Solo Training

I have about a week’s worth of enforced solo training ahead of me, which is not really a problem as I have a lot of solo work to draw from. Today’s session was a mixture of Sera jurus, Karbi Krabong modified for my stick fighting and some sword strokes combined with footwork.

Yes, before anyone emails me, I know that solo training is part of a total training system that includes partner work and free play.

There are many ways to set your mind for solo work; you can imagine you are in a fight with your opponent(s), you can also imagine demonstrating in front of your teacher as if he is present and watching. I have tried both these over the years, with very mixed results.

When I first started out with some long-distance training, my teacher would show me a motion, sometimes on video, and I would perform it on my own in front of a mirror to make sure it looked at least correct regarding the basic motions. Whilst this is a great way to start long-distance learning, it’s my experience that you need to move away from a mirror as soon as you have the basic motion down.

The reason to move away from the mirror is that you need to develop a body feel inside you when performing solo movements. This is the ideal time to get it just right for solo body feel with only gravity and your own body to fight against. Every now and again, I check out the motion in a mirror or video it to review it later, but for the most part, my solo training is just me in a training place, much like a yoga practice.  

The challenge for me is staying in the correct flow state and not daydreaming because it’s easy to drift off as you flow along. I need to be in the room and very present.

Today staying in the room was a struggle. I actually felt like throwing my training sword away at points but persevered and now have that clear mind that you get post solo training.

So be in the room and keep at it until you are happy.  

Logging Flight Time

Throughout the 1970s, 1980’s and 1990’s I logged every martial arts training opportunity and workout session, tracking the total number of minutes each month. At some point in the early 2000s, I gave up, probably because I was no longer competing. I also lost all my training logs during a house move, which means I have lost a few decades of training logs.

There are several reasons it’s helpful to track your flight hours, mainly because it’s almost impossible to track personal training hours unless you have a set regime that you also ways follow. This regime will probably be overseen by another (Coach) who is tracking you. Even during my military service, I was never a full-time martial artist and always had a day job, so it was important to track my time involvement and the results. I probably got the idea to add the number of training minutes into my boxing coach’s notebooks as I had to log hours for my coaching certificate.

This years notebook

Since I started training, I have always kept a notebook to record my personal activity, lessons and outcomes. In the 1970’s it was mostly recording boxing, Judo and sword training; in the 1980’s I added Combatives and Muay Thai, closely followed by FMA, Silat and JKD. The 1990s were mainly about Vale Tudo (now MMA). I always kept up the note-taking but abandoned the minute counting.

In May, I set out a plan for my personal training for the rest of the year and resurrected my flight time logging. I realised I wanted to concentrate on the following for my personal training:




KORA Stand Up.

I realised that by learning and studying separate disciplines and upkeeping skills in the others, I would have to better use my available free time.

I currently do the following; I log every training opportunity, including private lessons with my teachers, what we covered and use those notes to update my study notes and teaching plans. I record health exercises such as stretching, fitness and weight training, solo training, and equipment work, including hitting the heavy bag. I record by the minute as some of the exercises only take ten minutes, a good example being my daily hip stretch.

Month Minutes
June 865
The new log

I add up the minutes at the end of each month and record them in an excel sheet. No doubt I could be more detailed and break things down by discipline, but total hours completed works for me. I can always refer back to my notebook to see if I am slaking in my sword training.

At the end of each month, I cross-reference the total hours and then dial down what went well or bad. An excellent example from June was slaking on my solo sword training; my teacher noticed the outcome of this and mentioned it. In July, I added in twenty minutes a day, each day, to practice my basic sword motions. Keeping a daily log triggered me to slot in those twenty minutes of swordplay or double up the next day if I missed a session.

The result is a personal improvement for me and so well worth the ten minutes a day to log flight time.


Scuffing within our KORA system means working on bare-knuckle striking. Experience has taught our group that there has to be a balance between contact and repartition to avoid long term damage to the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and neck.

Over the years, I have seen people, even pros, overdo it, and the results have always been long term, career-ending injuries.

So light and often seems to be the way for most people. I tend to hit my bag bare-knuckle after each training session for a round to build confidence and get used to the slightly different feel.  We do it to build confidence, and it gives us a choice between using palms and fists.  You can actually intermix your scuffing sessions with palms, hacks, slaps and fist sticking.

Add elbows, clinch, knees, and kicks to practice the cross over between each.

Please see the video of me below, filmed just post covid infection as an illustration. Please note the safety advice and find your safe personal balance.

Research Journey

In 1986 I attended a seminar with Guro Dan Inosanto partly because I wanted to meet him again and partly because I was bored with martial arts. My previous experience was mainly around boxing, fencing and Muay Thai with some grappling (Judo/Wresting) and a small amount of what we would call Combatives today. Mainly sport orientated and ultra-competitive environments. Leaving aside my military exploits, I was mostly a recreational martial artist.

