16/17 July 2022 Class Journal

The training program for today should have been Ilustrisimo sword training. The plan was to do an hour of Sera and then an hour of clinch work.

What we ended up doing was me training sword work solo followed by two hours of Sera; that’s how it works out sometimes, you pencil in a program and a topic and the situation dictates being agile and doing something else.

Today’s menu was dealing with two punches, such as a boxer’s one/two, using ideas from Sera. In some ways, our Sera resembles our old-style bare-knuckle boxing, so it’s not too much of a jump to insert it in. All my group are cross-training in bare-knuckle boxing and Savate anyway. The session started with me practising basic yoga breathing to set my mind. We then practised basic counters and moved into applying our grips.

I was pleased with my mindset and being “on it” regarding reacting and using good body mechanics. On this occasion, anyone walking past the garage practice space would have seen two Sera players practising. Two humans colliding will produce a certain amount of limb clanging and pain from shots, and I knew post-session where I had made contact with my training partner. Despite forty-plus years of combat sports and my sparring partners noting I have hard bones, I still feel it when I clang forearms and shins, but I heal up rather quickly.

The training exchanges were so fun that we did that for an hour and a half, followed by looking at flowing between our standing guards. The last ten minutes were spent on tree pose.

The next day I managed to slot in a quick thirty-minute weights workout and then about fifty minutes of the clinch. Followed by a bit of yoga breathing, starting to feel very good about it.

Recommended book:

9 July 2022 Class Journal

Third group class back after six weeks off due to holidays and research in Spain. Minimal numbers this week as lots of people are either away or dealing with emergencies. Bancroft came early, and we worked about an hour and a half on the Ilustrisimo sword. We got to train outside instead of my garage practice space for the first time. Space and sunshine make a massive difference to the training comfort, and it was a great learning experience.

Master Romy’s brilliant book, is a must-have.

When performed correctly, Ilustrisimo is so sleek it really is a beautiful thing. I am still at the beginner stage, trying to convert to blades and break bad habits from forty-plus years of hitting people with sticks. The goal is to internalise the correct action with precision targeting under real pressure. Over the last few months, my control of measure and timing has improved; my cutting will always need work. We briefly looked at knife defence at the end.

We spent a little time discussing Sera guards and a lot of time discussing the theory of training, past bad training experiences, personalities in martial arts and how they can have a positive or negative effect on a group. Both of us feel very blessed to be able to train in and share our arts.

I then spent about twenty minutes on tree pose, and am getting real benefits, thanks to Steve Rowe and Adam Chan Adam Chan – YouTube for the heads up. The photo below was taken from https://www.facebook.com/groups/403802410022534/

Tree Pose https://www.facebook.com/groups/403802410022534/

2 July 2022 Class Journal

Second group class back after six weeks off due to holidays and research in Spain. The first hour was me as the student learning sword in medium-range, a range I don’t like playing in. Slight improvement since I changed my grip on my training sword, and I have also been working on relaxing as I perform. Still not happy, and it’s taking years of effort just to get rid of previous bad habits. The plus side is that I am forced to keep working towards my goal. Incremental improvements, not as fast as I would like but improvements. I am starting to understand what the term pickpocket means in Ilustrisimo sword in different ways and the importance of hiding that alive hand. Also starting to notice slight variations in timing on the basic strokes and how this affects my response.

The second class is an hour of me teaching Sera, running over all the basic footwork patterns as requested by my teacher. Most of the students have the technical skill set, so this was easy to cover in the review in an hour, but we all need to work on flowing and getting the movements dialled into our nervous systems.

The third class was me teaching from my Savate boot kick module and was a review of our footwork. Firstly, we drilled hard on footwork and added a kick and a counter. A scorching and intense class. The last ten minutes cover the Muay Thai round kick. When we don’t have our boots on, we use the correct part of our shin to make our opponent’s life miserable. A different base but easy to slip between the two stances.

We took a break, and I then taught the KORA fence system class to the trainee KORA instructors. A perfect interactive course where we looked at handling the interview stage of conflict and how to deal with that. A mixture of fun, intense work and some role play, with some pickpocket magic thrown in.

25 June 2022 Class Journal

Back to class after four or five weeks off doing research and some travel to Spain. The first class back is all about getting back what I call class conditioning. Experience has shown me that you lose a bit of conditioning every day you are away. A PTI in the military once told me that every time you take a pee, you lose a bit of conditioning. That may or not be accurate, but I have noticed it takes a good class of clanging and banging to get back up to speed.   

