“Pranks Very Much” by John & Elaine Johnston


 

Currently there is a trend for posting pranks on social media sites. Some are funny, even hilarious, where as some are sick and irresponsible. Whichever they are it always means that someone must suffer.

For every action, there must be an opposite reaction. The people instigating the prank don’t always have full regard or an understanding of the consequences, which relates to something that happened to me just recently.

Initially I was going to keep it to myself but after thinking it through, I believe it might be of use to those people that like to perform pranks and to let them realise that things don’t always go to plan.

Before I tell you my story, I wish to say that I am not ashamed of my actions or could it be termed as an overreaction. To me it felt appropriate at the time, even seen through the scientific viewpoint of hindsight. Anyway, let me set the scene for you:

My wife Elaine and I are on our way to Ireland. We are scheduled to leave from Birmingham Airport, however the flight has been delayed by 1 hour. Its Friday afternoon and there are several events occurring in Dublin. It’s a packed flight.
one of the events just happens to be a stag party of about 8 lads, which means that they have an extra hour drinking at the Airport.
that’s never a good thing as it means for a lively and noisy flight. Thank goodness it is only about an hour’s flight!

Anyway, the flight has landed and we are in a hurry to get through the Airport as we have friends waiting to pick us up.
as the flight was packed, our hand luggage was placed in the hold. I am on the moving walkway just ahead of Elaine and I am steadying myself with my left hand on the rail. Suddenly a hand is firmly placed on top of mine. What happens next occurs within a few seconds. It’s just my reaction to someone else’s action. Out of the corner of my eye, I see someone I don’t know grabbing my hand. I react by turning my hand and catching his fingers. He pulls against my grip which in my mind signals that he is trying to take control of me.

I am unsure of his intentions towards me but it appears hostile and aggressive, consequently my next reaction is to strike him with my right hand. Fortunately for him, I am holding my kindle which has a padded case. He receives a solid slap to the left side of his face. It wasn’t hard enough to knock him down but good enough to stop him dead in his tracks. I have now turned so that I am facing my assailant who is momentarily shocked and stunned.

I now recognise him as one of the offensive loud mouths from the plain, together with his team of arse-hole mates. It takes a few moments before my action causes a reaction from him.  He starts by protesting that there was no need to hit him, as he was only having a laugh. I point out to him that he had no right to touch me and that I didn’t find it funny. Of course, his mates have now found their voice. I think it is best for me to walk away and ignore them as I know that they are not going to listen to reason. The lad that got slapped is following me after me offering to shake my hand whilst telling me that it was only a joke. I however continue to ignore him and walk away to the haranguing and verbal abuse from his mates. I must fight against my instincts to confront them as I know they would not understand that to touch someone without consent is an offense. And that under the circumstances it is also an act of bullying and intimidation and as such there will always be consequences, as in this case my assailant was extremely lucky. I only used enough force to neutralise what I perceived to be an attack.

He came out of it with the ability to still walk and talk and without any real damage done to him. I however was not so lucky. It cost me the price of a new kindle! As mine was too badly damaged. It is a good job that I didn’t find this out until later.

So why am I telling you this?         Is it to boast?     No its not.
am I proud of my actions?            No.
am I ashamed of my actions?      Definitely not.

I am relating this story so that people can be made aware of the fact that not all pranks are OK.

If its confined to your own circle of friends and doesn’t cause harm or distress and everyone including the victim can get a laugh out of it, then its fine. But to do it to a stranger and not know how it can impact on them, then its just not OK.

To me I think that your life should only impact on someone else’s life in a positive way. It’s nice to be nice.

“I’m only kidding mate”

“Well I’m only kindling”

 

John has allowed me to mention a few things about this incident as I was present.
there was a bunch of rugby players and their sons on the plane on the way back and they were being loud and having a laugh among themselves but never once did I feel provoked or threatened by them.
these lads from the stag party were being very provocative and their behavior was intimidating and the more alcohol they drank the more they overstepped boundaries belonging to other people.

Whilst john and I were sat in our seats on the plane waiting to stand up to leave these lads were shouting to each other at opposite ends of the plane because they weren’t all sat together. The loudest one was standing next to my seat in the aisle, he suddenly sat in the seat next to me (as I was sat in the middle seat with john next to the window) and used me to try and hide from his friend having a joke around. He invaded my personal space. I am very aware of my own self-protection and not allowing my personal space / boundaries to be crossed is part of it and the fact that he was drunk and behaving unpredictably made me feel very uncomfortable.

