of Kapow TV, Graham Slater. The competition, run at an Australian Martial Arts Championships tournament in December 2016, saw around 20 teams strut their stuff in the elimination rounds — but Gill was too focused on his own pending performance to gauge his competition. “I hardly watched anyone else, as I was warming up and doing meditation and visualisation before I was called on — as I do during all my tournaments, so I don’t get distracted by what my opponents are doing.” His strategy worked, because the following day, Gill’s routine got a second run in the final of the Male Over-18 division. He came up trumps against the choreography of Carl Claassens, son of Sydney’s Northern Beaches Taekwondo instructor Ron Claassens. “He is an excellent kicker, so I was very excited to win — particularly as he is half my age!” says Gill, 55. “I think my throws, joint twists and the complete and varied techniques of hapkido got me through, as it does in the World Champs’ self-defence divisions.” Gill’s prize included a two-week acting course, a stunt course at the Australian Stunt Academy on the Gold Coast and an 18-month acting contract with Anima Studios. Run by Vietnamese-Aussie stuntman and filmmaker Trung Ly, Anima is an Australian film production company and studio that specialises in action and martial arts movies. Established in Sydney in 2015, it produces multi-lingual films and also has a training academy designed to help individual talents, to help them find and fit their skills in the film industry through practical training. According to Gill, Anima Studios are now looking for a project in which they can showcase the skills of all four Action Star winners (one male and one female from the junior and senior divisions). “They have projects planned in different countries, which is very exciting, because we don’t know where we will be flown to,” says Gill. During their acting course, the winners already completed a 40-minute film called One Shot. “We wrote, produced, directed, choreographed and acted in it, which was really good,” Gill explains. “I invited my instructor,

18 • | THE WARM UP

John Gill with his hapkido and taekwondo instructor, Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee

Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee, to the showing and he really loved it…he is excited that I will bring hapkido to the big screen again, since the 1970s when Ji Han Jae brought it to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and Bong Soo Han doubled for the actor in the fight scenes in the Billy Jack movies.” As it happens, Ly is also a hapkidoka and does his own projects as a fight choreographer, so Gill is keen for more opportunities to work with him. “[It’s] very exciting, as he is also a hapkido master, so together we think we can create some pretty awesome action,” says Gill. “I am 55 now, but I feel 30!” A former finance professional, Gill has now cut ties with nine-to-five life to focus on his martial arts school and fulfilling the promise of a late-budding acting career. The long-time hapkido and taekwondo instructor began his foray into martial arts with a couple of years’ judo training in primary school, before returning to martial arts as an adult and joining Rhee’s ITF taekwondo. He

ultimately found his calling in hapkido in 1985, also switching to WTF taekwondo under Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee, a teacher of both Korean arts. “My instructor [in Rhee TKD] was Graeme O’Donnell, who was an excellent instructor, and he was at the finals of Action Star…which was great so I had a chance to thank him — particularly for my high kicking techniques,” said Gill. “I would also like to thank Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee, particularly for the hapkido techniques, which make my routines much more exciting with a lot of variation. Hapkido really is the complete art of self-defence.” Gill didn’t do it alone, though, and is full of praise for the two young fighters who were his fall-guys in the competition: his student Isaac Yeoh, a provisional taekwondo Black-belt and hapkido 5th Gup who only began training three years ago, and tournament fighter Chris Maxwell, a Black-sash in kung fu who first contacted Gill via Facebook and now trains with him. After just four weeks practising with Gill, the pair were ready to roll, punch and impale themselves on the hapkido master’s kicks. Gill now teaches Chris and Isaac for free as a thankyou for taking the hits so well. “Chris even let me kick him in the face, which added a dramatic slap!” he says. “He is interested in becoming a stunt man in the future, so he wants to get used to taking the hits.” The master himself has been busy since rejoining acting agency PGs; he’s landed work on TV series Home & Away, Love Child and Chosen, and a Toyota commercial, as well as doing ads for various small businesses. Gill and his fall-guys, Chris Maxwell and Isaac Yeoh, celebrate their win

“My next plan is to join a Hollywood agency when I’m over for the World Martial Arts Championships run by IMAC (International Martial Arts Council) in Las Vegas in June, where I am going for my 14th World Self Defence title,” he reveals. The Aussie plans to investigate casting agencies in LA before heading back to Vegas for the Martial Arts Supershow in July.  His ventures in performing overseas have also led to some other business opportunities in the industry. After being inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame last August in Texas as Hapkido Master of the Year, Gill has affiliated with a Texas tang soo do school looking to add hapkido to their syllabus. He’s working toward a similar goal with Las Vegas Taekwondo; its principal, Master Cory Martin, is also a small-time action film producer whose film Money Fight, starring Ernie Reyes Jnr, will be out this year. “[Martin] wants me to be in his next film and choreograph it,” says Gill. The master’s application of hapkido is not limited only to performance, though. He has had cause to use his skills for their intended purpose from time to time — most recently to escape a group of Chinese kidnappers during a Shanghai business trip (as told in Blitz Martial Arts magazine, Feb 2016). Gill is also known for his vocal support of anti-violence campaigns such as White Ribbon, and has been awarded for his community work running free self-defence seminars for women and the elderly. “I started teaching basic self-defence courses in 1985 at Sydney schools for their sports programmes, then opened [martial arts] schools under Grandmaster Sung Soo Lee’s Hapkido Moo Hak Kwan and Taekwondo Jidokwan from 1987,” says the Australian of the Year nominee. But even after so long in the game, it seems that the journey has really only just begun.

THE WARM UP | • 19


Ever stopped to consider the true worth of what you teach? Beyond the imagination of any accountant, it should really blow your mind.


s an instructor and possibly a school owner, how much is what you do worth? I’m not talking about how much money you gross at your school, or what kind of salary you make. While financial success is important, your value as an instructor, and someone who moulds lives through martial arts, far outweighs the financial fitness of your school, doesn’t it? Every martial arts instructor wants to be a part of a school that is vibrant and viable. Making a profit keeps the doors open, the equipment in order and the bills paid — every business owner, no matter the nature of their business, needs to have some of this common sense in their back pocket. Business is business. On the other hand, a martial arts school is a business like no other. Profitability is about people and how they react to life, based on what you teach them. Their worldly success is built on the application of the martial arts’ virtues and values that you share. Your actions will help recreate the importance of patience in a world where patience has lost its meaning. There is no true personal success without perseverance, and experiencing the facets of learning martial arts as you progress slowly but steadily through belt levels allows patience and humility to be reborn. You don’t charge money for those intangible lessons, yet they are invaluable. Applying the coveted martial artist’s mindset — integrity, self-confidence, respect, humility, focus, etc. — to life, allows the martial arts student to grasp the importance, and worth, of learning a martial art. In teaching and honing it, you have the incredible power to develop the minds, bodies and

20 • | THE WARM UP

spirits of your students, which is no easy task. If you could put a dollar value on good martial arts instruction, it’s safe to say that, over a lifetime, it could be worth millions to those who receive it. Every time you step into the martial arts class, you are sharing a wealth of useful knowledge but also lessons in diligence and action that cannot easily be found elsewhere. It is easy to forget that your actions and behaviours make an impact, or that what you teach over and over has great merit. The role you play may become monotonous at times, but that dissipates when you see your students excel. I often say that martial arts saved me. They saved me from being unhealthy, overweight and inactive. They saved me from having no energy, from giving up and from believing that age is a hindrance. They reminded me that every day counts, and no matter what, there are elements of martial arts that I can apply to my life each and every day that will enhance who I am and bring me closer to the person I want to be. This was learned indirectly through my instructors and my practice. What is teaching a martial art worth? How can you gauge the value of what you do? The answer to this question is beyond basic bookkeeping. The value, worth and success of your business is seen in your students. Although there is no way to measure that, I believe that it is worth far more than most would dare to imagine.

Andrea F. Harkins is a 2nd Degree Blackbelt in Tang Soo Do and has been practising and teaching martial arts for 24 years. She and her husband, David, currently teach their Family Martial Arts program at a YMCA in Parrish, Florida. You can reach her at: daharkins1@hotmail. com or at

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22 •



ometimes when I look in the mirror to comb my hair, I expect to see a 19-year-old kid looking at me — but instead, there is this old guy gazing back my way. When did that happen? Where did the time go? Then, after I recover from the shock of realising that I am in middle age, I look back at my life and feel, for the most part, that it was time well spent. After all, I have been (and still am) living my dream. I never really had any other serious interests other than martial arts, and that is what I have spent my life teaching and doing. It’s funny, but after 40 years of teaching, I still feel like a rookie. I hope I always do. A rookie is hungry for the challenge. A rookie knows he still has a lot to learn. A rookie has more questions than answers. With all that said, I have learned a lot about teaching and running a martial arts school since the 1970s and I want to share some of my findings with the next generation of instructors here. I am going to begin by focusing on what you can do to make your children’s program rock — because, after all, it all starts with the kids.

the early ’70s, there were only a handful of children training in most schools. Instead, the student body was made up primarily of young adult males. As I pushed through the ranks, I begin to help out in class and in private lessons. By the time I was 15, I was the primary children’s instructor at our school. I seemed to have a knack for it, and I absolutely loved it. Eventually I opened up my own branch of the dojo and my children’s program began to flourish, or so I thought. Then, in the mid-1980s a movie came out that changed everything. It was called The Karate Kid…you might’ve heard of it. Following this movie, I saw a flood of new parents embracing martial arts training for their children. Those school owners who enjoyed working with children and had a sense for how to do it thrived; those who were faking it, didn’t. The same rule still applies. Most kids don’t naturally commit, though, and there’s more competition for their attention out there than ever before. So it’s up to you to help them develop a love for martial arts. In my column this month (page 37), I talk about ‘White-belt moments’, when they realise, ‘Wow, I like this stuff.’ The sooner you can create a White-belt moment with your young students, the better. You want them leaving their first few classes thinking, ‘That was fun. I like this. I think I’m going to be pretty good at this.’



Many of today’s professional martial artists learned about running a school the hard way, through trial and plenty of error. Here, passionate owner of eight US karate schools and sought-after business coach Dave Kovar lets us in on a few hard-earned lessons on how to create and maintain a great junior membership.



Who is your ideal student? I can’t answer that for you. It is up to you to decide. But if you want a great children’s program, you have to embrace that market. You can’t ‘settle’ for teaching children because you aren’t able to attract adults. At Kovars Satori Academy, we are very clear about what we do: we teach children and their parents. That is our market. We don’t try to be something else. Knowing this helps make important decisions in every aspect of our business. Whether children are your key market or they only make up a small portion of your student body, if their presence is important in your school, read on.


When I began my martial arts training in

It can take a while for habits to form, and before someone has developed the habit of coming to class, they may quit, as we all know results are not immediate in martial arts. Most kids who quit, don’t quit because they hate class, they simply quit before they ever really get in the habit of coming to class in the first place. Maybe their mate next door wants to kick the footy with them after school, or perhaps they (or rather their parents) are trying to break a competing habit of hitting the couch and their latest consolegaming challenge as soon as they come home. This is why we should be relentless with our follow-up of new students and encourage them to attend. Why not tell them what there is to look forward to in the next class? Mention how they’ve • 23



Most people have a specific reason for wanting to train in martial arts. That reason will inevitably change over time, but it is extremely important that we match our new students’ expectations with results. If someone enrolled specifically for self-defence, make sure you are teaching them things that they find relevant and that enable them to confront their particular situation (if there is one) with more confidence. If a parent is hoping that your program will help their child to develop better focus, make sure they see that child standing straight, tall and still for progressively longer periods of time.


It doesn’t have to be easy, but it should be fun. As you read this, some of you might be conjuring up visions of too-often repeated warm-up games of karate kickball or Nerf-gun wars, but that is not what I am referring to. With proper planning and a matching level of enthusiasm, any instructor can find a way to make even the hardest drills or the most basic skills enjoyable. There are some great resources around as well as the many great games (think back to your childhood PE classes and school camps, perhaps) that can be adapted to suit martial arts.


Eventually, everyone training in martial arts is going to experience failure. That is an important part of the process. But if a student experiences failure too soon, especially if they already have a poor selfimage or lack confidence, they might call it quits before they start seeing the value in their training. Instead, do your best to set your new students up for success by setting realistic expectations and teaching them age- and skill-appropriate material.


Do you want to keep students training for 24 •

a long time? Make sure that they fit in and feel like they are part of the family. They should feel like they belong to a supportive and inclusive school community, as socialisation and community are an important part of the human experience. Little things like calling your students by name, knowing their interests and hobbies, introducing them to other students and generally taking a sincere interest in them, is often the difference between a student training at your school for three weeks or training at your school for three years or more.


Once you stop trying to become better, you quit being good. A challenger knows that to be a champion, they need to stay hungry, they need to train hard and they need to always be learning. Our industry is full of school owners who used to be successful, but are now struggling to keep the doors open. Sure, there might be less interest for martial arts in their area now than in years past. There might be more competition in their area now than ‘back in

the day’. But they might also just not be staying relevant. They might also have just lost their edge and/or their passion for their school.


Finally, stay mindful of the impact we can have on our students. It is not uncommon for instructors and school owners to forget or to lose sight of the impact that their program is having on their students and their community. When this happens, our livelihood can become less of a life’s passion and more like just a job. It is important to remember that the human mind is easily influenced by anything spoken with conviction. When we are mindful of the positive impact our program is having on our community, it dramatically increases our power to influence. It supercharges every interaction we have with our current students and every interaction we have with our future students. In many cases, it can be the X-factor that makes the difference between a successful school and a struggling one.

A lifelong martial artist with Black-belts in 10 styles, Kyoshi Dave Kovar is recognised worldwide as an innovator of best practices for martial arts school operation. He oversees the operation of eight Kovar’s Satori Academy schools and is the founder of ProMAC, the Professional Martial Arts College. Kyoshi Kovar is the lead instructor for Century’s Martial Arts Industry Association (USA) and he has published over 100 online business and teaching videos for the Educational Funding Company (EFC). He can be contacted via email at


improved and that you’re keen to see them learn the next step…and so on. This way we can help them develop the right habits. Once they have established a habit of coming to class, it is a lot easier to keep them coming.