I have been doing quite a bit of personal solo training and some sword work, but you need to interact with others and have contact to pick up the essential body conditioning, timing and measure control we desire. In our group, you will pick up some minor bumps and burses during training as you apply your art, which is unavoidable. We consider risk and reward and adjust to our training partner’s needs.

Today was all about dialling down to get the body mechanics right on a basic punch, then a quick run-through on defences and combining that with footwork and positioning. During the teaching progression, you get taught lines of attack and defence, and you always work on finding and controlling measure and timing. If we found a lack of intent or a deficiency in our striking, we pluck out the motion and hit focus mitts. Then plug the movement back into our drilling.

About thirty minutes back in, we all revved up and started to sing with our bodies. Things get a little easier, and we dial down into areas such as correct weight distribution. In my group, we work off several traditional and modern fences at the start of interaction; we explored this and ended with a playful “what ifs”.

I have been watching Adam Chan’s excellent YouTube channel; Adam is a Wing Churn player/teacher and some other Kung fu, and I find his channel very beneficial.

Today after class, one of my training partners ran over an introduction to standing post-training from the Chinese Martial Arts, which really helped. I intend to do standing post-training after each training session.

Testing your mettle

Testing your mettle was a reasonably common combat arts term when I was growing up because as you went through your training until you had been in a combat situation, you were regarded as untested. Being untested is not actually a bad thing at the beginning of your journey, but at some point, you either have to compete if you are in a combat sport or use your art in self-defence if and when the time comes.

My first Muay Thai teacher said you were not a Muay Thai fighter until you had completed twice. Once was not enough; you had to return to the ring despite knowing how hard it was. It had to be a full-on match, not sparring or hard pad drill training. When I was going through some sniper training, the head of the course said you are unproven until you get your first two kills despite passing the course with flying colours and getting the funny little rifle badge to wear. He actually asked us to write to him and confirm when we had at least two kills because only then did he consider his work was successfully done. I later found out that some people passed the course and got their first kill but found they did not have the will to do so again. I can fully understand that.

I was trained to hunt from about four onwards, but as an adult, I had no idea how I would react when the time came; I knew there was a fair chance of being in the position to kill as I was in the military then working free-lance. I did a heap of training, the live-fire drills and simulations, putting thousands of rounds down the range, but you never really know, and even when you have been successful in a previous encounter, you never know how things will pan out the next time.

I noted above that it’s not a problem if you are untested because we all are at first, and sometimes in the case of self-protection, you have to wait to be tested. The issue comes when you move on to teach others; imagine a sniper teaching who never made a kill. They may understand stealth and trig maths and have marksmanship skills but have never performed the live task. Likewise, anyone teaching combat sports ideally would have been turning in outstanding live performance at least at some point in their career.

Regarding modem martial arts training, unless it’s a combat sport or your teacher has a side hustle bouncing bars, it’s unlikely they will be proven. I would argue it’s actually getting rarer to find a proven teacher due to how our legal system works these days. I have friends who teach and are very honest about the fact they never had to deal with actual combat. Is that a significant problem? No, as long as they are honest with their students.

For martial arts teachers who can, I would wholly recommend taking part in combat sports, like grappling or kickboxing or MMA, to road test yourself. It will help you design a training program that will prepare your students to perform well when their test comes.  

Breath -The new science of a lost art

Just read the above book by Jame Nestor, following a recommendation from a researcher friend, and I really rate it for those who need this essential skill. Not everyone has the luxury or good fortune to study Yoga and specifically instruction to breathe like me from childhood, but this book is an excellent primer and will set you off on a righteous path to improved health.

Who needs to improve their breathing aside from the usual list of athletes, martial artists, yoga people, and free divers? Well, everyone.

James does a great job of tracking his hero’s journey as he researches how people have breathed for 5000 years across most cultures and cross-references against how most of us live today. He meets countless researchers, reviews their experiments, takes part himself and concludes the book really well. Basically, my systems secrets are packed with tips and hints within these pages.  

So, take a breath and either buy this book online or go to your favourite bookstore. One last warning, reading the book is the start; you have to practice breathing every day.

KORA Class Update

I have had many inquiries about training post-pandemic, so I thought it would be easiest to post my current class. I currently teach two separate arts; the first is Sera, a Pukulan Silat system. Our branch comes to us via Earnest (Ventje) De Vries and is currently more of a closed door, friends and family tradition. This means that whilst we have to pass on this art, we are just a little selective of the students we teach, nothing more. I personally use the name Sera to differentiate my branch from other branches so that outside people realise our branch is different.    