We were walking out of the Airport very fast because yes, we were late but also, I think because we wanted to get away from this bad situation. (it was disrupting my Feng shui) if anyone has ever been out with john, they will know how fast he walks, anyway I was on a mission to try to keep up with him on the moving walkways. I had to try to squeeze past one of the lads who was further ahead than his mates. I had to touch him slightly and apologised so I could get past. He was a little bit rude telling me to be careful and to steady on.

I managed to catch john up but only because two rather large individuals were blocking any further access. I stood behind john and very soon the lad that I had overtook was standing right behind me. I saw his loud-mouthed mate come up behind john sniggering to his friend who stood behind me saying “hey watch this” and I saw him put his hand on top of john’s hand. I thought “yes watch this” as I knew how john would react. I must be careful around the house myself not to sneak up on him…lol

I have seen John demonstrate grabbing someone’s hand in lessons many times, so I was interested to see how it is applied in reality. John twisted his own hand so that it was on top of his assailants and I saw him grip his fingers then simultaneously whilst pulling the hand towards him, Johns right hand came up and clunked this lad around the left side of his head whilst holding his kindle. It was sharp and to the point and yes, this lad was stunned, well what did he expect? Not everyone you’re going to meet is a pushover. I feared for the kindle! I dared not tell John that he would have damaged it because I knew how angry he would have been. He was really enjoying a story he was reading which is why he had it in his hand as he had been reading it on the plane. I knew that this lad would have been in serious danger if John had known that he had broken his kindle on his head!!

They seemed to be quite apologetic until their mates got closer, then their behavior became abusive.

This was pack mentality at its finest. A large group of lesser men building status among their own hierarchy by creating an environment where they can threaten and provoke other men and take advantages with other women. They think that their large numbers will allow them to go unchallenged by anyone. No one else said or did anything.

I am glad that john did what he did because this lad totally deserved it.

No one should have to be a victim to this kind of behavior.

In The Eye Of The Beholder


I often feel that people misinterpret Kata’s such as Tekki/Niahanchi and perform them in a fast and flicky fashion with hand techniques that start from the elbow rather than from the floor and with leg techniques from the knee not from the supporting foot and through the hips.

It seems to me that there is a disconnect from upper and lower body instead of a unification. My feeling is the Kata should be very robust in nature and the techniques are for short range power generation and close quarter delivery.

The Kata has the potential to be able to use grappling and manipulation, so if you think you could control and move someone’s body weight with just the use of arms you must have forearms like Popeye’s. There is a common principle in MA that if you wish to move someone’s body you must move your own body.  I fail to see that principle being applied with some of the static performances of Tekki/Niahanchi.

You would be in for a shock if you think that the technique you have just applied to a compliant opponent in the Dojo would work in a real situation. Remembering when you practice Kata as a solo exercise you have no real feedback, you must use intention along with genuine belief and understanding of your ability to apply your technique. Practise a technique that wouldn’t work is practicing to fail.

For me I prefer function over form. It boils down to two questions

1 Does your Kata look good (you don’t need to answer that)

2 would you care to be on the receiving end or hit by one of your techniques (you needn’t answer that either)

Very often you see Instructors making minor adjustments to a student’s stance or arm position, this is after they have finished moving. More importantly is how they transitioned to that position. Kata is about movement, not a series of still photographs. No point telling a student that something is very important and not showing or explaining the how or the why.

Your Kata should always have intention. Just making shapes is for shadow puppeteers.

 

If Beauty is only skin deep, some people must be living their lives inside out!

The Unequal Equalizer. By John Johnston


The unequal equalizer was a phrase I first hear over 40 years ago. It was used by my old Sensei, Richard Jackson to illustrate how within a well structured Karate class, everybody has the same opportunity to perform at their highest level.
It is still true today, especially in regard to people with disabilities.
Having recently attended two championships for people with disabilities, The British Open at StokeMandeville and The European Championships in San Sebastian, Spain. More than ever I think I begin to understand that phrase.

The style of the championships isn’t that of the usual Karate / martial arts competition, far from it in fact. It differs in so many ways and for me it is like a breath of fresh air. The athletes are not pitted against one and other in an arena to see who is the strongest, fastest and most skilled. Their challenge is to demonstrate their ability. There are so many categories for people with disabilities that you could not hold a standard tournament, nor do I think you would want to. It would be unfair to all involved, participants, officials and spectators.