» Point-fighting » Continuous sparring » Forms » Demos & XMA Tournament circuit begins March 2017 in NSW, Qld and Vic — call now to register! CONTACT OUR STATE DIRECTORS: James Casey 0402 695 717 (VIC & QLD) • Gary Palmer 0410 335 937 (NSW) • Glen Gibbons 0416 258 051 (ACT)




26 •

Contracts between a company and its customers are commonplace in many industries. Contracts are signed for mobile phone and Internet plans, electricity and gas supply, pay-TV and even many gyms — but are they necessary, or even a good idea, in the martial arts industry? Nathan McDonald, hapkido instructor and founder of small-business consultancy Black Belt Business, weighs in. BY NATHAN MCDONALD


f you search YouTube for ‘martial arts contracts’, there is video after video about student contracts and their effects; some positive, some negative and many somewhere in between. One clip is from a current affairs program in the USA and tells the story of two parents being sued for over $4,000 by a martial art school for a breach of contract. They had signed up their two kids on a two-year contract, but after two months the kids did not want to do the classes anymore. But the contract had been signed…so who is right or wrong here? Do they need to pay for 22 months of martial arts lessons their children aren’t attending, perhaps preventing them from being able to afford other activities, or should the instructor be more compassionate? Should contracts even be a part of martial arts training? Personally, speaking as both a long-time instructor and a business owner, I don’t believe so. My grandmaster always warned me that running a martial arts school will always be different when money is involved. And that is so true. It goes without saying that, as full-time martial arts school owners, we need to live; we need to put food on our tables. As a result, that line is blurred when it comes to our passion for the art — expressed in our training and teaching — and our work, where sufficient returns are required to maintain our chosen lifestyle. Times can get tough, and our own passion may be dampened by the workload…so sometimes instructors might resort to other tactics like lockin contracts, reducing standards of discipline or even adding more belts and levels (i.e. gradings, which come at a

“MY GRANDMASTER ALWAYS WARNED ME THAT RUNNING A MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOL WILL ALWAYS BE DIFFERENT WHEN MONEY IS INVOLVED. AND THAT IS SO TRUE.” price). This is done to not only increase the length of time the average student will have to pay membership fees, but also to increase the amount of money they will spend at the club over the short term. As we all know, martial arts training is tough, and so it has high rates of attrition…so, get the money coming in while you can, right? But are these legitimate ways to earn an income from martial arts? The most common reason to employ contracts cited by martial arts schools is that a contract encourages a level of commitment to the training from the outset. Put simply, the student who has a contract (usually involving automated direct-debit payments as well) will turn up because they are paying for it regardless, so to skip class would be like throwing money down the toilet. Of course, it can be argued that this arrangement is beneficial for the student, who stands to gain from their commitment to training, as well as the club, which receives more membership fees. In society these days, personal choice tends to reign over loyalty and commitment, so having a financial discipline in place will help people stay or come back…at least, so the thinking goes. Unfortunately this also leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who no longer want to — or simply cannot, through no fault of their own — turn up to classes. This is especially so if, rather

than just being lazy, they have decided that martial arts (or perhaps just that particular martial art) is not for them. It is better to try to change the student’s mind about the value of what you offer, and offer incentives and encouragement to return, rather than punish them for staying away and in the process make them wary of martial arts schools. When you think about it, contracts will not be a huge factor when it comes to having students turn up. And why would you even want to force somebody to turn up if they don’t enjoy coming to class anymore? When cricket season arrives, I know I will lose a minimum of five kids to cricket, as practice will inevitably be on the nights we have classes. However, the problem doesn’t lie in whether you have a contract in place or not, it lies in the fundamental teachings of the parents and how they manage the challenge of commitment with their children. It also comes down to the natural talents and preferences of the children; they are always better doing some activity than none, and encouragement is more effective than enforcement. What makes a good martial arts school — i.e. one to which students want to return and commit their time? This question was posed to my grandmaster recently in a seminar and his answer was simple: it’s the instructor. Students come because the instructor pushes • 27

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them, helps make them better, and gives them the enthusiasm to come back to class. If your school is not doing well, look at the instructing, the syllabus and so on, not whether a student is committed. You shouldn’t have to resort to financial pressure tactics to make a student turn up. Most martial arts schools are marketed primarily by word-of-mouth within their surrounding community, so if a bad experience is had as a result of enforcing contracts, then that word will get around. And if students have the feeling you do it for money, rather then the passion, where to from there? Contracts also come with their share of disincentives when it comes to implementation and enforcement. You will incur legal fees for the set-up (if you do it properly) and legal fees when you have to chase somebody for payment, not to mention the time spent on it. If you are going to put contracts in place, set it all up properly from the start. Have an experienced lawyer to give you the right advice and draft up the appropriate contract that will benefit the business long-term. It should be clear and easy to explain to prospective students, and it should outline incentives — without a fair trade-off for the long-term financial commitment (aka potential risk), a student may well see the contract as a

disincentive to join your club. Also, consider limiting the contract terms to a maximum of 12 months. This will be an easier sell then 24 months, which is too risky for many people, no matter how good the associated discounts or added value. It should also have a simple, fair and easy get-out clause. What happens if the student moves too far away to come to training? What if they get injured? People often have things happen in their personal lives that may prevent them from training for a given period of time. Martial arts is also about compassion — and from a marketing perspective, it’s also about goodwill and great word-of-mouth. To that end, use a good direct debit system, so that it is easy to not only take payments but to stop them in a timely fashion if that’s what is required. I believe there are better ways to run your school and get a good return than locking members into long-term contracts. I have more than 170 active students in my school (and, no, it is not my full-time job) and retention has never been an issue, yet at no stage have I ever considered putting contracts in place. I live by one simple rule in the dojang and in business: you get back what you put in.

Nathan McDonald, 4th Dan hapkido, is the founder of Black Belt Business and has more than 20 years’ experience in business growth and development, and 18 years in martial arts. He can be contacted via

Advanced Nunchaku By Fumio Demura & Dan Ivan

This book contains clear pictures and instructions on using nunchaku. In a similar way to the authors first book, Nunchaku: Karate weapon of Self Defence, this simpler book this book takes a traditional approach to nunchaku use. It goes without saying that advanced nunchaku covers a wealth of different swings. However, this is not all. Chokes, locks and blocks are all covered as well as Karate based strikes using the nunchaku held in a fist. If you know anything at all nunchaku this is definitely the book for you. Even very advanced chuckers will find this book interesting as it takes a very traditional approach and demonstrates how nunchaku can be used very effectively without swinging them at all! BLITZ MAGAZINE

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START UP SMART Many martial arts instructors aspire to start their own school, but few understand what it takes to successfully start a business. Martial artist, lawyer and entrepreneur William Lye looks at the pros, cons and possible surprises to consider before embarking on this labour of love.


n his influential E-Myth books (‘e-myth’ referring to the entrepreneurial myth rather than anything technological), Michael E Gerber provided an interesting insight for those considering a career teaching martial arts. Dealing with martial artists who also owned their own school, he advised them to work on their school, rather than in it. He said that the role of the owner is markedly different from the role of the technician — and that the two roles invariably end up being mutually exclusive. The problem, he says, is that the martial artist, however skilled in his art, is generally inexperienced in business. Most would fail to attain financial and emotional success because they believed they could achieve the same mastery in business as they did in their art, without any other formal training. Gerber’s ‘entrepreneurial myth’ theory says that most people who go into business for themselves aren’t entrepreneurs, but technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial ‘seizure’. They create a job for themselves, rather than

30 •

a business that works, and in the process they become consumed not by the work they love to do (i.e. teaching martial arts), but in the work they often have no idea how to do — such as marketing, management, finance, systems development and so on. The trouble is, a school’s ultimate success depends on all of these things, not just what you can deliver on the mats. The martial artist’s journey to obtain the highest level of qualification requires dedication and determination to perfect the art’s skills. So why, then, do so many martial arts instructors not apply these same attributes to learning the fundamental principles of engaging in business? Having spoken to various martial artists who own their schools, the common thread is that they are doing what they love to do and, as such, making a lot of money is not a priority. Indeed, the martial artist’s business model is generally a sole proprietor, and he or she is often ‘bootstrapping’ the business. However, just as the martial artist endured countless hours of practise and

pain to become a master, he or she could also achieve the same level of success when opening a martial arts school, by recognising that he or she is a Whitebelt in the world of business, and by being determined to learn the keys and principles of doing business. In his Globe and Mail column ‘Wise Words’, business writer Sean Wise once looked at the lessons that Gracie jiu-jitsu could teach entrepreneurs, as it has become a global movement of “Business Jiu-Jitsu” . One of the keys to learning, he explained, was “in fighting, like business, you have to choose where you want to focus your energies”. It’s particularly useful for martial artists to remember, when they go to the market with limited resources, that they ought to choose a key area, such as price, quality or customer service, where other competitors are weak, and channel their limited resources there. Most martial artists commence by focusing on their particular style and passion for teaching. They hope that by word of mouth, their customers will embrace their philosophy and great teachings. That might be the starting point, but it’s not a recipe for successfully operating a martial arts school. Consider the following questions posed by Tom McKaskill in his book Winning Ventures (ebook available from and do a reality-check before you give up your day job to open your martial arts school, or take on additional burdens after working hours to run your school: • What is the ‘compelling need’ you’ve identified among the community you serve (i.e. potential customers) and what are you offering to meet this need? • Who is the customer (e.g. children, adults, corporate groups)? • What is the value proposition for this customer (i.e. what are the compelling reasons for them to join your school)? • What is the price of your offering? • How will you get your offer out to your potential customers (i.e. where and how will you market the business)? • 31



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It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that because you know a lot about your martial art/s and how to train people well, you will automatically succeed in running a school. In reality, ignorance of essential business practices will inevitably lead to failure. For example, you could have the best dojo out there, but if it’s tucked away out of sight, hard to find and your marketing isn’t getting to the right people, it will likely be extinct well before word of mouth has brought sufficient business to your door. Or, at best, you will lose a lot of money unnecessarily while you wait for word to spread. We all know the value of time invested in our martial arts training in contributing to our knowledge and skills in the art. The same determination should be applied in learning about how to pursue your entrepreneurial enterprise. The mastery of business and martial arts skills is essentially based on the same fundamental principle: are you determined and passionate enough to master what you do not know? William Lye has been a practising barrister at law for 28 years and has studied several martial arts. He can be contacted at

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Struggling to keep the younger generation of students on the mats? Worried about potentially watering down your martial art in your efforts to entice them? Here, Hoshiki Kiritsu Martial Arts head instructor Kyoshi Matt Charnley, 6th Dan, and Renshi Maree Charnley, 4th Dan, reveal how they have built up their junior program to achieve a 90 per cent retention rate, which has resulted in waiting lists for all their junior classes. STORY BY MATT & MAREE CHARNLEY


s we all know, the core of any martial art is its students. Without the students, there are no clubs; without the clubs, there are no styles; without the styles, we do not have our martial arts community. Therefore, the recruitment and retention of our junior students must be of the highest priority. And this leads us to the age-old problem of how to keep our junior students interested and enthused so they can develop into proficient, confident martial artists and continue their training well into their teens and hopefully far beyond. With so many other distractions such as high-tech interactive video games, social media culture and myriad sports all competing for the children’s attention, martial arts organisations and instructors must be more innovative than ever before to stimulate and challenge the junior students — all while ensuring they have the right balance of discipline, drive and variety to achieve the next rank and a useful set of skills. By following some core principles that focus on nurturing our junior martial artists, we have been able to build a consistent weekly attendance of more 34 •

than 100 junior students. Some of those principles include: • Constant encouragement • Setting an example • Allowing the children to contribute • Building camaraderie between instructors and students • Disciplining in a reasonable manner • Setting attainable goals • Acknowledging success and achievement • Providing variety as well as structure • Actively engaging parents (holding kick bags, etc.). All of this stems from a background of genuinely enjoying teaching our juniors and taking pride in their efforts and achievements. Firstly, I put myself in the children’s shoes. Imagine you are five to eight years old and you walk into a dojo with no previous experience in martial arts other than what you have seen on TV or what your friends at school have told you. Naturally, most kids are nervous and even intimidated by the uniforms, belts and unknown nature of the class. So, I believe that the initial introduction of the child to the instructor is of the utmost importance. At Hoshiki Kiritsu we always squat down to

“OVER THE YEARS I HAVE SEEN SOME INCREDIBLY ARROGANT INSTRUCTORS ACT AS IF IT IS AN HONOUR FOR THE CHILD TO MEET THEM, AND THEY REMAIN ALOOF FOR THE ENTIRE CLASS…” the child’s level, smile and ask them if they would like to have a go at class. Then the new student is introduced to the class and one of the more experienced youngsters is provided as a ‘buddy’, who they can relate to and mimic during the class. Over the years I have seen some incredibly arrogant instructors act as if it is an honour for the child to meet them, and they remain aloof for the entire class. This only exaggerates the child’s anxiety and builds a barrier — through fear under the guise of respect — between them and the sensei. In my view, these instructors are misguided. They do not understand the concept of humility and certainly do not recognise that the future of the club/

Kyoshi Matt Charnley (rear left) and his team look for training methods that increase kids’ engagement

style rests on the recruitment of children and having them develop into senior martial artists. Obviously, once you get a new junior student interested enough to sign up for the exciting and rewarding adventure that is martial arts training, there is always the matter of maintaining discipline — and the more junior students you have, the more difficult this may be. In my 35 years of martial arts training, I have seen and heard of some astoundingly disproportionate punishments dealt out to children by ignorant instructors, such as confiscating a student’s belt for a week for not answering a Japanese translation correctly, and juniors

“…THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF HUMILITY AND DO NOT RECOGNISE THAT THE FUTURE OF THE CLUB/STYLE RESTS ON THE RECRUITMENT OF CHILDREN AND HAVING THEM DEVELOP INTO SENIOR MARTIAL ARTISTS.” being allowed to complete a full grading before being failed in front of the whole class for a minor infraction of the rules that occurred several weeks prior. At HKMA we live by a very simple philosophy in regards to our junior students: “A human being will always perform better under the expectation of praise and encouragement

than they will through the fear of criticism and punishment.” This is not to say that discipline is not exercised, but it’s the way it is implemented that determines how effective it is. As instructors we must be aware of the influence we have over young kids — one ill-placed criticism, one public • 35


While variety in training is key, traditional methods need not fall by the wayside

humiliation or ridiculous punishment can forever damage a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Further to this, it may turn them away from martial arts or, worse, all sports, for fear of further embarrassment. We have found that if you respect the kids and their ability to contribute, they will become involved and feel important. To that end, we finish every junior class with a child picking out a quote from our quote board. The kids are then asked to think about the quote and explain its deeper meaning and how it could relate to martial arts. Even though many of the quotes deal with very profound, adult concepts, the answers we receive every single week from children as young as five are incredibly insightful. This promotes and encourages them to think and then speak up without fear. As far as keeping the kids interested in the actual training, the key we have found is variety. As we all know, youngsters have a short attention span, so continually changing the format, content and pace of the class keeps them on their toes. We 36 •

include many martial arts-related games such as Poison Boxing Glove (focusing on movement), Sensei Says (Japanese commands), Sumo (focusing on strength and movement) and Longest Jumping Kick. We also avoid lengthy verbal explanations without accompanying physical actions, and encourage the junior students to be demonstration partners for the instructors. The principle of remaining active is even implemented during meditation/ reflection time at the start and end of class in the form of guided visualisation. This practice increases the children’s ability to focus and mentally rehearse

what they have learnt. We then ask the instructors to consider which student has shown exemplary focus, discipline and endeavour throughout the class, and this student is then presented with a ‘student of the week’ certificate. We have found that these awards provide much incentive to the other students and improve the level of participation right across the entire junior program. By placing enormous importance on nurturing our junior students, we will not only ensure the future of our martial arts but, even more importantly, we will teach a whole community of children the values of humility, respect and self-discipline.