After the first couple of hours of Dan covering JKD, we took a lunch break, and I had the excellent luck that Dan sat next to me whilst we were all scrambling around our Head sports bags looking for our sandwiches crushed by our Eskrima sticks. Over the years, I have noticed he can chat to just about anyone, and we discussed being fed up with combat sports or putting it more succinctly bored.

Dan recommended that I looked into other arts as a researcher who trained. We chatted about FMA and also Krabi Krabong and cross over into other skills. From that chat, I realised a few things about myself. I was interested in arts that most people had not trained in. I wanted that backyard training experience that was slightly edgy and underground, but I also wanted to go deep into the art I was learning.

I decided to limit myself to researching and learning one art at a time and to put the other arts on the back burner for the time being unless there was a direct cross over. Some people can study (train and learn) multiple arts in-depth simultaneously; I am not one of those people. I tend to spend at least five years learning an art and then investigating another one. I found that’s about enough time to get the core essence of an art.

Later, when I began to teach classes, I taught Boxing, Muay Thai and the weapons side of FMA, and I found I could make training gains and research one other art at the same time. By the early nineties, I was able to see the connections between the arts and cross-reference them; I started to build a list of common traits and training methods. This evolved as my classes change to Vale Tudo and then MMA, with some full contact stick along the way into a sort of hybrid blend.  

Since 2015 I have been concentring on Pukulan Sera, a different branch to one I originally studied, and it’s my core art. When I stick fight, I mostly use Krabi Krabong and some FMA. I am or was studying sword pre-Covid and intend to restart classes in that as soon as I can.

It’s worth noting how rewarding the arts have been personally in my private and work life. Having research and training goals has transferred over into my life. I believe that studying martial arts has allowed me to avoid some of the pitfalls some of my former military colleagues have fallen into. I would also point out that had I not had the twenty minutes chatting to Guro Dan, I would probably have missed out on a lot. I have gained a lot socially and also spiritually, mentally and physically from my studies.

So, if you are bored and if this text rings a bell with you, think about what you want and why and set out some ideas on paper and start planning your own journey.

Bon Voyage (as my Savate friends say).

The way of the cat

Anyone who has a family cat knows they are masters at doing precisely what they want; they eat, sleep, play, maintain and relax. They know the optical place to hang out in your home and have their schedule that fits their needs.

I think we can learn a lot from cats about how to navigate modern life and pandemics etc.  

As a martial artist, I started informal boxing at age 13 and had already been training in judo for some time. I journeyed through ten boxing matches, four Muay Thai matches, quite a few challenge/Vale Tudo matches, and hundreds of full contact stick fights in the Dog Brother format (fencing mask and good sticks). I have been grappling on and off since 1976, Judo, Wrestling, and BJJ for MMA.

Nothing unusual here for the period and for someone who wanted the challenge and to road test what he was being taught. Every coach will have a training regime for each art he is in; I used to back up training with hill running, sprint training, Rugby, yoga and powerlifting and right up into my late forties, it served me well.

Most of the long-term injuries I carry are not from martial arts training but my regular and freelance military career. Two high-speed pursuit crashes one helicopter crash, lots of small bits of shrapnel and other sharps, countless big bangs (shockwaves) near me and head impacts.  

I was always a reactional martial artist and coach, and when I shut down my school in 2005 and retired from teaching members of the general public, I was crippled.

I had a year or so off from training and thought about what I wanted to do, I know I wanted to research a few arts, and I also know I could not or did not want to keep up my old training regime.

I started looking at what other older coach did and found some of the posts by Dr Mark Cheng helpful. (2) Dr. Mark Cheng | Facebook

I now have a central theme that runs through my training and health maintenance; I try not to create unnecessary tension or “friction” in my body. I leave something in the tank, and I make sure I get enough rest between sets and training sessions. I no longer take hits to the head, and when I am grappling, I am very conservative with my energy and careful who I wrestle with.  The art I study has yoga-like short forms that are good for general health and remove minor injuries or tension.

I try to emulate the attitude of a cat; I take care to maintain and relax and enjoy life at the same time. There is a mental aspect; I try not to get triggered on martial arts forums, and I don’t feel I must put things right or challenge people.  

The results are excellent, and I feel a lot healthier than ten years ago, and this attitude has crossed over into my working life. I do less, am more relaxed and get promoted more.  

I am not a health expert, just a long serving martial artist and coach, but I recommend considering how you are training and what the central theme is running through your life. It’s all cool but worth considering and planning.  

All the very best in your training, stay safe.

Sticks – Kombat Instruments Limited

31 inch sparring sticks, 40 inch sparring stick for Irish Stick Fighting and a four foot pole, also for whacking people.

Several people ask me where I get my beautiful sticks, and I thought I would do a quick write-up. When I popped over to the Dog Brother gathering in 1998, I picked up a replacement pair of sticks from Nick Papadakis at Kombat Instruments. I got to use them the next day at some informal sparring and training practice with the local DB Tribe.

I can make my own sparring sticks but not as well as Nick, so really, it’s a no brainer. The about section tells you about Nick and his attention to detail in producing a fantastic useful product.