The second art I teach is my own, KORA, which covers my over forty years of Vale Tudo (MMA) experience, Grappling, Sword & Dagger, full Contact Stick Fighting and Savate with a Basque flavour. This class is an open class that I teach both privately and publicly. Over the years, I have taught members of the public and helped a few A-listers. I teach in a private venue but have instructed outside schools to help out fellow instructors and their schools in the past.

Currently, I am the only active instructor, but we have two senior students in the KORA trainee instructors’ program.

From what I can see, our branch of Savate is fairly unique, and along with our sword art, I am dedicated to passing it on.   

I post a small sample of our KORA training updates on my Instagram and YouTube channel for my students, which some non-students have found helpful.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.  

What’s the real history of Savate?

I spent quite a bit of time researching this from the 1980s, and it soon became apparent that nobody, including the French, knows for sure; most facts are at best an educated guesswork or from the spoken word of mouth. It’s clear there are regional variations and that people may choose to call their art Savate, even if they are in the South of France etc.

When I researched, the available records were in pictures and writings that suggested that the leading art was the Paris “Gentleman’s” style we often see in black and white photos. There were other versions, but the Paris style was the best recorded and may have been the primary branch. I actually think that there were a few homegrown versions, but they were lost, and many other researchers agree with me.

The other thing to factor in is the movement of people across France, and they may have brought their stylisation of Savate with them to another part of France, Spain or the Basque Country. I did have a few contacts in the Basque region in the late 1980s and early 1990s who have sadly since passed away, and it was fascinating chatting to them about the history and how underground some Savate was.

I have seen old black and white photographs that show people training in various areas of France, and in some cases, I was told that some clubs can trace their lineage back a hundred years. 

We will probably never know for sure, but I think Savate is homegrown in France and has a unique flavour. It’s very possible that some sailors had a separate art in the South of France, just as it’s apparent the Basque people had their own stylised version.

To sum up, nobody really knows the origins of Savate and whilst it would be lovely to know for sure, the best we can do is enjoy what we have and appreciate other versions or formats. My personal Savate style has been described as rough, and I actually choose to call it by its nickname of Basque Boot as it’s my personal interpretation that my group has successful road-tested over thirty plus years. A comment I often get from my students is seeing is one thing, but feeling is believing.

I can fully appreciate other people’s Savate, and I really enjoy the sports side of things as well. Different facets look really interesting, like the La Canne that I have not studied in depth.

I personally now teach and share the Savate with a Basque flavour that I was introduced to, in the hope of keeping our branch alive for current and future generations.   

2021 KORA Research Group Review

2021 Started with the group in lockdown in the UK, with several training trips to Amsterdam and Spain cancelled in early January. The only saving grace is some regular zoom classes with our teacher covering aspects of the Sera curriculum. Slowly as the year progressed, we restarted training on a one-to-one basis and then finally as a small group with carefully managed numbers for safety.

I personally managed to log all my solo and group training this year from June to December, 8,750 minutes of training for that period, which my converter tells me is about 146 hours. That’s considerably less than I had hoped for, but logging training time again proved really helpful for me to keep track of my training progress. I also took notes from each class and teaching session on zoom. This is something positive which I intend to continue and can recommend to any student.

The group class training was broadly divided into Sera curriculum training and then my KORA curriculum of stand up, clinch and ground with some weapons such as knife and impact weapons on the return to total activity. We modified this to one hour of Sera training on Saturday, which followed the Sera zoom class instruction on Tuesday during the latter part of the year. Then one hour of my KORA curriculum. Feedback from students and training partners was excellent on this format, with smaller one-hour lessons working really well.

In addition, I restarted my sword training, trying to break forty years of stick training habits, which has proved to be challenging but rewarding. Going forward, I would teach a new long weapons student essential sword work first and then follow up with stick work. The direct opposite of how I learned. Following a period of enforced isolation in August, I managed to finally start to get the basics of sword right and relax a little more.

I also started ground grappling again, working on my catch/BJJ hybrid for MMA.

Positive outcomes for the year are that we managed to get some group training time together, and we all progressed in each discipline. I can now cross-reference my Sword work with my Sera, Savate module, stand-up boxing, and shoot boxing training really efficiently as a coach.