Kyoshi Matt Charnley began his martial arts training in 1983. A former Victorian full-contact karate and kickboxing champion, he has trained intensively in Kwannon karate, Zen Do Kai, kickboxing, boxing, kung fu, muay Thai and jujitsu. In 1995, Charnley and Sensei Glenn Smith formed the Hoshiki Kiritsu system and now run four suburban dojos. Charnley holds diplomas in sports coaching (martial arts) and counselling, and regularly trains overseas for his own professional development. Along with his wife, Renshi Maree Charnley, he has developed self-defence courses specifically for women, school children and the intellectually disabled.


An obvious requirement for success in any service industry is meeting the needs of the client. But since the martial arts require some long-term training and commitment to get real results, this isn’t easily achieved with new students — and that’s where the ‘White-belt moment’ comes in.


am so proud to be a martial arts instructor. I’m so proud of what we do as a profession. Martial arts, taught correctly, helps solve many of the problems facing people of every age. Does your child lack confidence? Come see us. Do you need to get in shape? We can help. Does someone you know need to learn how to focus better? Send them our way. Do you want to learn how to defend yourself? We’ve got that covered. We can do all of this and more, but it doesn’t happen overnight. We need some time to make this happen and unfortunately, a lot of people quit before they ever really experience the benefits of their training. That’s why, as instructors, it is so important for us to make sure we do two things with our new students: Help students develop the habit of coming to class. Often when someone quits quickly, it’s not that they didn’t enjoy the program, it is just that they never developed the habit of coming to class and sort of drifted away. That is why it’s so important to reach out to newer students as soon as possible when they don’t show up for class. I’m a big fan of standing appointments for the first month of training. For us, standing appointments means that every time they don’t come to class, we call them right away. Even after they enrolled. Help our new students experience a ‘White-belt moment’. This is that moment every one of us probably had in our early training; it’s the moment we thought, ‘Wow, this is cool. I want to be good at this.’   My White-belt moment… I started martial arts because of George Morgan. George was THE primary-school bully. He didn’t just tease and harass (although he was good at that), he actually beat people up as well. Etched in my memory forever is a vision of George holding a kid by his chest up against the chain-link fence and then punching him square in the teeth. George actually had a top-ten list of people that he was

going to beat up, and I was on that list. I never actually got beat up by George. The closest I ever got was when he and two of his cronies chased me home after school one day. I made it home safely, but the fear that I experienced made me never want to feel helpless again. The interesting thing was, his partners in crime were normally my friends, but George threatened to beat them up if they didn’t help him catch me. Now let’s fast-forward a couple years. My big brother Tim came home after his first year of college and finally convinced my folks that it would be okay for me to take karate lessons. You see, he had taken two semesters of taekwondo and had become a big fan of the arts. Soon after, I enrolled at Bruce Juchnik’s Self Defense School of Karate. I went to my first class nervous, excited and hopeful. I had high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. After learning how to bow, the first thing my instructor taught me was an American Kenpo self-defence technique against a twohanded chest grab called ‘kimono grab’. That’s all it took. I was hooked! That was my White-belt moment. I then left my first class with my head held high and my chest pumped out because I was feeling so proud and confident…and also because I was hoping some bad guy would grab my chest, because now I was ready! So the question that I have for you is, how can you help your new students experience their Whitebelt moments? There is no set answer, but you would do well to find out what they’re looking for, and then give that to them, again and again.

Those White-belt moments: ‘Go on, grab my chest — you’re gonna regret it!’




A lifelong martial artist with Blackbelts in 10 styles, Kyoshi Dave Kovar is recognised worldwide as an innovator of best practices for martial arts school operation. He oversees eight Kovar’s Satori Academies, is the founder of ProMAC (Professional Martial Arts College) and is the lead instructor for Century’s Martial Arts Industry Association (USA). Kovar has also published over 100 online business and teaching videos for the Educational Funding Company (EFC). He can be contacted via



With any business built on a personal passion, it’s often difficult to step back and leave it in the hands of others — even when you desperately need to. Down time is vital for any business owner, no matter how much we love what we do…but are you set up to make it happen without worries?



Taking time out for yourself, whether for training or just to unwind, is a necessity, not a luxury.


oan was in desperate need of a vacation. As much as she loved what she did in life — owning a martial arts school and teaching people about confidence and discipline — she found she was more on edge than normal with people and in dealing with things around her school. This included being short with parents and students — which she knew was a problem she needed to resolve, for many reasons. So, instead of putting off her vacation again, she and her husband decided to load up the family and go camping for 18 days in the mountains — no phones, no internet, no interruptions. Since Joan thought of herself as a planner, she believed she was making sure her school would be well covered while she was away. Joan first checked to see that her program director, Bill, wouldn’t be out during the time she was gone. Then, because her top assistant was still healing from an operation, she asked another solid assistant, Barry, to run the classes during her time away. Barry had been with Joan for almost four years as an instructor, and because he had never been allowed to run classes completely by himself, he was ecstatic to be the one in charge of the mat during Joan’s break. It was towards the end of the first week of Joan’s absence that Barry encountered an issue with a recently enrolled student by the name of Kathy, who was a White-belt. Because Joan always taught the Beginner and Intermediate belt ranks, Barry didn’t really know Kathy very well, but he’d come to the belief that she offered some challenges to the school. She came to class every single day, in spite of the warnings about overtraining that she had heard during orientation. But at the same time, she had yet to be on time for a class. Her tardy behavior wouldn’t normally be as big a concern, except she wanted Barry to provide individual instruction for what she had missed following each class. Barry provided the instruction she requested because he was desperate to do well while Joan was gone; however, it really bothered him that Kathy never seemed to appreciate the extra effort he was making just for her. Barry also found Kathy’s husband, Ralph, difficult to warm to. He often came with his wife to watch her classes and he could often be heard talking

on his mobile phone in the stands, or providing encouragement and instruction to his wife as she — along with everyone else — was training. When Barry spoke with the program director about his issues with Kathy and Ralph, Bill pointed out that Kathy was a member of the local school board. Bill also said that during the orientation process, Kathy had strongly intimated that she could bring new students to Joan’s school if she found the program worthy of her help. In return, she thought she should receive special pricing in return for all of the business she could refer to the school. Bill had told her he would speak to Joan about her request, but he forgot to mention it before Joan left for vacation. So, Barry looked on the school’s online record system to see if Joan had left any notes regarding

Kathy, but Barry found only the details of her agreement and no other special notations. Barry thought about saying something to Kathy regarding her overtraining and tardiness, but if she was a bigshot on the school board, maybe he should just let it go. As far as her husband’s rude behaviour, couldn’t he read the signs posted throughout the school, requesting that those watching should speak in low voices so classes wouldn’t be disrupted? While Barry hoped it could all wait until his boss returned from her holiday, things came to a head in Barry’s third week of acting as head instructor, shortly before Joan was due back. During Kathy’s class, for which she was once again late, Barry thought he overheard her tell another student during a break that she would be glad when Joan returned to teach their class. Barry was hurt, since he believed he had been providing excellent instruction to her and the rest of the students, not to mention giving her special treatment after every class. Then, while Barry was still stinging from Kathy’s insinuation that she didn’t think he was a very good instructor, Ralph, who was once again watching his wife’s class, received a call on his mobile. Instead of taking it outside the dojo, he spoke to the caller in what Barry thought was a loud voice, for what seemed to Barry like several minutes. Barry was suddenly angry and before he knew it, he had stopped class, walked over to Ralph and told him to either disengage from the call or to finish it outside.

“SHE BECAME MORE DEPRESSED WHEN SHE READ THE SCATHING REVIEW KATHY HAD POSTED ONLINE ABOUT THE RUDE AND INSENSITIVE TREATMENT” Barry then restarted the class — but before it ended, he told Kathy that he was unavailable to provide oneon-one instruction after class. He also suggested she try to be on time for future classes, since it was hard for him to give her private instruction when another class he was scheduled to teach was about to begin. As Kathy began turning a darker shade of crimson, she sputtered, “Do you know who I am?” Joan returned from her vacation later that same week, rested and relaxed…until she opened her email and read Kathy’s quit notice. She became more depressed when she read the scathing review Kathy had posted online about the rude and insensitive treatment she had received at Joan’s martial arts school. This may seem to some like an unlikely scenario, but in reality it’s just one of those everyday situations that can (and did) easily arise: one seemingly minor thing piles on top of others, a conflict arises…and suddenly, you wish you’d had systems, policies and training in place to deal with it. Those are the things that will allow you, as a school owner and/or professional instructor, to have a little peace of mind when you’re away from the school, or even just off the mats for a little while. So, looking back at the example of Kathy and Barry’s, here are some points to consider: • How could the issues that occurred during Joan’s time off have been avoided? • What would you do regarding Barry — discipline him? Coach him? And if you coached him, what would you say to him? • What would you do now as a form of service recovery? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the above, so feel free to email the editor at Until next time, good luck with your teaching and keep changing the world for the better. Dave Chamberlain joined Kovars in 2006 and now serves as the CEO, working side-by-side with Kyoshi Dave Kovar to make Kovars and their clients successful. Mr Chamberlain is a seasoned senior executive with experience in highprofile corporate environments and fast-growing start-ups. Prior to joining Kovars Inc., he held executive management positions at IBM and Novell. He has earned his 2nd Degree Black-belt and is currently training for his 3rd Degree.



There are hundreds of recognised martial arts styles, and many are practised and taught widely by different, disconnected organisations, despite having come from a common founder. But can a style become widespread enough that the founder can’t retain ownership of the style name?



Soke Bob Jones, famous founder of Zen Do Kai freestyle karate, had to battle others in court over the trademarking of his own system


raditional martial arts styles like judo, taekwondo and karate are well known to many people, and have a large following. These styles are very specific in what they offer. However, as various martial arts styles continue to evolve, we begin to see many variants or even new styles developing. Descriptions like ‘kung fu’ or ‘reality-based self-defence’ (RBSD) have become generic to describe a type of martial art. What is often overlooked is that any style could become part of the genre if enough people identify with such a style. Bruce Lee certainly was seen as one of the modern day pioneers when he called his style ‘Jeet Kune Do’, moving away from traditional Wing Chun kung fu. So, how can you protect your style? In the case Rimmington v Zen Do Kai Pty Ltd (2002), Zen Do Kai Pty Ltd applied to register the words ‘Zen Do Kai’ in respect of martial arts training and education services. During the examination process, the applicant submitted evidence of its use of the word ‘Zen Do Kai’, which showed that it had distinguished its relevant services as those of the applicant. The inventor and creator of the Australian Zen Do Kai style and name was Soke Bob Jones. He was also the first user of the trademark in Australia. The examiner accepted this evidence, however, opposition was made to the registration of the word ‘Zen Do Kai’ on the grounds that the expression was a generic, descriptive term in common use, and therefore did not possess the required inherent capacity to distinguish Jones’ services from those of other training providers. It should be noted that the Hearing Officer found that the opponents did have an association with Jones’ organisation until a particular point in time, but nevertheless, the Hearing Officer allowed the application and rejected the opposition. In determining whether the words ‘Zen Do Kai’ were a generic, descriptive expression, he said that it was relevant to consider how widely they had been used in Australia by entities unrelated to Bob Jones’ organisation, and the period over which such unrelated use had taken place. With the increasing number of high-profile and skilled martial arts experts coming to Australia to teach their style or approach to self-defence under an umbrella name, concept or trademark, it’s vital to plan

“IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH THE USE OF THE WORD OR NAME, THE EASIEST THING TO DO IS TO USE THE WORD OR NAME SO AS TO DISTINGUISH THE MARTIAL ART FROM OTHERS.” to protect such intellectual property rights. This must be done either before it becomes descriptive of a generic style (such that another legitimate martial artist would want to use the same description in the practise of his style), or a dispute arises between the founder of the style and its Australian representatives. In order to establish the use of the word or name, the easiest thing to do is to use the word or name so as to distinguish the martial art from others. The use of the word or name must be in connection with the martial art one seeks to promote. In such case, the law will afford protection to the owner of the word or name based on the tort of ‘passing off’, which is grounded on the principle of ‘ownership of goodwill’. Essentially, it prohibits the use of the same or a similar name in such a way as to mislead the public, in order to represent that the business is associated with another and thereby cash in on that company’s goodwill. It is a prerequisite of a passing-off action that the applicant prove either actual damage or probable damage (ConAgra Inc v McCain Foods [Aust] Pty Ltd, 1991). If you are intending to promote a new style, technique or concept in Australia, and wish to prevent others from using a name that might be identical to or similar to yours, then it would be prudent to either incorporate a company or register a business name in the State or Territory where the style, technique or concept is being taught. A company seeking registration is responsible for not choosing a name that is likely to be confused with one already registered, and thus placing itself at risk of facing legal action under the law of ‘passing off’ and the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth). It is often the case that when a new style, technique or concept is being promoted successfully, disputes arise as to the entitlement of the students to use such a style, technique or concept as part of a business without the consent of the creator or inventor. The best form of protection is to apply to register the word or phrase describing the style, technique or concept as a trademark. This form of protection extends throughout the Commonwealth of Australia, and opens up the door for registration overseas under various conventions. Seeking to promote a new style, technique or concept contributes to the evolution of the modern martial arts. It is to be encouraged. Why shouldn’t new styles, techniques or concepts be taught freely and, to use a computer phrase, be an ‘open source’ for all to enjoy and develop further? In the end, some would argue that there is nothing really new under the sun; just old traditions revamped. Nevertheless, if you think you have something worth protecting, make sure you seek independent legal advice.










VOL 1-4

William Lye has been a practising barrister at law for 28 years and has studied several martial arts. He can be contacted at

CALL (03) 9574 8460 OR VISIT



Teaching can be tricky, but teaching something as physically demanding and complex as a martial art — and to people of all different ages and skill levels, often all at once — can be downright difficult. Martial arts school owner, business coach and professional speaker Phil Britten of WA-based The Institiute of Martial Arts (TIMA) reveals a few essential techniques for building rapport and getting your message across on the mats. BY PHIL BRITTEN






uccess in business, particularly in martial arts, is based on tailoring your teaching techniques to the numerous groups that walk through the dojo everyday. There are many different types of martial arts instructor. You have the ‘Super Sensei’ who stands at the front commanding attention and dictating what you should do, how you should do it and at what speed. Then there’s the super-fit 20-year-old who uses the class to put on a skilled show of personal prowess with one aim and one aim only: to wow his captive audience. Just as there are varying personalities of instructor, there are varying personalities in students and the key to a successful martial arts business is ensuring that every student’s needs are met, while collectively delivering a strong curriculum that will inspire and motivate.

