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

 

FROM LITTLE ACORNS


Many years ago I had a female student, she was quiet and unassuming.  She trained hard and was great at Kata. I thought she had the potential to compete internationally, only she was too shy to go out in front of a crowd of people.

After several years she gained her Shodan, it required a lot of pushing and coercion from me, but she did it and he did it well. Sadly she moved away from the area for a short time and never came back to training. Later she married and had children. One of her sons came and trained with me recently before he moved away to University.

Why am I telling you this you may be asking yourself? Well I will tell you. All this happened some thirty years ago but about fifteen years ago out of the blue I received a letter from this young lady. In the letter she explained how Karate had changed her life. How because of the hard lessons it had given her the courage to do things she thought she would never be able to face up to. She thanked me for the gift that I had given her and apologised for leaving it so long to thank me.

I was very humbled by this letter and wrote back to say thank you and to tell her that she made the major contribution. The point that we as Instructors should take from a story like this is we sometimes don’t realise how much we can affect people’s lives. It is a big responsibility. Our teaching must always be honest and positive. If you cannot do good, you should never do harm.

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.

A Tale of Excessive Alcohol and Bravado by John Johnston


This story I’m about to relate to you isn’t about Karate but I think you may find it of interest.

Many years ago after a Saturday morning training session. My old friend, training partner and student Glen and myself decided to go for a “drink or three”. Glen encouraged me to accompany him to a rough pub in his hometown of Bedworth near Coventry. Glen had his own reason for wanting to go to this particular pub which we will not go into.

I remember entering a scruffy run down room, smelling of stale beer and tobacco. The smell might come from the room or the clientele who were a mixture of Rockers and Skinhead types. There were a lot of tattoos and missing teeth. Glen being a local lad knew a lot of the people there. He was somewhat a local hero, being a Doorman and International fighter. We  brought drinks and sat at a table. Shortly we were joined by a couple of desperate looking characters. Glen spotted someone he wanted to see about an issue that had arisen on the door a few nights previous and left me to go and have a quiet word. The two lads sitting with me were friendly enough and were engaging me in the gentlemanly banter that establishes status and pecking order. After a few searching questions they seemed satisfied with my credentials. One of the lads was sporting strapping on his left hand. I asked what had happened. He was delighted to tell me how he had won a £50 bet. He was really proud of the fact that whilst drunk a couple of weeks previous he and his mate were making silly bets. His bet was that he wouldn’t move his hand if they nailed it to the table. He being a roofer went out to his truck, came back with a 4 inch nail and a hammer gave it to a mate laid his hand on the table.  His mate without hesitation placed the nail in the middle of the back of the hand and gave it a whack with the hammer driving the nail through his hand and into the table. He was so proud to have won the bet and thought it was the greatest achievement of his life.

I asked him how he managed to work with his hand like that, his reply was “I’m not working, haven’t been able to. I’ve been off for two weeks and will be off for at least another two weeks”. I said “so you’ve lost a month’s money for £50?” He said “Yeah but I won the bet”

There must be a moral here?

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face!

How We Teach/ Why We Teach (continued) by John Johnston


From time to time my wife Elaine and I take the opportunity to observe other Martial Arts clubs training. There are several reasons for this:

1)      Because we enjoy Martial Arts

2)      We learn a lot from observing

3)      It helps us to understand other styles and systems

4)      On a commercial basis we can see what the opposition is about

5)      As Martial Artists, it is good to be able to have a positive interaction with other instructors and their students.

Having said that we have often seen some atrocious training sessions.  We find it hard to get our heads around the Instructors motivations. We understand the commercial reasons but some of these sessions don’t have enough students to make the session pay, so is it ego? Because it can’t be the love of the art or to the benefit of their students. One club we observed on two seperate occasions at different venues about 18 months apart, the Instructor conducted the whole of both sessions sitting down. The whole session lacked any dynamics, energy or structure. The students looked incompetent, lacklustre and undisciplined. In contrast to the previous, we watched a session where the Instructor ( we nick named him Rat Boy) drilled his few students, 5 in total, 2 young boys, 1 girl, 1 teenage boy and 1 older man all of various grades. They, regardless of grade or age, were given combinations to perform at full speed from the outset. Rat Boy shouted at them to perform stronger, there was no correcting or coaching, just dictorial bulling. They then went on to do Kumite which was poorly demonstrated and would be totally ineffective with no explanation as to objectives. Kata came next but at this point we had had enough and left.

Recently we visited a local McDojo. The session had just started. There were 40 plus students on the floor, 5 or 6 adults the rest were children. The session was being ‘overlooked’ by a senior Instructor with about 8 junior Instructors of an estimated average age of 16. It looked like playtime at the park. I will not describe the training but it wasn’t what I would call Martial.

These are only 3 examples, there have been many more but I feel these are three extremes. In the first example we can only surmise that the Instructor believes that he is providing a service. The second example (Rat Boy) was exercising his ego and satisfying his bullying nature. The third was purely commercial. It certainly was not for the benefit of the students.

We fail to see why in this age of the internet & available good Martial Arts Clubs as to why parents and adult students would wish to pay for this type of tuition.

Buddha say’s “speak well of others, not of their faults” Buddha’s not paying or having to sit quietly by and watch the harm done to others.

Children need correct guidance and support in their Karate

 

DON’T JUST BELIEVE WHAT YOUR INSTRUCTOR TELLS YOU. QUESTION IT AND PROVE TO YOURSELF IT’S TRUTH AND VALUE.

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