My wife and I have just finished watching the first season of Stranger Things. I quite enjoyed the homage to cult 80’s sci/fi which was punctuated by musical classics like “Should I stay or should I go” by the Clash. For me, it brought back all the same excitement of watching cult classics in the 80’s and early 90’s such as The Goonies, Ghostbusters, The X-Files and Buckaroo Banzai.
“Should I stay or should I go now?” is a good question to ask ourselves within the context of a self-defence situation. It is not only a question that we should ask when faced with a situation, but the broader question of “Will I stay or will I go?” is essential to answer while preparing and training for self-defence.
28/7/2017 0 Comments
In addition to being a martial arts and self-defence instructor, I am also a chartered electrical engineer working part-time in the building industry, a backyard tinkerer and a part-time inventor. What can I say? I have a lot of interests. For someone who doesn't know me very well, it may seem as if they are all disparate interests, but when you get to know me a little better, you will see that they are actually all connected.
There are many points of difference in the way that we operate as a martial arts school when we are compared with other, conventional schools. Most of these points of difference become clear only to students who enroll and train with us for some time. One of these points of difference which is immediately obvious to all applicants and can be a major stumbling block to potential students is the interview process.
Initial acceptance into our school is dependent on a successful interview with the head of the school. Some people find this big and scary. They have had to successfully sit interviews to win employment, but why do they need to do this to learn martial arts? Surely it should just be as easy as rocking up on the day, paying your ten dollars and getting your Big Mac With A Side Order Of Kung Fu Training. Super-size that Kung Fu Kick, please!
I have written many articles and run many courses on the general principles of self-defence because I have seen that the greater self-defence industry is preoccupied with selling fads, gadgets and combat techniques. Perhaps because that's what people expect from self-defence instruction. Generally in business, the attitude appears to be “Give 'em what they want and take their money”. Very few self-defence service providers appear to be interested in developing the underlying structure and framework for a useful response in their students. Perhaps because this is not popular with a consumer audience.
Many years ago, I saw a film called “Beautiful People”. It was released in 1974 and was in the style of a nature documentary but with a strong 'object-lesson' narrative binding the stories together. Stories about various interactions between animals and humans in the African bush. It left a big impression on me as a child.
One story began with a Bushman (or San) hunter who needed to find some water. He noticed a baboon in a tree nearby, so he carefully dug out a hole in the side of a large termite mound and stuffed it full of melon seeds, making sure that the baboon could see what he was doing. He then left the immediate area and hid to watch what unfolded. Once the baboon could see that the man was gone, he climbed down the tree, rushed over to the termite mound and stuck his hand into the hole to grab a handful of melon seeds.
I occasionally help with instructing kids Kung Fu classes. It's not my forte, I tend to prefer teaching adult classes. What I have noticed is that kids can't resist a race. Regardless of what physical activity it is, kids tend to want to compete against their peers to finish first. This behavior pattern is generally not noticeable but becomes quite problematic when teaching traditional Chinese martial arts. Picture in your head how difficult it is to teach quality of movement to someone who is clearly only interested in beating his or her class-mates. It makes for some hilarity when a little kid is trying to learn zig-zag stepping for the first time but is also trying to beat little Johnny across the class. Tripping and falling over their own feet, looking somewhat like a capering pixie.
If you are a practitioner of a traditional martial art system, it is likely that you are familiar with the aggressive self-promotion tactics used by some modern sports-based martial arts systems. Hints and allegations about the ineffectiveness of traditional martial arts systems run the full gamut from subtle jabs to outright knocking-on-your-door-challenges.
Inquiring parent: “Could you please help me? I am very concerned for my daughter's safety and wish for her to have self-defence training.”
Me: “Sure, we have a community service self-defence program specifically for women currently running in Queen’s Park on Wednesdays and Fridays at lunch time. The cost is $X per class because it is a community service. Your daughter is welcome to attend.”
This morning, I got up at quarter to five to get ready for my morning training session. I was a bit slow in getting out there today because we hosted our Corporate Retreat yesterday and I had to really gun it to get through all my training in time to host the event (even so, I only managed to finish my training yesterday at nine thirty and the Retreat started at ten, so I cut things pretty fine). I also turned 43 years old this morning. Well into middle-age. On the slippery slope of inevitable decline. Getting ready to push up some daisies.
And yet... And yet... I have cause to celebrate how privileged I am and have been in my life. I am 43 years old and aside from a few old training injuries that are slowly being fixed by the structural correction of traditional Wushu training methods, I am in perfect health. I am 43 years old and I have never been as fast, strong, fit or combat-effective as I am today.
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