42 •

So how exactly can you ensure you build rapport, understand the needs of every individual and deliver a successful group class, whether it’s a regular martial arts class or a self-defence seminar? By utilising what is known as the ‘Chameleon Effect’. The chameleon changes itself to adapt and suit its surroundings, making it a master predator and skilled communicator as it wards off rivals and wins the attention of a mate. These traits are also inadvertently displayed by humans, particularly in situations where we feel a desire to blend into a social situation or gain someone’s attention. So how can this Chameleon Effect be used in business? By communicating effectively and aligning your teaching style and presentation method with the preferences of your students, you can increase their motivation and propel their learning. Granted, that is difficult when you have an adult class that includes nifty, energetic 20-year-olds as well as 40-somethings who may be slower or more injury prone. However, there are numerous techniques that can be utilised including, modelling, mirror-matching and empathy.


Traditionally in martial arts, students observe and aim to imitate their sensei’s techniques as they work through a series of moves. In modern-day martial arts, it is just as important for the sensei to imitate their students. The instructors should take the lead from the students and match their mannerisms and postures, particularly during the down times at the beginning or end of class. This modelling is also an excellent way to gain participation in a selfdefence/corporate seminar, for example, where the clients are not predisposed to adopting the traditional student/teacher relationships that regular martial arts students have become accustomed to, or even seek. Being able to decipher the atmosphere of the class is crucial to meeting the expectations of the students. If the atmosphere is energetic and students are pumped up for a high-octane class of kicks and punches, it is the duty of the instructor to match that energy level. It is important to develop the skills to know when to lower or increase the energy levels. For example,

it may be necessary to tone it down a little while teaching a particular technique, but having an energetic drill after the initial warm-up and great music will make the students in the class more attentive and motivated to learn…and come back again. This can just as easily be utilised when faced with a mixed ability class. Creating a warm-up which allows students to go at their own pace while matching them up with like-minded partners and giving specific roles to bring the class together can create a harmonious class, each and every time.


Mirroring is a great method to build rapport with students. Building rapport with a group of people with different personality types is a difficult task, but mirroring allows the instructor to do so subliminally without looking like they’re trying too hard. Be mindful however of the difference between imitating and mirroring. Directly imitating someone is far more obvious and can be taken the wrong way, leading to a decrease in rapport and a detrimental outcome. Instead you can use small subtle behaviours, like mirroring a student who perhaps uses their hands a lot when they speak, using similar language or language that is more familiar to the students during conversations and mirroring their tone of voice. Tonality is incredibly important when taking a class. As an instructor, you need to be heard by everyone but at the same time, you don’t want to appear to be shouting. Use positive voice fluctuation — pitch, tone and volume ­— during different drills and at different times to keep the attention of the students. Mirroring the tone of voice of the student you’re talking to is another subtle way of creating smoother interactions. For example, talking quietly to someone who doesn’t like too much attention focused on them, or having a more energetic tone when speaking to 15-year-olds.


Repeating student’s words, in particular the last few words or word used, encourages students to converse more. Additionally, everyone has a set of

keywords (words they use around three times in most conversations) that they frequently use. By listening closely, it won’t take long to pick up one or two of their keywords. Using these keywords and repeating them during the conversation will help establish empathy, and bring you closer into their trusted circle. Practising a little compassion, alongside mirroring and matching can deliver better results such as a higher engagement, satisfaction rating and increased loyalty. It doesn’t begin and end with the instructor, however. From the receptionist right through to the program director, everyone needs to confidently adapt both physically, verbally and emotionally to deliver the outcome you desire for your business, which ultimately is to generate new business and increase retention. To summarise: Chartrand and Bargh, who carried out a landmark study to test what they called the Chameleon Effect, confirmed that mimicry increased the likelihood of facilitating positive engagement and social interactions. Using these subtleties in behaviour with students, their families, potential clients and staff can help differentiate your martial arts school against that of the competition. In what is fast becoming a highly saturated marketplace, simply having a fancy dojo or the most competitive pricing won’t always equate to increased students and loyalty. Martial arts instructors are the face of the school and it is not enough just to be a 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th Dan. Doing something you love and teaching something you love are two very different things and requires two very different skill-sets. Using mirroring, matching and empathy approaches to each situation for which it is best suited is a vital aspect of creating a fun, productive and positive atmosphere for your martial arts business. Phil Britten is co-founder of the WA Institute of Martial Arts (WAIMA) with three successful schools in Perth, WA. He also owns and runs four other highly successful businesses and aims to share his knowledge on gaining martial arts business success and longevity in what is fast becoming a highly competitive marketplace. • 43



O. Fred Donaldson PhD has a curious career — the seasoned aikidoka and taiji practitioner, sociologist and former school aide teaches people how to play. And he says his method of ‘original play’, learned from studying and interacting with both children and animals, is a bridge to not only better relationships and group cohesion, but learning outcomes, personal safety and simply enjoyment of life. INTERVIEW BY BEN STONE

Donaldson learned much about ‘original play’ from interacting with wolves

44 •


red, how did you come to teach ‘play’ as a career?

I began to play with children when I was given a job as a teacher’s aide in a San Diego private school. But the aide job only lasted a week. The director asked me to stay, but didn’t know what I would do. I suggested that I would be a special teacher in play. He agreed. Neither of us knew what that meant. This decision changed my life in ways that I could neither comprehend nor imagine. The children taught me what they think play is, not what I thought it is. As a social scientist, I was trained to look for patterns in life. Among the patterns I found in their play was one I call ‘no contest’. In their play there was no winning, no losing, no blame, no fault and no revenge. This made no sense to me. I thought I must be mistaken, so I played with more and more children: street kids in Mexico, gang members, children with schizophrenia, autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, and normally developing kids of all ages. To my great surprise, the ‘no contest’ pattern was consistent regardless of age, gender, culture, social background or medical condition of the children. I realised that if this pattern of no contest was real, the kids were teaching me something that would change not just how I thought about the world but how I acted. It was clear that the kids knew something that I didn’t know: conflict isn’t necessary. And if that’s true, peace is possible. No wonder Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and Mandela told us to go to the children!

I couldn’t get anyone to believe that children could be so wise, so I just continued playing with thousands of children. Could the pattern be bigger than children? What if animals also knew this? My initial animal playmates were wolves, with whom I played for years. Like the children, there was no contest in their play. Next came wild dolphins off the coast of Australia. Then elk, deer, moose, black and grizzly bears in Montana. Among other animals I’ve played with are lion, puma, lynx, elephant, rhino, coyote, beluga, humpback and orca whales, baboon and orangutan. After playing with animals I got the idea that they and children were teaching me about a pattern of kindness that was a gift of creation to all life.

How would you describe ‘original play’ to the uninitiated?

Defining original play isn’t easy, even for those of us who have played for years. Children rarely talk to me about play, but when they do they are able to express its essence in a few words. For example, five-year-old David said to me, “Fred, original play is when we don’t know that we are different from each other.” David understood what Zen master Hakuun Yasutani meant by, “The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that

I am here (pointing to himself ) and you are out there.” Put another way by scientist Daniel Goleman, “The social brain’s wiring connects us all at our common human core.” Original play is a neural patternrecognition system, an innate ecological intelligence that embodies this sense of life’s deep belonging.

Was your study of aikido a catalyst for your study of play in people and animals, or was it the other way around? It was clear to me as I began to play with children that I didn’t know the first things about how to play safely. I was getting hurt because I relied on my cultural ideas of play as contest, which were derived from playing football and hockey. For example, one day a 12-year-old boy ran at me from the side. I thought I could handle him. His knees hit me square in the ribs. I had cracked ribs and could hardly breathe. It was clear that I needed a different approach. My inability to play safely with children sparked my interest in aikido and taiji. I began to take aikido and taiji to help my body become round, to blend and move with and not against kids. By joining them, I began to feel their movements.

Bears and other animals develop through natural, ‘no contest’ play



Where and with whom have you done your martial arts training?

I’m a student of aikido and taiji. I have studied under George Leonard Sensei and with Clement Yoshida Sensei and Daniel Mizukami Sensei at Los Angeles Aiki Kai, and for 10 years under Ace Atkinson Sensei at University of California, Riverside. My taiji practice has been with Chung-liang Al Huang.

Is this kind of play something that is inherent in the learning of some martial arts — for example, in grappling, where physical contact is constant?

While original play might appear to be similar to certain martial arts and/or other adult movement schemes, ‘original’ play is different from human-created activities in a number of ways. First, original play is not a human artifact to fulfill a human need. Second, its purpose is not self-defence but ‘selfdisappearance’. If, for example, original play would become infused into a martial art, the art would no longer be ‘martial’. Third, original play is mentored by children. Fourth, original play is an inherent and universal embodiment

of what in Zen is called ‘original mind’. Fifth, original play functions outside of all of our categories and ideas of duality. Sixth, original play makes conflict obsolete. To play with a universal heart/mind in the world of contest is to see the world in the largest possible perspective without our myriad categories. One day I was arranging some thin mats on the concrete floor in a corner of a corridor in Pollsmoor Prison, in Cape Town, South Africa. Small groups of prisoners walked by. Most took no outward notice of me. One tall young man in a blue prison jumpsuit stopped. He looked at me as if I were totally out of place. In the prison everyone knows their place. Here is a white guy all alone sitting on the floor in a secluded hallway. No guards were around. He asked me, “Who are you? Do you know who we are? We are murderers, rapists, drug dealers.” I just smiled and crawled toward him and nudged his legs. He smiled a huge smile. I tackled him and we rolled together on the mats. He laughed and squirmed out of my grasp. When he stood up he laughingly said, “Okay! Okay! I get
it.” We shook hands and he ran to catch up with the other

prisoners. I never told him who I was. I showed him who I am. My sudden behavioural answer to his question brought us out of our categories. For the briefest of times we were without categories: no prisoner, no stranger, no American, no South African. Original play short-circuited our differences and helped us regain our humanity.

Some traditional martial arts, including some forms of aikido, can be very constrained and even dogmatic in how they teach and train movement. Is there a discord between these systems and our need for original play/natural movement?

Donaldson on a roll with a couple of energised inner-city boys

46 •

There is a fundamental discord between our inherent need for play, and activities that constrain and systematise human movements for the purpose of entertainment, games or self-defence. To understand this discord requires thinking outside the mental and physical boxes we have created around our ideas of play and martial arts. To begin with, this fundamental discord is a result of two very different views of the world and our place in it. On the one hand, humans have been taught that we live in a fearful ‘contest’ world in which we must fight to survive; in this world, conflict is normal, natural and necessary. We have no other

Hanging out with the locals at the ‘Wolf Haven’

choice. Consequently, our movement systems are largely based on self-defence and conflict. But suppose our dependence upon conflict as the basis of world order is not our only choice. Imagine that there is another movement system based not on fear but on love that is also natural and is so effective that it makes conflict obsolete. Imagine that this behavioural system is inherent and mentored by children. I know this seems absurd. In martial arts, we are used to the need for masters of the art we are learning — but it is quite a different thing to acknowledge the mastery of children. Why children as masters? Children retain the love and fearlessness inherent in life. They are not so dependent upon fear as a basis for interaction. They are much more adept at connecting with others regardless of their categories. So, here’s how [to play with children]: Get down! Don’t talk! Be aware! Don’t be afraid! Expect nothing, be ready for anything. Be in touch, just right! Go to them as beginners, letting go of your ideas about play and self-defence, letting go of your roles and rules.

You’ve said that if you do not touch or use physical play with your children, you are harming them — “that’s hard science”. Can

you give some brief background on this science that has informed your work?

Touch is how we make and structure our world. The scientific study of touch reveals the tactile modality to be an ideal medium in which individuals spread compassion to others. There has been a great deal of scientific research on the benefits of touch for children. Touch is an essential element in the development of a child. Studies indicate that positive touch for children provides lifelong resilience to stress and improved cognition. As Dr Livingston points out, without loving touch a child does not thrive. Touch is the ultimate signal that one is safe. Dr Dacher Keltner points out, for example, that touch is our primary language of compassion and for communicating compassion. In a study of how families of children seven-to-10 years old play together, Dr Sandra Weiss, a professor in the department of mental health and community nursing at the University of California medical school at San Francisco, found that, “The physical play gives a child the message, ‘I like to be close to you; it’s fun to be around you’,” Dr Weiss said. “It affects both their feelings about themselves and about how they are put together.” Dr Jim Prescott, among others, has suggested that touch deprivation in

childhood leads to violence. Dr Robert Frank points out that the pursuit of self-interest is self-defeating. Safe, loving touch changes our nervous systems from a fear-based system to a love-based system. As Dr Bruce Lipton stresses a fearful brain has a different neural profile than a loving brain. Dr Ervin Staub points out that research indicates that a loving and affectionate connection to even one person can limit or counteract much of the damage done by negative environments. Play’s touch is a deeply interested sense of kinship. While this touch is tangible, it is also deeply spiritual. This tangible spirituality results in the feeling that I know you and I feel safe. There are two very important reasons for the effectiveness of touch in original play. First, original play touch is not ‘cultural’ touch, neither is it ‘task’ touch, therapeutic touch, medical touch or massage touch. When I play with a child with autism, for example, it is the individual — not their social, cultural or medical categories — whom I touch. Second, touch in original play is ‘just right’, which means that I touch to meet not my needs but the needs of the other. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways, original play’s touch counteracts the mind’s automatic tendency to perceive threat, danger and competition, and shifts the nervous system away from its potent, trigger-happy fight/flight tendencies toward a physiological profile more conducive to cooperation and kindness.

Can you explain further the notion of ‘just right’ touch?

‘Just right’ touch is based on the principle of minimum force for maximum effect. The use of minimum force requires learning to use one’s fingers, hands, arms and body weight in such a way that allows for one’s movements to withdraw force in the microsecond after it is applied, making the gesture more precise, more accurate and less forced. It reminds me of how Awa Kenzo, the master Japanese archer, said to hold the bow: “Your grip should be like autumn leaves blown by a storm.” I have felt such touch from a lioness and wolves, who held me with their • 47

ON THE MAT Wolves at play in the wild

“THE TEENAGER’S REFLEXIVE RESPONSE TO MY PUSH WAS AGGRESSION. HE WAS THEN PRESENTED WITH AN UNPRECEDENTED REACTION. HE PUNCHED BUT THERE WAS NO VICTIM, NO AGGRESSOR, NO BLAME, NO FAULT, NO REVENGE ON MY PART.” teeth. Even though they held me firmly, I had no feeling of being grabbed; it was more like being embraced by teeth. Their touch is made safe by the combination of minimum force and by letting go. It is as if the letting go is not only part of the minimum force, it’s that the release is prepared for in the application of the touch itself. It’s this prehension (taking hold), in which the body anticipates and acts in advance of sensory data, that gives me no feeling of being held against my will. This is the art of giving and receiving fully between two beings. When done correctly, there is no residual ‘grabbing’.

Can you recount any personal experiences that illustrate how you’ve seen first-hand the positive results of original play theory in application?