Let me try to give you a flavour of the events.
You may see Kata being performed by wheelchair users. This ranges from novice to higher grades, or you may see self defence demonstrated form a wheelchair.
At the Spanish event there was a young lady who gave a brilliant self defence display in her motorised wheelchair, mainly using her fully functioning good leg. She had no actual arms, only hands;I think she may have been a victim of the thalidomide drug.
You also have people with learning disabilities, down syndrome, visibility and hearing impairments or autism also performing Kata or sometimes just Kihon (basics). This may be done individually or in a group and it may or may not have been with a coach along side. There would also be other self defence displays and people performing weapons Kata but most of all, the other things you are likely to see is how everybody supports each other. Their courage, their endeavours and their great camaraderie really register with you.

What you don’t see is bad behaviour, big egos and prima donnas. You just get people trying to explore their potential with great commitment. There aren’t any losers, there can only be winners.

kevin Spain Trophy 2015

It needs mentioning that there is no charge for competitors or spectators, the costs were covered through funding and sponsorship. Also a lot of the training schemes are funded and free for participants within Britain.

 

At the European Championships, there was a slight hiccup. This came in the form of the WKF (World Karate Federation) trying to interfere with the event through reasons of their own. They gave ultimatums to the event organisers and some of the Karate-Ka that were affiliated to them. However, they were totally ignored and the event went ahead anyway. From my perspective they had no moral or ethical right to have tried to interfere with the event.
I feel that these sort of events should be celebrated, encouraged and given whole hearted support. It was not specifically a Karate event; it was a martial art event. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth and puts shame on such an organisation.

John & Kevin Spain

Busman’s Holiday part 2 by Elaine Johnston


Let me first begin by saying how much I enjoy visiting other martial arts classes just to observe their teaching and training practices. It’s lovely to see good Instructors engaging with their students and I love to see the etiquette and good manners that fellow Karate-Ka emit amongst themselves. Of course these are the things that you expect when visiting other clubs. The saying “always expect the unexpected” comes to mind here because it isn’t always like that.
John gave a very accurate depiction of the events that went down in the South of England but what he couldn’t translate to you was what was happening to me whilst he was otherwise engaged with one of the Instructors. I had gone and sat down because I had also had a large meal and a couple of beers plus I was wearing rings that I could not take off without soapy water. I was told that wearing rings and having had alcohol didn’t matter but it did matter to me and although I had got up to join in happily to begin with, I soon began to feel my hackles rising like they would in any other bad situation. I wasn’t allowed to sit. The main Instructor insisted that I get up and allow him to show me something else which happened to be a wrist lock. One that I have experienced many, many times in my 17 years training in the art of Karate and one that he persistently pertained to use on my wrist for the demo. I am quite certain that the reason he made so many attempts at the lock with each one getting more severe was because I would not show any pain but let me tell you I was a cats whisker away from taking his eye out with my free hand!. I could reach his testicles with my foot from where I stood as well. I had extreme difficulty preserving my manners because my main concern at the end of the day was my own behaviour whilst in this situation and in the presence of my own Instructor. I could not possibly do anything that would disrespect my Sensei. I was told to relax so that he could feel my pain threshold. Mmm ! In a real situation you would not be relaxed and I seriously don’t think that the lock would work for a women like me on a man who was wanting to do me harm. The Chinese hands would not work for me and the lock would not work for me. This man was very pushy in wanting to teach these things to me and I was extremely offended by the fact that he wanted to teach me something that could in fact put my life in danger. I value my life and my own self protection is always analysed and meticulously thought out. I know what will not work for me. I’m OK learning stuff from any Instructor but not under the banner of self-defence techniques for a situation of assault in a way that is ineffective and unrealistic. My own Sensei understands my needs in training and allows me to adapt my techniques to better suit me. I have also trained with wonderful big tough Instructors who have taught me some fantastic methods of defence who have been very realistic with my needs, very well-mannered and courteous so there was no excuse for this man’s behaviour. He said that traditional Karate practices were invalid and not practical which also offended me because he did not have the intelligence to see the value and purpose behind them. He had obviously not learnt the proper codes of conduct that come with hard and correct training. I am grateful to him though because he rated very high on my list of bad instructors. I have written about them before and I know they’re out there and that they exist but I had never met one myself. Not at this level anyway. It was almost as if he was trying to justify himself with his hyper and over the top actions. He ignored his own students to focus on us which was very weird. So a big thank you to him for allowing me to be able to say yes they’re definatly out there amongst us, so beware. I also thank him for that extreme in the wrong direction because I met a fantastic Instructor the other evening who was very spiritual, very powerful, and very dynamic in his Karate movement and a very nice person who I look forward to training with next march. Maybe I would not have appreciated this wonderful mans good aspects if I had not met the lesser man.
The fantastic news is we are always learning and able to learn (well most of us anyway) He only had 4 students. It was a very small town. Out of all the things I could have done I chose not to do any of them out of respect and self-preservation and I feel good about that because my dignity remains intact. My conscience is clear and I overheard my Sensei speaking to someone and he said that I would have been OK to respond any way that I had seen fit. 🙂 There is always a next time!!