About us – Kombat Instruments Limited (

Nick’s sticks are the best I have used, and they stand up to the very hard training and sparring we do.

The attached video outlines what sticks I am currently using from his line, including a 40-inch cut-down by me hybrid for Irish Stickfighting. I plan on-road testing it in full contact sparring and training, but results so far have been great.  

If you are fed up with sticks that fray or are the wrong length, please road test some of his products. Nick can produce whatever size, length and type of stick you want, and they will be beautiful but, more importantly, useful for walloping people.

Kombat Instruments Limited – Full contact martial arts gear (

Deviations of other nations martial arts

The above video is a great and excellent discussion on the following potentially sticky subject, with a tag line as follows:

This episode featured guests Sifu Dwight Woods, Guro Mahipal Lunia and Guro Mark Stewart. In this episode, we discussed whether there is a legit argument for an American version of FMA.

I would encourage you to watch the video before reading on.

An admirable trait I have noticed in my American martial arts friends is the need to understand something and then to road-test it under pressure. This testing and its results often become part of the instruction process or even a proficiency test. When you change something, you usually give it a name that can be good and also limit it.

From a researcher’s perspective, all the percipients have some great points; my main interest here is what Guro Mahipal Lunia has to say about naming things and systemising conventions and how they affect outcomes. A subject that my training partner Eric Lake and I have been discussing for almost twenty years.

Having spent a considerable amount of time with Filipino and American FMA people, I can see how the arts were changed, and I don’t think it’s an issue. It’s natural when you change something, primarily how you transmit a skill, that you change the name of things to suit you.  

Within martial arts, there is a commercial smugness that pushes you to have to go to the Homeland to understand the art. Visiting and training in places where your art came from is very nice and rewarding, but as long as your instructor understands the art and can prepare you for outcomes that match your situation, all is good.

I like to say that there is no martial art without the other (you and your opponents). So as a coach, I view the student and me as the most important thing. I know I am very interested in history and the people who came before us in the art, but that is merely an excellent back up to the art.

Regarding the art I study, Sera, when I started out, I was in an American system or variation and it was called Serak, the main teacher changed the art to suit his situation and have his unique selling point (USP).  Again, all good, as he was honest about it.

Now I study with a different branch. I use Sera to describe what we do, as the curriculum is different from what I originally learnt. This may or may not be 100% correct, but it works to separate our group from teachers who use another or reverse engineered curriculum.

Not getting hot under the collar about naming rights requires a specific emotional intelligence and honesty, both cultivated by martial arts training.

The video above is brilliant, and I am looking forward to any follow-up; please subscribe to Guro Dean’s YouTube channel and support it.

Championship Fighting

Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey is a book that should be in every fighter’s library, it’s the one book I have given as a present more than any other. Why because it’s one of the few books that is readily available that will show you explosive punching and aggressive defence, written by an actual Champion who could both box or mix it bare knuckle or in a bar fight in equal measures.  

In a world of fake it until you make (or get it right) Jack had been there and done that and he also understood the game well.

Years ago, I recommended the above book to a young boxer and his response was why would I read a book by some old boxer, when my coach can tell me everything I need to know. His stunning record was two wins, three loses and early retirement with a detached head, courtesy of a power puncher. So maybe his coach was not so great after all.

Jack sets out why he wrote the book on chapter four and it’s well worth reading that chapter first and then doubling back to chapter one. With further chapters on punching, stance, footwork, defence and the falling step which is often confused with the dropping step (the clues in the name internet Combatives experts). This book is simply a must read and just about anyone who I have ever met who is great or good at punching people clean out or lighting them up like Christmas tree has read it.

Here is a quote from chapter four:  I’m confident those pages represent the most thorough study ever made by any prominent fighter of his own technique and the pointers he received first hand from others.

Exactly right and I recommend you get it in your library and re read it once a year.


First, I need to be a hundred percent clear that the Aliveness concept, as presented below, I got from Matt Thornton and the SBG Tribe back in the late nineties. Matt put into words what a lot of people half knew but never really talked about. He laid out the framework, and a lot of us road-tested it and found it to be true.

For more information, please watch the video above, and go here: Philosophy – SBG (

This will give you an excellent overview of what aliveness is in this context. The three I’s method also revolutionised the MMA class that I used to coach, and I use it even when teaching or researching what can be termed traditional martial arts such as stick fighting, Savate and Sera.

All of us coaches teach from our curriculums and are constantly refining how we teach. Let’s take martial arts personalities and legends out of the review method. The aliveness concept is the high-end coaching method for getting highly functional martial arts skills across to the student.  

There are many misconceptions about it being about just going ultra-hard, but it is, in fact, more than that, and the details are laid out on the above page and video. When I first saw Matt’s views on this subject, I purchased his first series of SBG videos and also several other instructional sets over the years. I managed to take in a workshop with him at the gym of the late Karl Tanswell here in the UK.

I recommend checking out Matt by training with him and looking at his online SBG University training offerings. Aliveness is the foundation you can build on for how you approach training and coaching any art.