These experiences illustrate our capacity in the time between stimulus and response to choose love and not fear. There is perhaps no more important education today than to learn to be able to choose a safer and better world. 48 •

If we cannot do that, we have failed our children. A young man pleads with me, “Can you help me learn not to fight? When someone even touches me, I hit without thinking. I’m tired of fighting and being in the principal’s office every day. I’m tired of having to talk with the police.” The speaker is an 18-year-old gang member in a New York City workshop I gave for gang leaders. He stopped me to talk during a break.
I asked him if he would come up in front of the others with me after the break. He shrugged and agreed. After the break, we stood facing each other about a foot apart. I whispered to him, “Can I push you?” He nodded yes. I put my hand on his shoulder and pushed him sideways. He hardly shifted his feet. He is about six feet and around 200 pounds. I whispered, “Can
I push you harder?” He shrugged and nodded. I shoved him harder this time. Reflexively his right fist came toward my face. I deflected his fist with the back of my right hand as it neared my left cheek. I spiraled it away in an ‘S’ motion, bringing it down to my

chest, where I held it softly against me. I looked in his eyes and released his hand. We hugged and sat down. When I sat down, a gang member sitting next to me whispered, “Did you see his eyes?” “Yes, I know.” I nodded. He was crying. The teenager’s reflexive response to my push was aggression. He was then presented with an unprecedented reaction. He punched but there was no victim, no aggressor, no blame, no fault, no revenge on my part. This is the potential of original play. When we were saying goodbye on the street after the play session, the young man came up to me. “Can I learn to do this with children?”
“Of course,” I said. We hugged again and went our separate ways. But not as separate as before.
Original play creates a deep sense of belonging in which there is ‘no difference that makes a difference’. This is the moment when a playground is created, an out-of-thisworld time space within which two people have the opportunity to create a new relationship of belonging that is literally outside the categories of their normal worlds. For a number of years, I worked in a Southern California school system. I was often called upon to intervene in fights that occur in the schools. I intervened in one such fight between two high-school girls.
Instead of walking up to them and commanding that they stop, I crawled on my hands and knees through the surrounding crowd of bystanders and between the two girls and began pushing against their legs. They had no idea who I was nor what I was doing. My role and position were so strange to them that they stopped fighting to try to figure out what was happening. They laughed at me. The fight stopped. I gave the girls a way out. The surrounding crowd dispersed because there was no more action. I sat with the two girls afterwards. One girl said that backing down was not an option. The other one replied that she didn’t want to fight but she had to uphold the honour of her gang. They both agreed that fighting one person is much easier than fighting your own group. Original play is not an abstract ideal, but a flesh-and-blood response to the world. These young people and I made

Donaldson in wolf-play mode

conflict obsolete and in so doing we had discovered the true roots of our shared humanity.

If a martial arts instructor is looking to enhance students’ experience and learning using original play, how can they begin to introduce the concepts into their school activities?

Original play can be effectively integrated in martial arts programs as well as in school. I have done original play, for example, as part of regular aikido dojo practice for both adult and child classes. Ace Atkinson Sensei would have us do original play at the end of each dojo session. He would then take time to discuss the applications of original play to our aikido practice. Kimberly Richardson Sensei of Two Cranes Aikido in Seattle had me do original play with the children’s classes. Original play has been an integral part of one Connecticut school for over 20 years. It has been effective in schools in California. It is now being introduced in schools in Sweden, Germany, Austria and Poland. In these schools, original play becomes an effective alternative to bullying and social/cultural exclusion. Adults make two general mistakes when they begin to relearn original play. First, they underestimate the skill necessary to play and simultaneously they overestimate their own skill in play. On the one hand, adults question, how hard can it be? After all, it’s only child’s

play. Adults also assume that they already know how to play. To begin to introduce original play into a school or martial arts curriculum, it is necessary to become skilled in both the vision and practice of original play. This is accomplished only by playing with children. This presents the beginner adult with the problem of how to give up the role of teacher to be a learner. This process takes patience, commitment, courage, curiosity and compassion. The workshops and seminars given around the world are designed to help adults learn how to ‘be’, so they can learn play from children.

One of the obvious difficulties in implementing these concepts outside the home environment is that there is a certain (at least conceived) intimacy in this kind of movement, plus it is not widely understood. As such, it could be seen as crossing boundaries that are in place to prevent abuse. Has that been a barrier to introducing original play?

Culture, social groups and families all have roles and rules regarding touch. Often these rules are designed so that touch helps to create and maintain dominance in relationships. Rules regarding touch are often based on fear: fear of intimacy, fear of transgressing social roles, fear of losing one’s social position and control. Abuse is often

disguised and excused by convenient social slogans and rituals such as hazing. We say ‘boys will be boys’, ‘hitting is okay as long as it doesn’t cross the line’, ‘an eye for an eye’, ‘revenge is honourable’, ‘I was hit and I turned out fine’. Various forms of ‘bad touch’ such as spanking, hitting and grabbing are seen as necessary and compulsory parts of the roles adults are expected to play. The boundaries that are described as being necessary to prevent abuse and keep children safe from abuse actually are excuses to continue abuse. The perceived boundaries that are thought to prevent abuse often do the opposite. They serve to hide abuse where it most often occurs and at the same time prevent learning alternatives that keep children safe. For example, in the United States, 85 per cent of child abuse occurs at the hands of parents and/or relatives. Yet we continue to warn children of ‘stranger danger’. Because we are afraid of crossing these social boundaries and we do not know how to give good touch, we become bystanders comforting ourselves in an unspoken belief that no touch teaches good touch. The result is that bad touch becomes prescribed and good touch is limited or even nonexistent. Social and cultural habits and boundaries regarding touch, accompanied by our unwillingness to intervene with good touch, pose significant problems for the introduction of original play. There are four touch principles in original play that help reduce the fears of adults: (1) I touch to heal not to defend; (2) I do not use ‘cultural’ touch; (3) I touch to meet the needs of the person being touched; (4) I touch ‘just right’. The idea that original play creates safer people is the most important idea/ experience that I have to convey to adults. It’s not my words that dispel the fears of others, nor is it scientific research — fear trumps science when it comes to touch. I must give others the experience that not only does original play not violate what they value, but it helps create safer children. This becomes very decisive when I play with people who face serious and constant threats; for example, people in prison, gang members, refugee and street kids, and terminal cancer • 49

ON THE MAT patients. They are all deadly serious in their admonitions to me that they don’t have time to play around. At first they cannot imagine that original play is going to help them be safer. I say to them, “I don’t know, but it will help you be more alive while you are alive”. They smile in understanding that the very fact of being more alive helps them be safer.

In terms of protecting children, which is part of what martial arts instructors are trying to do, you talk about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’, and making children safer by teaching them to recognise the difference through play. Can you elaborate on that idea?

There is a great deal of fear and confusion around touch. Teaching children the difference between good and bad touch poses a

50 •

significant problem for adults. It assumes that we know the difference. In fact, we don’t. We teach what we know, and what we know is largely bad touch or no touch. Original play is a unique opportunity to create a safer world for our children. Original play is based on the fact that the brain cannot develop properly and people cannot be healthy in the absence of human affection. Original play is effective because: (1) it is based on a unique, universal and inherent process; (2) the boundaries of ‘self’ and ‘other’ disappear; and (3) it is not based on fear and self-defence. First, we cannot teach what we don’t know. We have to create a new mentoring relationship with children if we are going to learn what it is they have to teach. Our task is to create the safe environments within which they can mentor us in original play. Since this process is inherent and universal, we do not need to worry about social, cultural or medical differences in children. Second, we have to do more than talk about ‘good touch’ — children must feel the difference. Good touch must be made tangible and effective. To do this, children must touch the world and allow the world to touch them. And this must be done safely, without defending oneself or hurting others. Third, we must go beyond self-defence. Self-defence is important, but it is not enough. In fact, my experience is that going into self-defence only escalates the interaction. Original play is able to provide an emotional/ physical response that de-escalates potential conflicts, but keeps everyone safe in the process. Too often in conflict environments touch communicates either victim or aggressor. Original play provides a choice outside of our known categories. One woman in Poolsmoor Prison in South Africa commented after playing, that “Now I know I don’t have to hit my kids.” A gang member in the Bronx said, “I

didn’t know I don’t have to fight.” In these two cases, individual’s dependence upon a self-defence response inhibited the creation of life-sustaining energy. When we undergo a threat, we experience an ‘amygdala hijack’, which triggers a flood of stress hormones with a range of negative consequences including lowering the effectiveness of our immune response. Original play’s access to a wide range of choice is below the level of consciousness. This happens so quickly that I do not feel like a decision is being made at all. This ‘being in the present’ is the only way to play. It is as if the right option was present all along. What is required is not decision-making but being present. With time and practice, this becomes my default brain response to potentially dangerous events. I have experienced this ‘no-choice’ moment in experiences with rhinos, wolves, an African lion, a Doberman Pinscher and a grizzly bear, as well as with people. In these ‘nearest-to-life’ moments there is no sense that ‘I’ do anything. With time and practice, original play becomes not a form of belief so much as it is an irrefutable kind of behaviour built into one’s body. When this occurs, the archaic spiral of revenge is dissolved. Through original play we learn a special responsibility not to live according to the rules of fear but by our recognition of the closeness of our shared humanity. The practice of original play cancels out the personal contests and their cycles of retaliation from spreading further. This means that you will have to come out and play as if your life depends upon it. It does. O. Fred Donaldson is the author of Playing by Heart: The Vision and Practice of Belonging. A former professor at The University of Washington and The California State University, Hayward, and The California School of Professional Psychology, Donaldson now lives in Sweden and gives lectures and workshops on Original Play® throughout the world. For information about workshops, visit or email

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In recent years, bullying has been increasingly recognised for what it is: a cancer in society, a drain on our education system and a contributor to depression and even suicide among young people. A solution to bullying is one reason that people — and especially parents on behalf of their kids — turn to martial arts. But what is the best way to help them? Here, Shotokan 4th Dan Jonathan Rabinovitz looks at how a child or youth’s experience on the mat makes a big difference beyond the obvious physical preparedness bestowed by the training. STORY BY JONATHAN RABINOVITZ


he phone call was not unusual. Several parents have contacted me over the years and the conversations have roughly been the same: “I have a child who is being bullied at school. His dad and I are really worried and were wondering if karate may be of any help.” In this case the child was a boy of 14 years old, a bit small for his age, and persistent bullying by his peers had begun to take its toll. The fact that he had an older brother who was popular, confident and a good all-round sportsman exacerbated this. As a karate instructor, nothing inspires me more than such a cry for help from understandably concerned parents — first, as a dad myself and, second, as someone having witnessed the enormous benefits that karate offers young folks just like this. I naturally encouraged the mum to bring along her son (let’s call him Jeremy for the purposes of this article) for a try-out.


In my experience, karate clubs generally consist of like-minded individuals who are usually pretty friendly. In fact, my current club at Dee Why on Sydney’s Northern Beaches comprises

a particularly warm, caring and decent bunch of people. New people are greeted with smiles, handshakes and introductions all round, and one of the senior students will typically take them under their wing. The visitor is formally introduced to the class when we all ‘bow in’, and receives a clap — which is then repeated at the end of the class, simply for ‘surviving the ordeal’. This has a very positive effect on young and often shy kids like Jeremy, who do not know what to expect and feel a bit out of their depth, especially since most of the class is made up of adults. First impressions are lasting, and projecting an unthreatening and friendly environment is important to foster a positive mindset for newcomers, irrespective of age. Observing Jeremy that first night, I saw a lad whose body language spoke volumes on how he was feeling inside. The communication experts tell us that non-verbal communication, in the form of posture, eye contact, tone of voice and facial expressions, often speaks louder than words, and Jeremy’s head was tilted slightly down, eyes averted, shoulders drooped and generally doing a good impression of someone trying to be invisible! Something resonated with Jeremy that first night and he returned

for a second lesson, for which he received another round of applause, and his mum duly signed him up.


Fast-forwarding a year, a substantially different picture was beginning to emerge. Jeremy was now standing a bit taller, head held more erect with his eyes more inclined to look up and not down. His karate was improving slowly and he had successfully graded twice, attaining an Orange-belt. The feedback from his parents was also very encouraging, AND the bullying at school had tapered off! So the question is, why exactly was this happening? Was it simply part of his natural development — after all, he had grown a bit taller — or was karate really helping, and, if so, how? I am absolutely convinced that karate played a positive part in Jeremy’s development, but not necessarily in the way that you might think. It’s not just that he may have picked up a few basic self-defence skills, and thus been able to fair better when confronted at school — in any event, it takes most people years of training to be able to effectively apply karate-based self-defence techniques to real-life situations, and this was no Mr • 53

ON THE MAT Miyagi and Daniel-san Hollywood movie. So, what was making all the difference?

An obvious lack of confidence is easily gauged and exploited by bullies


I believe Jeremy’s positive personal development and the change in his situation among his peers resulted from the confluence of a number of interesting factors: From the day that Jeremy joined the class as a shy teenager, his fellow students treated him as an equal, and his age and the colour of his belt was totally irrelevant. He was simply a karateka in a meritocratic environment and while a belt/grade hierarchy exists, all this defines is what stage of the same karate journey everyone is at. As the old saying goes, the main purpose of a karate belt is to keep your trousers up (or, more literally, to keep your dogi jacket closed). Good etiquette is integral to karate from day one, irrespective of your grade or age. The effect on young people of being treated politely and respectfully by adults in a dojo setting can be extremely self-validating. With karate, your number eventually comes up! Meaning, you eventually get put on the spot where you become the centre of attention with the eyes of the entire class upon you. For example, you will be called upon to perform your kata either solo or as part of a small group during a class, and definitely for a grading. A good instructor will not do this prematurely but will wait until he/she thinks the individual is ready. Nonetheless, this can be very daunting for adults and children alike, but if managed well, it can be an immensely effective exercise in building confidence. In my experience, no one has ever failed to rise to the occasion. While clearly some people are very nervous, (we all get nervous!) when it’s over, an incredible sense of achievement and satisfaction is felt. This stems from the knowledge that despite being nervous… you did it! More to the point, you proved you are capable of doing it! As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”


2 3

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As time goes on, students not only start to feel much more comfortable performing for the class but many actually really enjoy it and go on to be enthusiastic participants at competitive events. What’s more, our members have a compulsive tendency to burst into spontaneous applause, clapping and cheering each other at the slightest provocation! Apart from having to learn a formal syllabus — in our case the wonderful body of Shotokan karate as taught by our founder and living karate legend, Soke Hirokazu Kanazawa — physical fitness and strength is a positive by-product of the karate journey. Many instructors, myself included, emphasise both aerobic and anaerobic exercises (especially targeting the core) that result in improved physical conditioning all round. These factors seem to do wonders for everyone who trains consistently, but are especially beneficial for folks like Jeremy. This is all before we have even begun to consider any actual self-defence benefits derived from learning a martial art and, most importantly, gaining a better level of awareness of one’s environment. (This last point refers to zanshin, or ‘awareness’, for those unfamiliar with the Japanese martial arts terminology.)



