ENOEDA SENSEI by John Johnston


“Enoeda Sensei”. You only have to hear the name and you immediately have your own visions and thoughts about a man who personifies Karate. An awesome, dominant, larger than life figure. There are a multitude of stories about Enoeda Sensei. These are just some of my own.

Back in the day, National Squad training would often be held at Long Ford Dojo in Coventry. They would often be presided with a general training session taken by Enoeda Sensei. The first two incidents occurred on the same training session. In those days Enoeda Sensei could be very hands on with students(pre P.C). A good friend of mine had the habit of sticking his tongue out whilst standing in stance during Kata. Sensei told him several times to put his tongue away. Well if you don’t listen you have to learn the hard way. Sensei must have gotten fed up with reminding him so as he was walking past, my friend had his tongue out, Sensei’s hand shot out and grabbed the offending article and gave it a brutal squeeze. My agonised friend went down on one knee whilst whimpering. Sensei shouted at him ” I tell you put tongue away” he then wiped his hand on the lads Gi and just carried on instructing. It was very hard not to laugh at something of that nature, no-body laughed. It was shortly after that incident, while still practicing Kata that Sensei stood in front of me and whilst he was making a correction to my posture, I must have averted my vision and looked down. ‘SLAM’ he hit me hard with the flat of his hand on my forehead. Next thing I know I’m siting on my backside looking up at him. He just walked away saying ” don’t look at floor”. Enoeda Sensei’s lesson’s are learnt the hard way.
A few years later when I had a club of my own, I took several students to an all grades course in Newark. Enoeda Sensei was taking the lesson. I remember it being a hard but good session. Many of my students had never trained under a Japanese Instructor before. They were awestruck. They were all discussing the training afterwards, telling me how impressed and pleased they were. One young lady was telling me that she thought it was brilliant but could not get the weasel breathing right. She asked if this was right and screwed her face up in the imitation of a rodent and started to snuffle through her wrinkled up nose. When I finally managed to contain my laughter, I told her to remember that Enoeda Sensei is Japanese. What he had actually said was ” with your breathing” not weasel breathing.

Fond memories on how the lesson we need to take away is to listen more carefully.

COCKTAILS IN COVENTRY by John Johnston


Those of you that have followed my blog may remember that I have mentioned about disarming people with knives. I have told you that it only ever happened to me on two occasions, one was by default as mentioned in a previous blog and on the other occasion by stealth.
Which happened like this:

I was standing at the reception of the nightclub chatting, perhaps I should mention here that anyone that has never read my blog that I was Head Doorman at a large Coventry Nightclub in the late 70s, anyway the girl on the desk receives an internal phone call, she tells me that there is trouble at the Cocktail Bar, yes that’s right, Cocktail Bar with a proper Cocktail Barman. There weren’t many of those about in Coventry in the 70s.
I leave the reception to investigate and as I am approaching the Bar I can see a guy with his back to me and two other people are backed into a corner. The geezer with his back to me is threatening the two other guys with a knife; every other person has left the area. The Barman is nowhere to be seen. I realise later that he is hiding under a shelf behind the bar, on assessing the situation I instantly hatch a cunning plan.
I approach the guy with the knife, careful to keep out of his line of vision. I grab his right wrist, that’s the hand that is holding the knife. I slammed the side of his head into the brass bar rail. This has the effect of stunning him and happily for me he drops the knife. The two cornered guys split. I’m left with the protagonist who’s having trouble standing unsupported. Without any hesitation he is on his way to the front door, by the time he’s outside he seems OK, only he’s got a large lump on the side of his head. He heads off down the road never to be seen again.
you may think that I should of taken more care of the guy as he could of had a concussion or worse, but this incident happened long before we had a health and safety culture and I feel that he was lucky that it happened in my club because if it had happened in any of the other clubs he would of gone out via the back doors and would of received (a severe talking to). As I may have said before, you have to make instant judgements and so once again this happened to be the right judgement looking back in hindsight. As we all know, hindsight and retrospect are an exact science.

“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

 

Bad Technique Trumps Experience by John Johnston


Don't take your eyes off your apponantOne of my first memories teaching was as a 3rd KYU. As brown belts we were given the task of taking the Sunday morning class.  There were 8 of us 3rd and 2nd KYU’s and we would take it turns to teach. On this particular Sunday it was my turn. My chosen theme for the day was GYAKU TSUKI (reverse punch). After drilling it in basics in various ways with lots of reps up and down the Dojo. This was always the order of the day, rep after rep until failure, really hard work especially after a night on the beer. Next came some partner work. I called out Joe, to demonstrate on. Joe was the same grade as me and he was a big lad of 6ft 4in, heavily built and therefore a good opponent to demonstrate with. In those days heavy body contact was the norm. So having demonstrated a simple block and counter, I turned away from Joe to talk to the class. A look on the faces of the student’s told me something wasn’t right. I turned back to Joe only to find him on his hands and knees about to keel over completely. The moral of this story is the bigger they come the faster they fall and no amount of whispering out of the corner of your mouth “Joe get up” will make up for a bad control and lack of a hard stomach.