Me and my Sensei, but I am under no illusions

Me and my Sensei, but I am under no illusions

Man Maketh Man by John Johnston


Following a training session a short time ago, myself and some of the senior students were chatting about my experiences of training with other Instructors. Over the years I have been lucky and privileged to have been taught by and trained with some of the best. I have a personal policy of attending a training session or seminar with s different Instructor at least once a month. I told them that I would ensure that they had the information of any of the different courses that were coming up. Two of the students had come to me from different clubs and associations. They both tentatively asked whether I minded them attending sessions with other Instructors because with their old clubs this was unheard of and strictly not allowed. I found it strange whilst looking at these two big strapping lads that these were grown men with responsible jobs. My answer to them was that as individuals they had free choice and that they have an obligation to themselves to get the best out of their Karate and that would come from various sources. I like to think that I am a responsible person and Instructor and in being so I have a duty to steer my students in a direction where they have a varied progressive and wholesome training experience. I like them to feel free to actively seek out the best Instruction and to be able to explore whatever dimension of Martial Arts they wish to pursue.
Anybody who thinks themselves as the seed of all knowledge knows nothing.
To keep students trapped, blinkered and isolated for reasons of ego, insecurity and/ or personal financial gain is not only ethically and morally wrong, it is dishonest and irresponsible. It breaks a trust and a code of honour that should be showed towards a student that has come to you and placed their wellbeing and personal development in your hands. As my Grandmother used to say “if you can’t do anybody any good then don’t do them any harm”

Elaine

Survival Of The Fittest Or Fit For Survival by John Johnston


Recently a friend and colleague Steve Lowe posted on face book how his Karate training had saved his life. He had slipped on a roof he was working on. He was in danger of falling head first through a skylight with a 30ft onto concrete below. He managed to twist mid fall and land on his back. In doing so he was able to cushion his fall and brace himself on top of the skylight. He was sore and bruised but very much alive.
I know from experience that it’s at times like this that through your training your survival instincts will kick in and that in most cases you will manage to take appropriate action. When I think back and analyse actions I have taken during conflict situations, I realise how lucky I was to come out of it with a favourable result but it’s not conflict that I want to talk about today.
I know many of us have stories from everyday situations where martial arts training have saved us from serious injury or even death. There have been quite a few occasions in my life where I can look back and know that my training has worked for me. I would like to relate to you about one of these occasions.
I used to be a keen cyclist. I enjoyed going on long cycling and camping holidays. A former girlfriend and I had been touring in Spain and had just crossed the Pyrenees into France. We had stopped over night in a campsite just the other side of Narbonne. We were a day or so ahead of our schedule so we decided to have a rest day. While my girlfriend did some washing, I decided to prepare some breakfast. We had two small camping gas stoves. I was using one for boiling some water, the other one needed the gas canister changing. This was where things started to go pear shaped. Normally there would not have been a problem switching a gas canister refill but as I was doing it the housing collapsed and the bayonet pierced the refill. Pressurised liquid gas started spraying everywhere, in the same instant I realised there was a naked flame on the other stove. I thought about that moment many times and have analysed my actions. I know that without my training and experiences I would have come off with worse injuries than I did, also others could have been in danger of being injured. My reaction and thought processes where so fast. I hurled the punctured refill one way knowing that there was nobody in that direction and at the same time I executed a backward somersault which was something I have never practised or done in my life and this was achieved from a kneeling position. Fortunately my girlfriend was at the back of the tent hanging washing on a makeshift washing line. She described to me later how she looked round as she heard me shout to see me flying backwards out of ball of flames and to land on my feet as the refill exploded about 12 feet away. The tent was completely disintegrated. As the people in the vicinity came to see what all the commotion was about. There was a lot of people speaking in French and acting panicky and confused. Now I do not say this to big myself up but throughout I remained calm and in control which considering the state I was in wasn’t easy. I was actually smouldering and my skin was beginning to blister. As it was a hot morning I was only wearing shorts and sandals. I had the sense to find the cold water tap and start to douse myself down. I then went to the campsite reception and with my broken French I managed to get them to understand that I needed medical attention. Eventually they phoned for an ambulance. A short time later paramedics arrived to find me showering myself with cold water from a hose that I had found at the back of the reception. They took one look at me and requested an air ambulance. After administering first aid they took me to a nearby landing strip where I was flown to a burns unit in Montpellier. I was treated for 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 35% of my body. The hospital experiences would be a story in itself so we come back to the point of this blog which is to illustrate just how valuable your training is to you. It isn’t only just for self defence when faced with the possibility of being physically attacked but for yourself protection and yourself development in that it enhances life skills and the thought processes. It also gives you pain tolerance and emotional control.
It is said that you need to train the way that you wish to fight. I would also add that you should train the way that you wish to live, with honesty, courtesy and a strong spirit.