If you are an instructor and have for the first time had a child with some of the issues that Jeremy brought to us come through your dojo doors, please take heart from this article. I have had several

like him pass through my school over the years and even though some of them eventually gave up karate, I cannot think of one who did not walk away better for the experience. One of the best martial arts journeys for any kid often occurs when a parent comes along for the ride by training alongside their child (as I did with my son and now fellow instructor at Dee Why — we even did our 4th Dan grading together!). This is good for everyone, because of course it’s not just children who may suffer from a lack of confidence or feel a bit awkward, but adults too. I have had the joy of observing people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds benefit both tangibly and intangibly from the magic of the martial arts. And when it comes to helping victims of bullying, what makes the biggest difference is often the intangible stuff, more so than supplying the physical skills to fight back. South African-born Sensei Jonathan Rabinovitz is ranked 4th Dan with the Shotokan Karate International Federation (SKIF) and Shotokan Karate International Australia (SKIA). A fund manager by day, he has been living in Australia since 1986 and training for more than 20 years alongside his son, Sensei Joshua. Together they run Dee Why Shotokan karate in Sydney, NSW. Jonathan can be contacted by email: jonathan.

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When long-time taekwondo instructor Master Joe Ingrati decided to expand his horizons and have a crack at muay Thai, he was quickly hooked. He explains why it’s been one of the best decisions he’s made for his business, JAI Martial Arts in Sydney. INTERVIEW BY BEN STONE


Internet connection required

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oe, as a taekwondo instructor, you made a move into muay Thai and this has become a primary driver of your success in recent times. What first inspired you to try it by way of a seminar with Grandmaster Toddy?

Ian Pollet offered me the opportunity to host a seminar at my school with Grandmaster Toddy. As I knew of Master Toddy and had the opportunity to meet him in Las Vegas, it was an honour to have him at my school and for my students to experience his style of teaching and training. At that point in time I had no intention of including a muay Thai program at my school.

What was it about the art or the man himself that led you to make such a commitment to muay Thai? The main reason for introducing muay Thai to our school was Grandmaster Toddy himself — his personality, his teaching method and his enthusiasm in the way he presented his classes. Over the years we have developed a student/teacher relationship, and he has become a mentor and friend. There is so much to learn and I am grateful for having the privilege to be his student.

Taekwondo is one of those arts that has been at the forefront of the martial arts’ growth in popularity over the last 15 years or so, especially with kids and families, so why the need to branch out within the club? Is the TKD market flooded in your part of the country? Contrary to what many people believe, taekwondo is still the most practised martial art in the world. Our taekwondo program is very strong with a large student base from the ages of four to 50. At the moment, taekwondo makes up over 70 per cent of my weekly class schedule, the remaining 30 per cent is the other programs we offer. We introduced muay Thai as a regular program because of the structured system that Grandmaster Toddy offered. His unique syllabus is safe to learn, easy to follow and is a lot of fun for the students. It provides goals and incentives for students to train, and is a great alternative for older adults looking to get back into fitness — it’s a better alternative to gyms. As we get older, our bodies don’t move as quickly as they once did, and muay Thai gives these adults an opportunity to stay in the martial arts and not have to rely on the style of kicking that taekwondo offers.

In your mind, what can a TKD school (or, similarly, a karate school) stand to gain from introducing a quality muay Thai program? How has your club gained from it?

I believe that many martial art schools can benefit from having a structured muay Thai program, which Grandmaster Toddy offers. His program is progressive and easy to teach and learn. His program can be a great

Master Joe (left) and Chris Ingrati with Grandmaster Toddy

“IT PROVIDES GOALS AND INCENTIVES FOR STUDENTS TO TRAIN, AND IS A GREAT ALTERNATIVE FOR OLDER ADULTS LOOKING TO GET BACK INTO FITNESS — IT’S A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO GYMS.” add-on to enhance your school’s growth, tap into a new market and grow financially. Our muay Thai program has given parents the opportunity to learn a martial art at the same time [as their kids are doing TKD], experiencing the many benefits that martial arts have to offer. While the kicking of taekwondo may not appeal to them, the whole-body workout of muay Thai is something that attracts them. When people see a punching bag, they just want to hit it. Muay Thai gives them that opportunity — and we teach them how to do it the right way!

Many people have success introducing a grappling art into their striking/stand-up based school or syllabus, but you have, interestingly, adopted another striking art. Has this taken people away from your TKD classes, or simply added more members, or led to more members training in two disciplines? We looked at grappling arts and decided

it wasn’t the path we wanted to take our school. The muay Thai program is complementary to our taekwondo and kenpo systems, with several students practising muay Thai as well as taekwondo and/or kenpo. Those participating in muay Thai have referred many friends and family members into the program because they have enjoyed their training. Of all the adult programs we offer, muay Thai seems to be the most popular among parents who have children training with us. They enjoy the workout as well as learning new skills and meeting new people in a positive and encouraging training environment.

The MMA phenomenon has seen most schools simply add BJJ and wrestling to their striking-focused clubs to keep up with the trend, and yet muay Thai is one of the two base striking arts (the other being boxing) used by most MMA fighters. Do you think that recognition of muay Thai as being a key component of MMA is driving the interest in it, as was the case for BJJ, or is it something else?

I believe muay Thai has always been a popular martial art — we all remember the movie Kickboxer, right? But the MMA craze has definitely reintroduced muay Thai to the public, and has probably given more people the opportunity to see a great stand-up striking art. The average person doesn’t watch muay Thai fights, but they see components of muay Thai fighting in MMA.

You have mentioned that the lack of suitably qualified muay Thai • 57

A fascinating glimpse of the private Bruce Lee behind the public image.

instructors in your part of Sydney has contributed to your school’s success with its muay Thai programs. What do you see as being the key differences, in both the techniques and the training/instruction methods, between these clubs and Grandmaster Toddy’s way?

In many muay Thai schools that I have seen, and from what students of other muay Thai schools have mentioned, there isn’t a formal structure to what is being taught. In many schools, everyone trains the same way; whether they are a beginner, intermediate, advanced or a fighter, everyone performs the same exercises and combinations in a group class environment. Grandmaster Toddy’s method of teaching breaks it down and caters for all of the above levels, as well as allowing for personal growth at the student’s own pace. Each level learns their own set of structured muay Thai movements and drills, which allows for a solid base of learning, and students continue to build upon this strong base as they progress through the ranks.

Finally, if a club, especially one teaching a striking art, is wanting to potentially introduce muay Thai classes, what do they need to consider and what are the important steps to take?

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Because most traditional schools run by a structure of goal-setting and grading, this program would suit them perfectly. They will be taught the A-to-Z [of muay Thai] in the program, and have ongoing support from Grandmaster

Toddy and his team. You will be certified and recognised by the Thai Government, and so will your students as they grade. Like any martial art, it’s a long process of constant learning and improvement, but it might be the type of thing that re-energises you and your passion for the martial arts. The best thing to do is to visit Grandmaster Toddy’s website, have a look around, and if it is something that interests you, send them an email and begin your journey.


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Whether you’re teaching English, maths or a martial arts class, distracting behaviour from students can be as frustrating for the others trying to learn as it is for the teacher. Try these three positive role-playing strategies for dealing with cheeky and distraction-prone kids.


any instructors say that they are great with children that listen in class, but struggle when children don’t listen, act silly, or throw a tantrum. When I hear this from instructors, I remind them of one important thing: understand that most behaviours do have a positive intention and/or are a sign of the child’s individuality. What this means is that some children will act silly or go out of bounds simply because they are trying to find their own path in life. It also means that children who are aloof are not intentionally ignoring you, but they simply have a unique way of learning and growing. Some teachers will look at distracting behaviours as something negative, but don’t assume that these behaviours mean that the child is bad. If you teach yourself to approach every distracting behaviour as simply a sign of the child’s individuality, and come at it from a positive perspective, you’ll be surprised at the results — and after all, it’s the individuality in every child that makes teaching fun. The strategies that follow below can help you successfully apply this approach to manage distracted and misbehaving kids in your classes — but keep in mind that it does take practice to start, and stay positive.

60 • | ON THE MAT


If ‘Johnny’ is a disruptor, punishment may not always be the best way to change his behaviour

In my experience, children that seem disinterested or aloof respond best to kinesthetic or tactile training. They are not visual our auditory learners, therefore their minds will wander during lectures and demonstrations. With that said, remember that what might seem like disinterest (and therefore rudeness) is usually a sign that they learn best with touch and activeness. Let’s review a hypothetical scenario: As you speak about the traits of a good side kick, Johnny is looking around the classroom. You demonstrate how to kick with your heel, and while you are demonstrating you notice that Johnny is not watching. Now, your first thought might be to call on Johnny and ask him if he can explain what you just demonstrated. You know he wasn’t paying attention so you may want to put him on the spot. This may seem to enforce discipline and serve as a reminder for the rest of the group, but it is not going to help Johnny — it will actually be retroactive, because he will most likely be embarrassed.

“AS YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE TRAITS OF A GOOD SIDE KICK, JOHNNY IS LOOKING AROUND THE CLASSROOM. YOU DEMONSTRATE HOW TO KICK WITH YOUR HEEL, AND WHILE YOU ARE DEMONSTRATING YOU NOTICE THAT JOHNNY IS NOT WATCHING.” Here’s an alternative solution: Walk over and pat Johnny on the head (or shoulder, if he’s an older kid). This will get his attention. Then, get down on one knee and tell him that you notice he has strong kicks, then ask him to help you demonstrate — engaging him will help him learn. First, have him hold a target while you demonstrate the kick, then switch roles. Give him some pointers, because his retention is best when he is actively doing something, then compliment him for demonstrating. And now that you have his attention, tell him that during the drill you want him to watch his classmates to see if they are kicking correctly. This will help him build the visual learning skills he lacks. In most cases, it’s that simple!

DEALING WITH SILLINESS It can be frustrating if you have a student who acts silly while you are trying to teach — but it is important to remember that children have one major passion: playing! They love to play and they love to pretend. This is your ‘job’ as a child and it is important for development. In some cases, being silly is a child’s way of coping with the pressures in their day; in other situations, being silly is a child’s way of interacting with others. It is important to remember that when a child is acting silly, it is not your fault and it is not a negative thing. If you can learn how to nurture children’s silly behavior, then you may even start to find all of the silliness quite entertaining. Let’s look at another scenario: During a drill where Johnny is supposed to jump over obstacles, he keeps falling on purpose. You notice that the rest of the students in class are laughing at him, and a few mock his behaviour by falling too. Your first thought may be to put Johnny in ‘time-out’ because you are losing control of the class. This is not going to help Johnny, though, because he will probably be thinking, ‘Why am I being punished for having fun and making everyone laugh?’ Here’s a different solution: Walk over to Johnny and say, “Johnny, you did a great job of pretending how to have poor jumping skills. Now, let’s see you pretend that you have strong jumping skills.” This will remind him that his silliness was only one way of pretending, but he can also pretend to be strong. After he ‘pretends’ to have strong jumping skills, point it out to the rest of the class. This is a great way to redirect his playfulness from being a silly performer to a strong performer, and his self-esteem, and his efforts, will grow.

DEALING WITH TANTRUMS Children who cry, throw tantrums or act aggressive usually don’t understand boundaries. They see the world as their playground, not our playground. This is a challenge for most teachers, but it doesn’t mean that the child is purposely trying to be bad. As an instructor, it is our role to teach them about fair play, and show them how to establish boundaries and limits to their behaviour. List the benefits of staying within the limits of appropriate behaviour and they will learn why boundaries are important. Now, consider this scenario: Johnny wants to go first in a fun game of ninjaninja-turtle, but you pick Manny and that makes Johnny mad. He yells out, “I wanted to go first!” and then folds his arms and hides his head in his arms. Your first instinct could be to tell him to go sit on the side because his behaviour is out of line and is holding up the game. But this is not going to help him build boundaries, because it takes two to keep a power struggle going and you will remain out of the ‘limits’ as long as you engage in a power struggle. Here’s another solution: Stay calm and show empathy. Walk over to him and say, “I can see you are really mad now. I love ninjaninja-turtle and I always want to go first, too.” Then explain why you didn’t pick him to go first: “If I could, I would pick everyone to go first, but then there would be no turtles for anyone to pick.” This let’s him know that he is not the only one that has these feelings. Then outline the unacceptable behaviour and give him a better alternative: “Yelling and folding your arms isn’t right. Sitting quiet until it’s your turn is what I expect of everyone in class.” This will help keep the conversation going without a struggle. Then, give him a chance to revert back to the appropriate behaviour by saying something like, “Can I count on you to show me how you are supposed to act right now?” This will help him understand where the boundaries are with his behaviour. Again, in most cases, it’s that simple. Of course, there will be cases where these strategies won’t work the first time, but keep at it and you will notice that at least 90 per cent of the time these strategies work — and for now, that’s a great start! Good luck, and conquer the day. Melody Shuman holds a 6th Degree Black-belt in taekwondo and has over 20 years of experience researching childhood development as it relates to sports, coaching and parenting. Her innovative age-specific curriculums and drills, known as SKILLZ, are used in hundreds of martial arts schools around the world. She lives with her family in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA and can be emailed at

ON THE MAT | • 61


How well does your training prepare your students, and you, for self-defence in the real world?


t all comes down to applications — what works in the dojo doesn’t necessarily translate well for the street; what works in the street doesn’t necessarily translate well for military or policing applications. Different problems require different sets of solutions. The martial arts school is usually a friendly and nurturing environment — the real world is considerably less so. I believe it is incumbent on martial arts instructors who are selling ‘self-defence’ to take some time to assess just how well their solutions address the vast array of ‘real world’ problems. In taking the arts we practise from the classroom to the concrete, there are many things we should consider. The leap from the theoretical to the practical is a big one. If the physical techniques of an art have not been regularly pressure-tested, then, as the saying goes, ‘Houston, we have a problem!’ Relying on techniques that have not been pressuretested would be like learning to drive a car via lecture — you may pick up a couple of theoretical points, but you certainly wouldn’t be adequately prepared to be

62 • | ON THE MAT


Regardless of style, selfdefence training must cater to the realities of street conflict

dropped into Sydney’s traffic at peak hour. It’s a good habit to pressure-test techniques on a regular basis. Make sure they work against a non-compliant opponent at the speed of normal life. In my work as a professional instructor, another problem I often see is an over-reliance on verbal cues. That is to say that quite often in our training environments, the students are programmed to wait and act only when they are told to do so.

