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!

TOUGH LOVE by Elaine Johnston


It is very difficult to get good honest Karate training these days and even more difficult to get good honest Karate training that provides ongoing advancement and inspiration.
Karate isn’t just a physical endeavour, it has a deep underlying spiritual element that facilitates and underpins the physical aspect. It is a tool for developing the psyche (soul).
Without the correct mindset one will not have the inner fortitude to develop the strong physical mechanisms that give Karate its speed, power and dynamics which are the necessary requisites for the one hit kill. It is not within normal conditioning to already have these built in; these physical mechanisms have to be developed. They are paramount to ones healthy and progressive Karate development. One needs courage and bravery to develop a strong mind as real genuine Karate is not for the faint hearted.
The psychological aspect of Karate has its roots in the Zen philosophy. Zen was the religion of the Samurai Warrior class in Japan. I suppose one could say the Samurai turned death into an art form. The Samurai could strike without regret and die without fear, a necessity as a single doubt or fear could cause a lack in concentration that could prove fatal, also having to live with the thought of impending death every day needed a spiritually philosophical strategy.
We do not need to be like the Samurai today. We do not need to prepare our minds for death. What we do need however is to prepare our minds to “live”. We need to bring our consciousness out of atrophy and train our minds to fight against our own self doubts and self imposed limitations and become stronger more able individuals. Whilst it is not every student’s ambition to learn the one hit kill, it should be every student’s requirement to develop the skills that will lead onto developing a better standard of living.
easy training will not accomplish this and nether will an instructor that’s only interested in student fees because to start building strength into the character means one has to be pushed, challenged and tested and this method of training is not popular amongst the meek and the mild, although it seems these days everybody wants to wear the label of the warrior!!!
The commercialisation and profit market for Karate today has misled the majority of its practitioners into believing that what they are practicing is of a genuine nature when in fact it is not. How can it be? With the amount of martial arts schools and instructors out in the world and the amount of people that are training or have trained at some point in their lives, one would think that the majority of nations would be full of strong minded, well balanced, dignified people who are quietly assertive, follow impeccable codes of moral conduct, never give up in the face of adversity and who never compromise their high standards and integrity for the benefit of others, but are willing to pass on and teach others how to attain these standards for themselves (the way of a true Karate-Ka). Imagine a world full of people with these high codes of conduct, wouldn’t that be wonderful? And wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place to live in? The fact that this is not so is evidence that it is all work in progress.
It is a day and age whereby Karate and Martial Arts in general has absorbed itself into society creating a wide and diverse spectrum of extremes across the board. The level, ability and knowledge of instructors ranges from below average to exceptional and yes it seems that everybody is “kung -fu fighting”. I was once told by a very inspiring colleague “when the student is ready the Master will come”. If the spectrum and range of Instructors is so extreme in both directions then maybe that is because there is demand for them in these extremes. After all not everyone will have the mental capacity or the fortitude to be trained on a regular basis by a top Instructor because not everyone has that mentality or that certain type of aggression that enables a student to flourish in a martial environment. I like to use physics when I translate my Karate to my ideas and theories. One of the basic laws in physics is “like attracts like” so there is definitely an Instructor out there for every level of human capability from the below average to the exceptional. This inspires a very positive outlook if one is able to view the situation from a slightly different perspective. If almost all people are training in Karate or other Martial Art, those that have been well trained will know that within the training is “The Code” the code that teaches us about ourselves and how to behave correctly. All students/ people have got to start somewhere, even if it is on the bottom rung of the ladder. It is really up to each and every individual student to learn how to step up to the mark and progress forward and upwards and when the student is ready the master will come.