THE DEMO TO END ALL DEMO’S. By John Johnston


A long, long time ago when there was orks and goblins still roaming the world, Richard Jackson Sensei asked the senior members of his club if they would like to help him put on a demo at the local school fete. Great we thought a chance to do some recruiting but better still, to be able to show off! So over the next few weeks we put together a bit of a spectacle. You older readers will understand the sort of thing that I am talking about. There was tamishiwari that is breaking techniques. There was also knife and sword defence. Kata’s performed in Hakama’s. My main contribution to the event was throwing techniques but mainly being thrown. My friend and partner was an old style semi-professional wrestler. All in all I think we put on a fairly good show. There was lots of ooohs and aaahs from the crowd with enthusiastic applause and cheering. All the kids were running around asking for our autographs and plenty of enquiries about joining up. So as things began to settle down, we thought it was time to get changed and depart. As a group we were making our way back to the gym changing rooms.
Mick Jackson, Ricks brother was following on behind. He hadn’t taken part in the Demo as he was on crutches. He had broken his leg about 6 weeks previously. It had been quite a severe injury that had occurred during a National Squad training session at the Long Ford Dojo in Coventry. It happened during a clash with Sensei Bob Rhodes.
As we were just about to go into the changing rooms, one of the lads called me back saying he thinks Mick has got some trouble and sure enough I can see that Mick is surrounded by 5 drunks. They were taunting him and trying to make fun of him. They must have thought he was an easy and vulnerable target, however they were wrong. Even though he has been on crutches Mick adapted his training and carried on throughout his injury. You have never seen anybody hop and punch oi-tsuki the way Mick could.
My friend Frank and I are running back towards Mick and the drunks. As we approach one of the lads explodes backwards and lands flat on his back and doesn’t move (he’s out cold). The other drunks are momentarily shocked; they’re not sure what to do. I think that they were so surprised that somebody on crutches was able to knock one of their friends out; it was too much for their confused little minds to handle. It was at this point that Frank and I arrived on the scene. Oh I forgot to tell you about Frank. He is a young lad of about 18 and a brick layers apprentice. He is 6 ft 2in and all testosterone. He was extremely strong and supple. His party trick was to stand next to a doorway, lift his foot up and place it on top of the door frame as if kicking yoko geri. Frank later immigrated to Australia where he went on to be south Australia’s Kata and Kumite champion.
One of the drunks turns as frank is running up. Without missing a step Frank chins him and down he goes.
Mick’s on one crutch hopping and hoping one of the others will come near enough so that he can test his one legged oi-tsuki again. I grab one of the lads and swing him round into his mate, they both stumble over backwards. As I turn I am just in time to see a wild punch coming my way. I manage to duck under it and I am now in a position to be able to grab the dickhead in a strangle hold from the rear. I have got the strangle hold locked on and he is pretty subdued. It’s at this point that Frank looms up in front of us after having chased the other 2 lads off. Frank has yet to learn about restraint. He front kicks the lad I am holding in the lower abdomen. Frank’s kicks are really powerful. It knocks us both backwards and sits us both on our backsides. Personally I think it was overkill but you can’t have much sympathy for a bully. These lads were quite prepared to pick on somebody in a vulnerable position, outnumbering him 5 to 1.
The aftermath of the whole affair was, 1 lad was taken to hospital via an ambulance, and 2 of them were arrested when the Police arrived. They spent the afternoon and the night in the cells. The Police told us to make ourselves scarce which we did. We were never asked to do a demonstration again in that area. Like with all demonstrations you always have sceptics; however the later demonstration proved how well Karate works in reality.

Some actual photo's of the demonstration

Some actual photo’s of me in the demonstration

img010