Of course, in real life, more often than not, there is no one there to give you those verbal commands, and so we have a high likelihood of stalling when the pressure is on. Instructors can address this by designing drills and training methods that have the students responding to visual or kinaesthetic stimuli as well as the usual verbal cues. Most training environments do little to prepare students for the corrosive effects of an adrenaline dump. When the threat is real and someone is screaming obscenities and getting in your face, a number of physiological changes assault you from within before the aggressor even begins to assault you physically. Your heart-rate speeds up, your breathing rate changes, tunnel vision takes away your peripheral vision, auditory exclusion shuts you off from the outside world, blood is drawn away from extremities to better prepare you for ‘fight or flight’ and your sense of time becomes distorted. These are just a few of the more obvious physiological effects of adrenal dump and I have seen quite experienced martial artists completely shut down by them, right when it counts. The corrosive effects of adrenal stress can be minimised through experiencing properly designed reality-based training scenarios. Ideally, these scenarios should as closely as possible mimic the types of situations that people are likely to encounter in their lives. This may include: loud and profane language; shoving; the use of weapons; multiple threats; ambushing; and working in close-quarters environments like hallways. The scenarios should be tailored to the students, with consideration given to their particular lifestyle, location, line of work, etc. This varies greatly depending on whether we are working with professionals, adults, teens or children. Developing appropriate scenarios and the training models that address them is a complex operation, but well worth any time we can devote to it. Although this is rapidly changing, there are still many martial arts schools that fail to practise their art at more than one range, and most commonly, such practice is geared for long-range sparring, as opposed to in-close fighting. The majority of real-world fights are fought out — and either won or lost — at very close range. Practitioners who have spent the majority of their time sparring at distance find themselves susceptible to a very rude awakening when a real-world encounter unfolds. Sadly, more often than not, they will fail to employ any of the techniques that have worked so well for them in the school environment, simply because they are unprepared for that range. Cross-training is healthy; in fact, it is mandatory if real-world selfdefence is a priority in any way. The Mixed Martial Arts revolution is addressing this more so today than at any other time in history. For some time now, MMA has been the fastest growing sport in the USA, and in other parts of the world, too; it has permeated our culture at many levels and pretty much anyone you talk to knows what it is. It’s definitely here to stay, not only in popular culture but in practice. This has many ramifications, not the least of which being that more people will walk into their local martial arts school expecting some reality-based martial arts training. That’s not to say that MMA training is always sufficiently grounded in reality (think weapons, multiple attackers), but people recognise that it is pressure-tested. The fact is, consumers have actually been the driver of the shift in martial arts toward a more effective and realistic style of training. Perhaps the customer is always right!

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John B Will is head of BJJ Australia and teaches Brazilian jiu-jitsu, shootfighting and self-defence solutions around the world. Check out his regular blog at



Every chronic physical issue known to man seems to come down to core strength or stabilisation — but how effective are the methods often prescribed to provide it?

64 • | ON THE MAT

Can a piece of Pilates equipment really provide the solution to your core stability woes?



or years there has been a raging debate about which strategy is best for providing core stabilisation and lower-back rehab. Beginning in the early 1990s, a group of Australian physiotherapy PhDs began publishing a series of highly acclaimed studies that identified activation of the transverse abdominis (TrA) muscle as an important unconscious motor activity to provide a stabilising force that increased intra-abdominal pressure and, through its insertion into the thoracolumbar fascia, resulted in increased stiffness of the lumbar spine (lower back). In addition, voluntary TrA contraction — produced by consciously sucking in the belly toward the lumbar spine while maintaining a normal lumbar (lower back) curve or neutral spine — was found to be associated with an unconscious co-contraction of the lower lumbar multifidi (MF). They stated that these two muscles worked as a ‘force couple’, providing the muscular stability for the joints of the lumbar spine. So now for over 20 years we’ve had physiotherapists, Pilates practitioners, yogis, personal trainers and group fitness instructors talking about sucking the belly button in to the spine in classes to isolate the transverse abdominus or TrA muscles. Furthermore, a notable health, strength and conditioning coach at the time, Paul Chek (now a very well-known guru in personal training circles), also got on the bandwagon. And you know what? We all got it wrong. What I’m going to say is probably going to upset a lot of people — especially those who have embraced this dogma for many years and are yet to get up to date with the science. There are a number of awesome articles floating around on this subject already, most recently by Melbourne physiotherapist Andrew Lock, that are well worth the read, but if you have access to old research articles, the evidence was already there. I figured even from my experience as a trainer that there was something askew with this thinking, so I decided to take my personal training team at the time, which consisted of yoga and Pilates instructors, to a physiotherapist who I’d been working with and put them under real-time ultrasound. I wanted to see if they could actually isolate the TrA in this way. Many had claimed that they could do it and that they could ‘feel’

The reality was that it probably shouldn’t have been taught in any. Here are just some of the key issues raised by further studies:



The TrA and multifidus don’t work as a force couple. The force couple between the TrA and multifidus has since been found to not exist the way the Aussie physiotherapists stated in the ‘90s. The spine is multidirectional and as such it does not have muscle groups that work in conjunction as a force couple, opposing and working with each other. In fact, the only force couples that exist are the rectus abdominus (your six-pack) and obliques (think of your muscles close to your sides), which resist extension (bending backward) and flex, working with the muscles found along the spine — the iliocostalis, longissimus and, to a much lesser extent, the multifidus — which oppose flexion and control lumbar extension and lordosis (bending backwards and the lower back bending backwards strongly).

2. NO TRA–SPINE CONNECTION Not only are there no muscles that attach to the front of the spinal joints, the TrA doesn’t insert anywhere along the spine at all. The TrA attaches to the middle of the lumbar fascia, and it is not the only muscle that attaches there — and, most importantly, the TrA does not directly control the position of the lumber spine joint area.

3. STUDY CONTRADICTIONS The original study contained contradictions in the definition of ‘global’ and ‘local’ muscles. The TrA can be described as a global rather than a local muscle that directly affects the joint (since it doesn’t). While the TrA contraction does increase intra-abdominal pressure, balancing and creating some general trunk stabilisation, it was clear that the TrA and multifidus do not co-contract — they contract separately, and the multifidus is contracting in response to the direction of limb movement. So, Richardson and Jull have a study by Richardson that conflicts with their co-contraction reasoning, yet that conflict is not raised in their research. In other words, they actually contradicted their own work.

4. TOO SIMPLE or palpate it when clients did it, too. And guess what? No one could do it. Not even the yoga or Pilates instructors could isolate their TrA. While it is certainly possible to consciously activate your TrA (even I managed to for short periods of time without movement), I had to ask, was this the holy grail to core training and lower-back rehab? And why was everyone teaching it in classes if it was almost impossible to do for most people? Furthermore, why was it being taught in commercial fitness classes rather than exclusively in a rehab setting?

Images from Strength Training Anatomy showing the ‘core’ muscles and their connections

The TrA theory is an overly simplistic way of looking at things, as it is about motor control, which happens in different positions, directions and movements with varying loads and different levels of activation in different muscles of the core. Several studies have challenged the effectiveness of ‘hollowing’ the spine. Some of the research has been published by PhDs in biomechanics from Canada and the United States, who contend that the focus on just these two muscles is an overly simplistic approach to core stabilisation, especially when dynamic stability is within a three-dimensional context. A study by Vera-Garcia, et

ON THE MAT | • 65

al., compared core stability as provided by abdominal hollowing and abdominal bracing and found that hollowing was not effective in reducing a response to sudden changes. Bracing, on the other hand, did foster torso co-contraction, reduced lumbar displacement and increased trunk stability. The paper concluded that all muscles play an important stabilising role and must work harmoniously. This suggests that stabilisation training should not focus on isolating the co-activation of a few muscles, but instead produce a more global co-activation as generated with bracing stabilisation. Dr Stuart McGill, PhD, an influential spinal biomechanist, recommended that the muscles forming the core must be balanced to allow the spine to bear large loads. If you concentrate on strengthening only one set of muscles (TrA) within the core, you can actually destabilise the spine. McGill noted, “In research at our lab, the amount of load the spine can bear without injury was greatly reduced when subjects pulled in their belly buttons during crunches and other exercises. Instead, a core exercise program should emphasise all of the major muscles that girdle the spine.” Doubts about whether abdominal hollowing to isolate the TrA is the most effective approach to core stabilisation were also raised in a paper by Allison and Morris. The authors concluded that although bilateral transverse abdominis isolation has demonstrated some

66 • | ON THE MAT

clinical utility, the assumption that it plays a significant and direct mechanical role in stability of the spine is unclear. And that’s just a few of the studies. There were more. And I’m not even going to open the can of worms about rehab strategies, restoring correct functional movement patterns or how to get hypertrophy of the correct muscles, including the multifidus for rehab… Put it this way: it’s not done on a Pilates reformer.

5. CONSCIOUS CONTRACTION FAILS Activating the TrA happens naturally, so why try to cue it consciously all the time? I never saw an athlete sucking their belly button in when playing, or even walking around. It dawned on me early that there was no reason that a healthy, functioning, injury-free person would need to do this in a class — their core would just turn on naturally, without any conscious cueing, and at varying levels of activation, based on the demands that were being placed on it. I recently conducted a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) of a yogi with 15 years’ experience. During the trunk stability push-up test — which essentially highlights the reflexive stability of the core during a symmetrical, closed-chain upper-body pushing action — the client pushed away from the floor, but their hips stayed on the floor. There was no reflexive stabilisation. They were unable to do the test. Upon noting this to the client, they went on to tell me how strong they were in their core and that even while talking to me that they had their core ‘on’, completely missing the point that this reflexive stabilisation should happen naturally.

A dancer using a Pilates ‘reformer’ for flexibility work


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As new research is published, previous beliefs and views are challenged and begin to change. As trainers and professionals, we not only need to keep up to date but also must weigh the evidence and decide how to incorporate the latest information into our training with clients in order to provide the best training outcomes. The issue with science is that it is a process rather than a destination and it’s constantly evolving. So, if you teach movement for a living, you ought to be keeping up with the science rather than holding onto dogma that may be outdated. While I personally know people who have rehabbed their lower backs doing Pilates and swear by it, and this certainly isn’t an anti-Pilates rant, I think that many who were already weak in this area have benefitted from Pilates by default, not necessarily by design. And I think the benefits that have been derived haven’t necessarily been for the reasoning that is being put forward: sucking in the belly button. There is no single key or ‘Holy Grail’ for core strength, and one of the biggest limitations to Pilates is the fact there is little work on mobility, particularly in the hips and thoracic spine. Of course, if your thoracic area and hips lack the mobility they should naturally have, then you will ‘borrow’ the missing range of movement from an area like your lower back. Pilates is certainly not a whole-body conditioning system or stand-alone fitness system, as it does not have sufficient cardiovascular or strength demands either. This is why training that involves mobility, stability, strength and restoring correct movement patterns is by far a better holistic strategy. Matt Beecroft is an RKC team leader and Functional Movement System-certified strength coach with over 13 years’ experience as a trainer. He’s an Expert Level krav maga instructor, nationally accredited boxing coach and national fitness presenter. He also coaches amateur and professional muay Thai fighters. He can be contacted via his website www.




Try this reality-based karate drill to get the explosive, committed and continuous striking skill you need for the street.


68 • | ON THE MAT




This drill is designed to develop power, transitions and flow. It is therefore vital that the whole drill is performed in a flowing way and that the end of one technique becomes the beginning of the next, with no gaps or hesitation. To enable this to happen, the padholder must ensure they move the pads into position without any hesitation. They must also ensure the pads are held firmly so the striker has a resistance to overcome. Hitting weakly held pads is little different to striking air and should be avoided. In many ways, this drill requires more skill in the pad-holding than it does in the hitting! The drill begins with a head-butt to the pads. When delivering the head-butt, you must keep your neck straight and make contact with the higher part of the forehead (not your face!). With no hesitation or ‘priming’, deliver a knee-strike — the pad-holder should ensure the pads are already there and the striker should not be waiting for them. The instant the knee has made solid contact, push the holder back a little and flow into a rearhand palm-heel strike. The hip should move slightly before the hand does in order to develop torque and send a spiral through the body, ensuring a powerful strike. As soon as the palm-heel is driven through the target, the feet and hips turn to again produce torque and ensure flow into a powerful leading-hand slap (a highly effective and underused strike). If the slap has not knocked the enemy out cold (when it does, the enemy will normally drop straight down), it will have driven their head to one side such that they are leaning. The end of the slap will give you a tactile awareness of where the pad (in reality, the head) is at. Use that feel to move and drop your bodyweight into a powerful hammer-fist strike. You should then reset at the beginning of the drill and start again. This is not an endurance drill, so it’s a good idea to take a few seconds between each cycle and focus on flow and high impact as opposed to physical conditioning. Six-to-10 repetitions of the cycle are enough in any set. In still photographs it’s impossible to show the flow that such drills demand, but let’s just say you would be better thinking of this drill, not as five separate striking techniques, but as one technique during which we hit the pads five times.


The pad-holder holds both pads firmly in position with one pad supporting the other.


Push the pad-holder back as you simultaneously prepare for a rearhand palm-heel strike…

…and whip your hips forward to deliver the strike through the pad.

6 7

Twist your feet and hips to the side so that a torque is introduced to the body.


The flow should also add to the power and explosiveness of your strikes. Power, explosiveness and flow are not mutually exclusive but are in fact dependant upon one another; the trick is to ensure the correct motion of the hips and the bodyweight. For the last three hand-strikes, remember that the hands can move faster than the body and hence the body again needs to start moving fractionally before impacting the surface. This not only ensures torque and explosive speed, it also ensures the bodyweight is present when the hand makes impact. Setting the hand off first will result in arm-only strikes, or pushes, as opposed to fight-stopping blows. …and without pause, flow into the beginning of the knee-strike (as does the pad-holder)…

3 8

…and drive your knee through the pads.

Iain Abernethy is a leading exponent of applied karate and kata application (bunkai). A Shotokan stylist who is based in the north of England, Abernethy is a member of the Combat Hall of Fame and holds 6th Dan Black-belts with both the British Combat Association, founded by Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine, and Karate England. Abernethy is an expert at applying reality-based training methods to karate, as per the BCA’s mission. Check out his articles on karate and self-defence at

4 Release the torque to deliver a leading-hand ‘power slap’ with high impact…

Even if you have good individual strikes, the enemy will be able to get back into the fight if you have gaps between those strikes. We need to be able to dominate with non-stop, flowing strikes, any one of which has the capacity to end the fight. Drills such as this one will develop that skill. When done correctly, the drill ensures that one strike feeds into the next in a way that ensures power, explosiveness and speed. These vitally important transitions are frequently not given enough emphasis in martial training. Another benefit of this drill is that it involves close-range strikes. Because most self-defence situations will take place at close range, it’s vital we have the ability to deliver and combine powerful strikes when the opponent is close to us. This drill, and ones like it, are an ideal way to develop and test your transitions, close-range power and ability to dominate



…and as the pad-holder lets the pad fall to the side (as the enemy’s head would), you flow into a preparation for the hammer-fist…

…then drop the hammer to finish. Repeat for a cycle of 6–10 repetitions.