Training the psyche (soul) can face one with emotionally painful difficulties. Self doubt and self imposed limitations are inherent in all humans at varying degrees, it is these traits that actually hinder and restrain natural creativity. It is natural inner creativity that gives us our individuality and unique expression. The human disposition is to avoid any kind of pain physical or psychological, so it is very necessary to have a trusted teacher who is capable of pushing a student to the limits. It cannot be stressed enough how important these lesson’s are and how beneficial they are to an individual in the long term. A genuine and knowledgeable Karate Instructor knows this because he himself has had to learn them from his teacher, but many students unfortunately are too shy to be able to make it through to the beneficial stages, which can only materialise inside the mind of the student after they have faced and conquered many of their inner fears, self imposed limitations and doubts, giving them a sense of real well being, strength of character and inner calm. This can be very difficult to attain, though it should be every students ultimate goal to work towards attaining “Self Enlightenment” after all what are we all here for if it isn’t to ultimately realise our full potential and true nature. It is much easier to be tempted into going down the road to the brightly coloured and well promoted local McDojo or go to an unethical Instructor whose ego has not been humbled. Such Instructors are not able to push their students because they themselves haven’t developed the right kind of character to be able to do this correctly. Pushing a student to test the boundaries of their emotional limits can only really be done if the student has complete and utter trust in his/her Instructor. This kind of trust cannot really be achieved from an Instructor whose motives are distorted and/or ill guided because on a subconscious level this underlying negative influence impedes the students trust and their growth. How can the above two types of Instructor possibly provide the correct type of training coming at it from such distorted perspectives. A lesser trained and less experienced Instructor can still be of a great benefit so by all means go somewhere where the training is easier if that suits but make sure that the Instructor has your interest at heart and not his own. A good Instructor is one who has integrity not necessarily one who has superior knowledge.
The most knowledgeable Instructors are undoubtedly the most challenging to train under because their knowledge involves so much dynamic content in each individual technique and so many complex mechanisms for a student to get their head and body around. A good and seasoned Sensei will gradually add the content and complexity into the students Karate so as not to over complicate things. It should be the student’s goal to be able to learn how to hold thought and technique in all its complexity without having any autonomous body parts!! I call this “autonomous karate tourettes” whereby you are practicing a technique, Kata or combination and a stray body part is off doing something completely on its own accord and you have no knowledge of its wild adventure until your instructor pulls you up on it which usually comes as a surprise!!. Students should have the feeling of holding all states of awareness together in a controlled but fluid manner through each transition of movement, giving the techniques mindfulness, intention and accuracy. This brings Karate to life and trains the body and the soul.
There has to be love in your art. Love is infinitely detailed and extraordinarily complex in its nature. A student who is putting love into his/her art is able to connect to it on a much deeper level and on those levels learn how to control and hold a complex myriad of thought processes and dynamic physical mechanisms together thus being able to translate this into Karate technique developing power, beauty and expression. Love in the art will help a student through those tough times when it’s hard to carry on. Thoughtful Karate training builds spirit because it is building the psyche (another word for Soul) this is the kind of spirit training that I prefer because building a greater spirit teaches me how to act without conscience and this gives me my peace of mind. Some Instructors perceive hard training as a physical endeavour requiring lots of stamina and body strength which can also be said to build spirit, although I think that this type of training is building a different sense of spirit. Lots of stamina building drills are OK and necessary for sport Karate but if it’s the one hit kill that is being trained for, which I believe to be the fundamental aspect of Shotokan Karate, then it is paramount to have the mindset and the physical power inbuilt, which I believe is attained from training the psyche. My Instructor once told me that conflict was 90% mental and 10% physical so in training the psyche I also have my conflict resolution. Maybe this method of training the psyche suits me because I’m a woman in a male dominated arena and this is how I’ve fashioned my art to be of most benefit to me.