WHY WE TEACH / HOW WE TEACH By John Johnston


How many of us as Instructors really think about what and why we are teaching our students? Whether that is session to session or the overall program. I know many Karate Instructors who expect students to do as they are told because they are told but not told why or what the benefits are of what they are doing. I once had a very knowledgeable and senior Instructor tell me that I gave my students too much information about how and why they should be practicing a practical technique or drill. He said “you should just make them get on with it the same as we had to. They should be worked to failure” there is something to be said about that type of training both negative and positive. However I prefer to see quality in training rather than a cardiovascular exercise. I see myself as a Karate teacher not a fitness Instructor. Having said that it is also necessary to help a student to develop a strong spirit and attitude. You have to get the balance right not only for the class but for the individual as well. That is very difficult and takes a lot of consideration and working out. This is why a lot of instructors take a blanket approach or revert to easy options. You see so many classes now a days with lines of students being told to hit the pad with a kick or punch and being given praise whether it was a good or bad technique. I really hate that meaningless Americanism “Good Job” there is no meaning, basis or structure to this type of action. I won’t qualify it by calling it training. I have seen and been in sessions where you go over Kata time and time again without being corrected thereby building in the same mistakes and bad habits. It is OK to make money teaching Karate or any other Martial Art but not at the sake of your students but because of your students. You owe it to them to give them the relevant information and understanding of Karate. Their development should be paramount.

Both I and my wife Elaine Johnston have been around the country visiting and also to training in some of the Dojo’s primarily for our own development and knowledge. We have trained with some great and inspiring teachers but we have also witnessed some very appalling practices. In the future I will give some examples of bad Instruction.

Tylan & Sensei Johnston

Being corrected and perfected

 

“YOUR GREATEST OBLIGATION IN LIFE IS TO YOURSELF. IF YOU CAN’T LOOK AFTER YOURSELF HOW CAN YOU LOOK AFTER ANYONE ELSE” By John Johnston

FULL CIRCLE By John Johnston


 

This is an email I received from one of my Dan grade student’s of whom I’d asked to help on a Kid’s Adaptive Karate course
“Thank you for taking the time to show your appreciation. John’s classes should be bursting at the seams because he teaches so much effective self-defence & karate each and every lesson. Why your numbers are not better for these classes is totally beyond me but I’m glad that those who did attend learnt so much, even if they don’t realise it just yet.”

Don’t you think Karate may have turned full circle? What I mean by that is when Martial Arts first came into being it was initially solo training, later, one Instructor and student or just practitioners getting together exchanging ideas or sparring. Later Instructors would hold classes with just a few students. These classes would be very intense and robust, concentrating on Kata, Kata Bunkai, Self Defence and conditioning.

These students were very dedicated and would be very grounded to their art gaining a deep and meaningful understanding of Karate.

Later with the expansion of Karate to Japan and then to the world, we find that the principles, ethos and ethics changed dramatically with sport and commercialization take precedence. Large classes became the norm with techniques being watered down, more spectacular and less effective. Training was taught to cater to people’s vanity and egos. People weren’t pushed or taken out of their comfort zones and grades were easier to obtain.

I now have the feeling that things are changing. I’m not talking about those clubs that are built on an American business model (Mc Dojo’s) or associations that are either sport orientated or have lower standards catering to the mass market. I look at the people who have looked at history and are going back to their Karate roots for knowledge and inspiration. They are bringing a modern approach to the old methods and making karate live again.

You often find that these are smaller classes with the higher intensity of training and better quality of tuition.

In answer to my friend and students question, I am far happier to have a small class of students who work hard together, are willing to learn more and understand Karate, than have a large class of those people who wish to go through the motions.

So don’t demote small class sizes, celebrate and embrace them.

REPETITION – REPETITION – REPETITION


 

There have been many occasions where I have used my Karate when I was in the protection and security business. These were times when I made techniques work for me to great effect. I thought I would share a few with you.

It was a usual Friday night for me. Friday nights start early as I take two bus rides across town to train on the lower grade session, but I manage to get half the higher grade session done before I have to leave a bit early to get picked up from the Dojo and go to work as a doorman at a top city night club.

On this particular night, it was just solid basics. When I say solid I mean real hard, tough basics which consisted of Meageri (front snap kick) Gyaku –zuki (reverse punch) as individual techniques and as various combinations.  For some reason this particular night, we did drill after drill of them. This happened over both of the sessions and the drills seemed to be hard and relentless. I was only too happy to finish the senior session early.

After training I showered and dressed ready for my work, black suit, white shirt and dickey bow. I was picked up from the Dojo by a work colleague and we both headed off to the club.

Friday nights were usually very busy this one was no exception. The night club that I worked in was very popular and Friday night was the lad’s night out in this particular city.

I had nothing in particular to report up until about 12 o-clock at night. I had just left the main doors and was walking towards the main dance floor, there was a bit of a scuffle between a group of about 3 or 4 lads. The area around them was quite crowded as the scuffle broke out. As I began to make my way through the crowd they drew back away from the confrontation and within that instant I spotted one of the lads holding a glass which he broke against the wall. In retrospect I think he was doing it defensively as he held it out in front of him as a challenge to the other lads. However I reacted instinctively to that being the main danger, so within that given instance that nights basic training kicked in immediately and so did I. It was a sharp double step with front left leg Meageri to the wrist holding the broken glass, as I stepped down I landed a right reverse punch to the lads jaw. The kick knocked the lads arm up in the air, the glass was released to land embedded into the ceiling, and fortunately it stayed there imposing no further danger. As the punch impacted the lad took off flying down three tiers of stairs to land in the middle of the dance floor. Everybody in the near vicinity quickly dispersed. The only person that didn’t move was the bloke lying in the middle of the dance floor. It was about 5 minutes before he came around, which was about as much time as it took for the ambulance to get there. It was reported back by the usual grape vine that he had incurred a broken wrist and required his jaw to be wired. On top of all that he was banned from the club for life.

I’m not relating this story in any way to glorify or boast about my actions. I was merely doing the job that I was paid to do and acting decisively in protection of the public but I have told this story to emphasise the nessecity of repetition of techniques to hone your art. The timing and distancing of this engagement was spot on.