ON THE MAT | • 69


In running a commercial martial arts enterprise, an ambitious instructor must inevitably navigate ethical challenges and the dynamics of compromise. Looking to martial arts philosophies for direction is the best way forward, writes Canadian karate instructor Morgan Duchesney.


ontrary to widespread perceptions, public martial arts instruction is a fairly recent phenomenon. Take the example of Okinawan karate, formerly called te, toudi and kenpo. Prior to Japan’s transformative Meiji restoration of the mid-19th century, Japanese/Okinawan martial arts training was limited to the aristocracy, military and civil law-enforcement classes. Feudal Japan’s numerous swordfighting schools, for example, were off limits to any but the samurai class. The word bujutsu was used to describe these combat arts; the term budo gradually came into being later on, after Japan’s indigenous fighting arts were modified for the general public as cultural recreation and sports. Budo refers to the martial ‘way’, an umbrella term to describe the delicate balance of physical, philosophical and moral facets in Japan’s modern martial arts. In Okinawa’s pre-WWII period, martial art practice was conducted privately among the male members of elite families — that’s not to say that instruction wasn’t paid for, but it wasn’t ‘sold’. It was the wholesale destruction and economic ruin wrought by the war that prompted Okinawan masters to commercialise a simplified version of their complex art for the occupying American military after General MacArthur’s martial arts ban was lifted in early 1950. The US soldiers were unaware that many were learning the basic karate system taught to Okinawan school children as a form of group exercise, from which the combative lessons reinforced by kata had been removed. Both the creation of new kata and the absence of any combative context inspired haphazard interpretations that persist in many of today’s dojos. Not surprisingly, these Chinese-trained Okinawan experts did not reveal their system of kyusho-jutsu, or pressure-point attacks, to outsiders. They were motivated by cultural pride, ethical concerns and a natural resentment of the foreigners occupying their homeland. Were Okinawan karate masters of the early 20th century magically transported to a commercial dojo in the West today, they would not likely recognise the activity before them as genuine karate. Their concerns would extend beyond the very casual and public nature of the learning environment, and even the technical efficacy of the ‘fighting’ techniques — they


If a rank promotion feels like a gift, you may want to reconsider your acceptance

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might well be puzzled about the instructors’ motives and philosophical beliefs. Questions of ethics and compromise might also arise in their minds upon noting the clever advertising and sales tactics promising something that may be, to them, partly or completely missing. Since ethics and compromise are governed by flexible interpretations, many teachers feel free to incorporate fluid interpretations of Buddhism and Taoism in their teaching and advertising. But this creates contradictions and confusion, because traditional Asian martial systems are generally supported by profound philosophies; concepts like perseverance, sacrifice, patience and mutual respect — notions that are certainly not antithetical to commercial success, but were developed for other purposes. This excessive flexibility — which may be influenced by a commercial ‘need’ to cater to certain desires of ‘the market’ — can start the subtle erosion of technical and ethical standards in a trade-off for financial gain. And yet, careful adherence to the ancient philosophies that underpin the arts may be perceived as eccentric or even foolish when such an instructor is compared to one who employs expedient practices to create a chain of viable commercial schools along franchise lines. However, seeking to create a more utilitarian environment for commerce offers easy justification for any scheme — and, in time, can lead to normalisation of illconsidered compromises that ultimately create a weak foundation for students. And this, in turn, leads to a shorter, less fulfilling martial arts journey for all. Noted Mixed Martial Arts coach Greg Jackson offered the following comments (in Black Belt magazine) on the value of adding traditional budo wisdom to MMA: “…the traditional arts teach all those intangibles that are so important to society — things like respect, humility and the appropriate use of violence. I feel that as mixed martial artists we have walked away from that, and we need to get back to it. We need to understand that traditional martial arts has a lot to teach us. For mixed martial arts to survive, it has to be socially viable.” Jackson’s thoughtful remarks were offered in response to public misconceptions about MMA created by the negative conduct of a few noted competitors, at a time when martial arts schools worldwide were clamouring to add MMA classes to their programs. While Asian martial arts are now ubiquitous, all nations and indigenous people

with a military history have developed sophisticated martial systems supported by spiritual or religious beliefs. For example, the fighting arts of North American native tribes, along with those of the people of ancient Greece, Rome and India all featured a profound spiritual or ethical dimension. In his article ‘The Effect of Modern Marketing on Martial Arts and Traditional Martial Arts Culture’, Joseph D. McNamara wrote: “Marketing has redefined the role of the martial arts instructor. Martial arts instructors do not have a familial or cultural basis of training in the United States. This is a very different business environment from the ancient practices of generational instructors. As a result, marketing has sought to establish the expertise of potential instructors in the minds of students…” Some instructors believe martial arts schools and organisations should collect only enough money to cover operating expenses. These purists consider deliberate profit-seeking an affront to the spirit of budo, leading eventually to ethical and technical compromise. However, I believe it is still possible to realise an ethical profit as a martial arts instructor if one educates students about the reality of martial arts and the benefits of patient, methodical training. The best teachers are also pleased to see students eagerly exploring the wider world of martial arts, including competition and public demonstrations. It is tempting to present one’s art as superior and comprehensive, or even to discourage students from broadening their technical base through cross-training in other disciplines. This temptation is especially strong when one is financially dependent on martial arts revenue and a well-developed ‘brand’ that purports to answer every need. As McNamara noted, our consumer culture encourages people to see martial arts as a business transaction where the payment of fees will automatically produce results. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable for new students to entertain unrealistic notions about their progress. Setting high technical and behavioural standards for rank promotion tends to limit the potential for profit — depending on students’ natures and motivation levels — and so we see too-rapid promotion and Black-belts for little children. In some cases, we even see honorary Blackbelts for politicians from commercial schools eager to develop beneficial relationships with power brokers. According to the late Zen priest Kensho Furuya, noted aikido master and author of Kodo: Ancient Ways, “Because of these


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pressures, our values have changed greatly. Teachers must now expect less from students, and students quite a bit more from their teacher — or off they go, shopping around for the next school with more to offer. Ultimately, we become so concerned with receiving more and more that we lose sight of the actual process of training and learning.” The idealised martial arts path combines a disciplined regime of solo practice and meditation/ introspection as well as regular interaction with teachers and fellow students. The vital role of a genuine teacher cannot be overstated. In response to inquiries following his resignation from the Canada Chito Kai and rumoured tensions with founder Tsuyoshi Chitose, Canadian karate pioneer Masami Tsurouka (pictured, right) said, “I have only one sensei and I will live and die with only one.” Sensei Tsurouka was exemplifying the notion that, while he was now independent, he intended to honour the spirit of Chitose’s karate in his future activities as a national martial arts leader. When it comes to leadership and ranking within a martial arts school, ethical issues abound, even without any influence from a business bottom-line. Like all hierarchical groups, budo organisations feature a stratified system of rank and associated titles designed to mark technical skill (sometimes identified by competitive success), experience and knowledge, teaching ability, dedication and loyalty. But is it okay to compromise on the skill requirements to reward dedication and loyalty? Ideally, the rank/title system functions to provide balance and continuity, but unfortunately it may suffer the hazards of ego-driven ambition when personal loyalty becomes too big of an influence on a master’s promotion of pupils. Nepotistic ranking or appointment to important roles encourages misconceptions, as most falsely assume that senior rank automatically means superior technical skills, teaching ability and comprehensive knowledge of the art’s principles, history and philosophy. Since that knowledge forms the basis of a master’s critique of their student’s progress, genuine expertise is essential. Accepting a rank and title from a senior instructor may present an ethical quandary for an aspiring martial artist with legitimate ambition, if they consider the public relations value of the promotion. This is particularly true if they feel the rank may be higher than their skill set warrants (and was perhaps awarded to build their instructor’s reputation as a ‘creator of Black-belts’, for example) or when the junior rank privately acknowledges the gulf between their superior’s public and private behaviour. It is tempting for a person in such circumstances to falsely rationalise their continued association with the instructor via a cost-benefit analysis, especially if the instructor has great technical expertise and/ or affiliation with elite governing bodies. Such rationalisations hinge on a naïve belief in personal


Sensei Masami Tsurouka


immunity to corrupting influences — and perhaps that managing a large budo organisation requires harsh and even Machiavellian tactics. But can the positives there ever outweigh the cons? To a certain extent, we are all affected and judged by our associations. And it is impossible to avoid the negative consequences of habitual selfdeception — denial will surely undermine our spiritual foundations. Instead, what’s required is honest selfappraisal and correction. We usually know when we’re compromising our own values, but commitment to the tenets of budo will make our ability to perceive this better still.

Morgan Duchesney is a senior instructor at Ouellette’s Karate and Self-Defense in Ottawa, Canada. With more than 20 years experience, he is ranked 5th Dan in karate-jutsu, 4th Dan in Wado-ryu karate, 3rd Dan in Chito-ryu and 2nd Dan in Koryu Uchinadi kenpo-jutsu. He is also a grading judge with the Canadian Karate Association and a certified Police Pressure Point Tactics (PPPT) instructor. His writing has appeared in Budo Journal, the Ottawa Citizen and elsewhere. He can be contacted at

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Martial arts instructor, philosopher and business ethics lecturer Professor Ricardo Vargas looks at the PR challenges martial arts faces as a whole and how to combat them by ensuring a positive impact on our communities.


increased scrutiny and comparison by a wide variety of groups and individuals.

COMMUNITY PERCEPTIONS To identify the impact of our martial arts activities in society, we have to ask, through what activities do the general public relate to martial arts? We could break this down into two key questions:

Q: What kinds of activities do the general public identify as ‘martial arts’? A: Physical combat (armed/unarmed), fighting sports and competitions, self-defence, some forms of fitness and perhaps meditation.

Q: Where do they see these in action? A: TV shows, movies, online, special events (e.g. festivals, competitions), magazines, etc. — and of course in any martial arts/self-defence classes they may have taken.

What do your public demonstrations and activities in the community say about your organisation?


he martial arts scene is still transforming and consolidating into a professional industry. This evolution to professionalism has revealed a need for us to work extra hard at understanding and implementing practices that are responsible not only legally and fiscally, but socially too. Success does not happen by accident. It takes a lot of hard work, especially in the area of education. Last issue I mentioned the Guidance Standard on Social Responsibility (2010) created for businesses, and this time we’ll look at the first item in it: Identifying the impacts of martial arts activities on society and our environment. First, let’s consider how awareness about the social responsibility of organisations has increased. Globalisation, greater mobility, accessibility of information and instant communications mean that news of organisations’ decisions and activities is more easily shared. This provides an opportunity for our organisations to benefit from learning new ways of doing things and solving problems, but it also means that our policies, activities and decisions are subject to


If we were then to ask the people what they think about these interactions, they will respond with different perspectives, each emphasising some positive and some negative impacts. This, of course, is normal; the point here is that the positive and negative, the good and the bad, are both realities in the martial arts industry in all its dimensions. We can think of incidents where people use martial arts to promote or commit violence, make money at the expense of others, create political conflicts between or within associations, etc. — but at the same time we can identify many other inspiring instances where individuals experience holistic development or learn to defend themselves, for example. We can identify leaders with the ability to transform lives, some who have even provided the inspiration for many generations beyond their lifetime. As with anything in life, we cannot condemn the whole by the part. We cannot generalise that all people who belong to a particular group, industry, country, culture, etc. are the same as that one person from the group with whom we had a negative interaction. That seems logical, but unfortunately we now receive news and information (and misinformation) from different sources with such speed and regularity that our ability to fully process and consider each one is compromised. This can start a dangerous chain reaction that quickly mobilises public opinion in one direction or another.

In various ways, consumers, customers, donors, investors and owners all exert financial influence on our organisations in relation to social responsibility — and meanwhile, society’s expectations regarding the performance of organisations continue to grow. Community right-to-know legislation in many places provides access to detailed information about organisations’ activities. In turn, a growing number of organisations are communicating with their stakeholders, including by producing social responsibility reports, to meet their needs for information about the organisation’s performance. So, it’s wise to be aware of all the details of our operations, both as groups and individuals. We as martial artists — both instructors and students — have the potential to make a big impact on our local community. And if the community is exposed to bad news about a performance-enhancing drug scandal in our industry’s sporting sector, for example, or a street fight involving a recognised martial artist, or irresponsible instructors risking the safety and integrity of their students, we must take social responsibility. We must act to demonstrate that these particular issues concern only a specific person or group, not the martial arts industry at large. Instances of negative publicity can actually provide us with opportunities to let people know about ‘the other side of the coin’ — that being how martial arts uplift, discipline and develop us.


SELF-PROTECTION SKILLS FOR WOMEN & KIDS Give yourself & your kids more than a fighting chance: get the expert knowledge needed to stay safe, for life Empower Your Kids to Be Safe…For Life

OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHANGE I say this from experience. Many times in my life when I’ve introduced myself as a martial artist, people would react by saying something like, ‘Oh, I better not mess with you because you can kick my arse…’ and so on. Even worse, when I’ve said that I come from Colombia, they start to associate me with drug dealers. It’s a sad reality that people all too readily put labels on others without even knowing them. But, as I said before, those disappointing moments provide unique opportunities to demonstrate my social responsibility as a martial artist and as a proud Colombian-born Australian. As Bruce Lee used to say, “Under the sky there is but one family.” In times of social and financial crisis, our organisations should try to sustain, if not increase, their activities related to social responsibility. Such crises have a significant impact on more vulnerable groups, and thus suggest a greater need for increased social input. They also present particular opportunities for integrating social, economic and environmental considerations more effectively into our organisational policies, decisions and activities. Government has a crucial role to play in realising these opportunities, but so do we. Our martial arts activities are educational opportunities to promote the change (in terms of progress, justice and social inclusion) that we want to see in our local and global communities. Martial arts groups can create, lead or join initiatives related to any number of good social outcomes such as ending discrimination, preventing bullying, protecting the environment, creating peace and more. The essence of martial art is not only the defence of life, which is very reactive, but the protection of life in all its expressions, which is proactive. There are numerous ways our martial arts organisations can take on or increase our social responsibility, and each of them provides an opportunity to build goodwill and respect for what we do.

Born and raised in Colombia, Ricardo Vargas became a philosophy lecturer at the country’s top university and a leading Jeet Kune Do instructor under USA’s Grandmaster Richard Bustillo before immigrating to Adelaide, SA. Vargas now resides in Melbourne and oversees several Adelaide JKD clubs.

170 pages of invaluable, expert information for parents, teachers and martial arts instructors on children's safety and selfdefence methods. It covers: awareness principles; kidnapavoidance and escape tactics; unusual physical strategies that work against adults; bully-prevention; online safety; ways to teach kids these concepts to empower rather than frighten them; and much more.

Every Woman’s Guide to Being Safe… For Life A complete guide to personal protection for women. Covers psychology of attackers, survivor mentality, sexual harassment, men to watch out for, behavioural cues, verbal abuse, belief systems and much more.

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Martial Arts Business Vol.1 No.2  

Martial Arts Business magazine is THE SOURCE for the most successful, professional martial arts school owners to gather, collaborate, learn...

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