278

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.

SCOTCH MARY by John Johnston


Yet another tale of daring do from yesteryear

Scotch Mary was a notorious alcoholic. She was barred from almost everywhere in Coventry, shops, pubs, clubs (the Police Station). Scotch Mary was the worst bad news ever. If she was on your premises you had trouble with a capital T. She has been in and out of prison countless times. She was mean, abusive, vicious and vindictive. She was completely out of control.

It was one of those nights where there just seemed to be one incident after another. I think that it had something to do with the moon or perhaps there was something in the water.
I always believed that I ran a really tight door but that is when you find out that shit happens. I was on my way back to the door after sorting out an incident at one of the bars. A punter came to tell me the worst bad news ever – Scotch Mary’s in the club and he didn’t mean she was pregnant. It’s at moments like these that you go through the whole gambit of emotion, panic, hate, fear, revulsion, love (yes love) you’d  love to be any place but here. As I was given the worst bad news ever I had a couple of my guys with me. I send one back to the door so as to inform them that I am not best pleased, let them sweat it out a little bit, because whoever let her in will have some explaining to do. I take the other lad with me as I go and look for Mary. It’s not long before there is a disturbance in the vicinity of the ladies toilets. As we arrive girls are running out in a panic. As we cautiously enter the corridor leading to the toilets, there is a lot of banging and abusive language in a Glaswegian accent. Yes it’s Mary. She is apparently trying to kick in the doors to the cubicles. As I peep around the door I can see that she has just thrown a glass over the top of the door into a cubicle. Fortunately it smashes on the wall and not on the person who was in there. I stepped cautiously into the room. It feels like that moment in the film when Medusa turns her gaze upon some poor Greek Soldier turning him to stone. Mary has just thrown her weapon of choice which is usually a glass or bottle but she has been known to carry a knife. In those few moments when I was frozen it allowed me to assess whether she was carrying or not. As Mary transfers her attention from the cubicles to me it is at this point that she lunges at me. I step in and deliver a back hand slap to the side of her head, it sends her flying backwards. She hits the wall and slumps down in the corner. I have hit her with a really good shot (yes I have hit a woman) Mary however was nothing like any woman you would ever know. She was a Banshee. She would have attacked me full on with tooth and claw. I get a couple of the lads to get rid of Mary whilst she is still quiet and subdued. They decide that it is best to put her out of the back emergency exit out of the way of normal human beings. I remain I the toilets so as to reassure the girls cowering in the cubicles that everything is OK and it is safe to come out. A couple of the girls come out and promptly leave, however there is another girl locked in a cubicle, she is totally traumatised and terrified. I managed to get her to calm down enough to leave the cubicle and I escort her to the safety of the manager’s office. This is when I find out exactly what has happened. Apparently Mary had approached this young lady at the bar. She had tried to get her to buy her a drink. This was a favoured tactic of Mary’s as most people would just buy her a drink just to be rid of her. This poor lass didn’t know Mary or her reputation and had refused. Mary became abusive and aggressive towards her. It was at this point that  a young lad had tried to intervene. Mary just snatched a glass from the bar and smashed it into the poor fellows face. The young girl had bolted for the toilets with Mary in pursuit, leaving the poor innocent lad scarred for life. The glass has sliced a large flap of flesh from his cheek. I can’t remember how many stitches that he needed but it was a lot.
as soon as I got the whole story I sent some of the lads back out to try and find Mary so as to be able to hand her over to the Police. Mary was long gone. The whole incident was reported to the Police and Mary was picked up somewhere in the early hours of the morning. Due process took its course and Mary ended up in prison. I’ve not seen Mary from that day to this which is fortunate for both of us. She is almost certainly dead by now and I hope that her passing was anything but peaceful. I’m a great believer in Karma. I can only hope that in Mary’s case what went around came around.

STAR STRUCK SOULS by John Johnston


A few years back I had been on a holiday with my grandmother and a girlfriend. It was the last day of our holiday and we made ready for our departure. We had just taken the hire car back to the Airport. We dropped it off at an office at the far end of the Airport. This left us with quite a bit of a walk to the departure lounge. Feeling a bit macho and taking responsibility I grabbed hold of 2 large suitcases (no wheels or trolley) and set off with the ladies following. Because of the direction of the route, we entered the concourse at the far end of the Airport. We were well away from the part that we needed to be at. I think that we must have entered at the arrivals. I notice that a large crowd mainly made up of armed and uniformed military looking types. There was a large empty space between where we had entered and this crowd of people. I began walking across the empty floor space. I hadn’t gone very far when I noticed that there was something wrong at the arrivals gate. The guys in uniform seemed to be getting very agitated and there is a lot of shouting in foreign languages. I am now on full alert and I turn to my grandmother and girlfriend and tell them to stay where they are. It’s at this point that I notice that there is a big guy and he is struggling with the military. He manages to break free from them and he starts to run towards me. Things aren’t looking good. A couple of the soldiers have drawn guns and they are pointing in my direction as the big fellow is still running towards me. I decide to take action. I drop the cases and step forward. I have got the guy lined up for a right cross. My thinking is that if I knock this geezer out, they won’t have to shoot him as I am in the firing line as well. I’m also thinking that I will be the hero of the day. He is only a few metres away when a guy on a louder hailer steps forward from the crown and shouts “OK David that’s great” the big guy stops running and we are both standing looking at each other. He has got a very concerned look on his face. I must have appeared to be looking  very aggressive as well as very confused. Neither of us said anything as he turns to walk away. It is at this point that I realise who the big guy is. It was none other than David Soul of Starsky & Hutch fame. It dawns on me that I have just walked into a film set and almost decked the star.

I think we both had a narrow escape that day. Just a few more seconds and I could have gone from hero to zero and David Soul would have gone from star to struck!!

No I didn't recognise him at first either!!

No I didn’t recognise him at first either!!

“Be afraid, be very afraid. Be careful when your spider sense is tingling”


There are times when working on the door when you can spot who is going to get thrown out later. You see punters as they come through the door and you just know that they will end up being ejected. My friend and colleague Joe and I used to have bets on the outcome of the people that we spotted. It would only count if one of the other guys ejected them. I was always pretty good at getting it right.

It’s a sense that would seem to manifest itself at tournaments. I would enter the main arena and be able to sense who I would end up fighting later that day.

I remember going to a competition in Ipswich, we arrived after an early start and a long drive. The last thing you feel like doing is having to start fighting but hey that’s what your there for. You get changed and you find yourself a space to start warming up. You greet old friends, catch up and you start looking around at the opposition making assessments. That’s when I spotted him. I turned to a team mate and said “I bet that’s the one that I get”, “rather you than me” he replies. Oh yeah why’s that? I hear you say. Well I will tell you why! The guy I have just spotted happens to be a 6ft 7inch brute of ebony muscle. He is a Frank Bruno look alike. He is warming up and his technique is very fast and strong He has an amazingly long reach with both arms and legs.

Anyway as the day progresses I manage to win through my pool and I’m due to meet the winners of the other pools. We are called to go to the area for the Semi’s. As we line up he’s on the opposite side and I’m drawn against him. Some days you just wished that you weren’t right all the time. He’s looking very formidable but what the hack I was having a good day myself. I’d had some good wins. You know some days you find that you are just in the zone. We are called up to take our bows and face off. Hajime (start)  was called and we began circling each other. We’re both being very cautious as nobody likes to get this far in a competition just to lose because of a stupid mistake. It’s about a minute into the bout and no score. He’s either just about to start an attack or just feigning. Without even thinking about it, a response is triggered. I drive forward with a really sharp Kizami (front hand jab). I must tell you that in those days of long ago competitions were Shobu Ippon, without mitts or even gum shields. I have hit him hard, right on the point of his jaw. It’s stopped him short and you could see that I had hurt him. Yame has been called and we go back to our marks. He’s looking at me with venom in his eyes and I’m thinking ‘sugar this looks bad’. The judges and the referees are conferring so either I am going to be disqualified or warned and I’m going to have to face his wrath. The referee comes back to his position and he looks very sternly at both of us, then his arm shoots straight up and I am awarded Ippon full point and I am the winner.

I can’t tell you how relieved I felt at that moment. I went on to lose in the final but my day was made up with that one result.

Just be very careful what you wish for

I attended a course and as soon as he walked through the door, I knew who my partner would be!!!

I attended a course and as soon as he walked through the door, I knew who my partner would be!!!

“KARMA: Some People Just Don’t Get It” By John Johnston


It’s a typical Friday night in Coventry. Friday is lad’s night out and I’m working. I’m a bouncer at a large city nightclub. The club is very busy and the mood is good. I’m in the DJ box chatting to the DJ who is an old mate of mine. The DJ box overlooks the dance floor and is enclosed at the back with a waist high wall, the punters have access between the back of the DJ box and the bar so it is a good place to keep an eye on things only at the moment I’m chatting and not looking. I’m standing with my back to the low wall watching the dance floor talent, ‘as you do’!
All of a sudden my sixth sense kicks in, you know it’s that moment when you know that something is not right or is about to happen. Sure enough as I turn around I spot a guy holding a girl with his left hand around her throat. The girl looks terrified and no wonder because he is lifting a pint pot glass in his right hand.  It seems fairly obvious that he is just about to hit her with it.
I will say this about myself in those days I could react in a flash. I just managed to reach across the wall and grab the guys shoulder and give him a sharp yank. As he was in mid swing about to crack the glass over the poor girls head, my sharp action saved the young lady from possible serious injury. Lucky girl. Unlucky me because as I pulled him backwards, he swung around and hit me with the pint pot just above my left eye opening up a large gash.
Because of the low wall I was able to over balance the twat and pull him into a bear hug and flip him over the wall. This stopped him using the glass again and gave me a breathing space. I had blood in my eye as well as being a bit stunned. I knew that I only had to keep him neutralised for a short while before help arrived.
Sure enough within moments a couple of the other lads were there and quickly had hold of him and he was on his way out. At moments like this there are a lot of different things occurring. Girls are screaming and panicking or being nosey; boys are excited and want to get involved. Emotions are running high especially with any of the parties involved.
As for me, many things were going on in my head. There’s blood in my eyes and I can’t see properly. Adrenalin’s on full revs. People are making stupid comments and asking daft questions. Someone has enough sense to try to get me to go to the toilet to get my eye cleaned up. All I want is to get to the bastard before he’s thrown out so that I can punish him for what he intended and what he did. It wasn’t going to be a happy end for him, but he was lucky, by the time that I had gotten to the front doors he was gone. I had no choice but to let them clean my wound.
After washing the blood away I was able to see clearly and the gash was bad but not serious. However I was told to go to A & E for stitches.
A lift was arranged and I presented myself at Hospital. As usual late on Friday night or in my case early Saturday morning, A & E  was very busy, so before I registered at the triage I thought I would get some fresh air and calm down.
Whilst standing to the side of the main doors in a dark corner, a sort of beach buggy pulled up with three blokes inside. At first I thought nothing of the buggies arrival until the engine was switched off. I could then hear the conversation clearly. I stayed concealed where I was and listened. The guys in the car were arguing about whether to go into the Hospital to find me or wait till I came out. It seemed like they wanted to try and put things right with me so as not to have to face any later repercussions. Myself and my co workers on the door had quite a reputation and these guys were afraid that retribution would be coming their way.
Concealed where I was and listening in on their chatter, the guy that had just glassed me whilst attempting to glass a girl (who I later found out was an ex girlfriend who he had been stalking) thought that he would be able to get away with an apology – “WRONG”
the three lads got out of the car, I stepped out of the darkness and slapped one of them knocking him off his feet. I told him and the other guy to keep out of it saying that it was to be between me and the main protagonist, only my language was a bit more colourful. They chose to be prudent and backed off. That left the glass wielding bully to face me alone. He immediately started pleading with me that it was all a mistake and he didn’t want any trouble. I wasn’t listening or talking, I was just calculating my opening shot. I fired a right foot reverse round house kick which just caught the side of his jaw so as I stepped in I was in prime position for a takedown. BANG he hit the floor right at my feet, need I say more.
I thought it would be best that I left the Hospital. The twat stayed. I heard that it took him 5 hours before he came round.

I’m not proud of what happened; it just was what it was. Do I think what happened to him was justified? YES. Could I have done things differently? YES in retrospect spectacular head kicks are for films and competitions.

Sometimes in life you are forced to make instant decisions. Choices can be limited but may have a bearing on the rest of yours and others lives.

This happened some 35 years ago. I was very fortunate on many counts. In doing my job I saved a young lady from serious injury. I was lucky I didn’t lose my sight, although I still have a scar above my eye. I was lucky that the Police didn’t get involved with the incident at the Hospital, and I was fortunate that he made a full recovery.

A great kick for competitions and film sets but no good for self defence

A great kick for competitions and film sets but no good for self defence