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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The book of five rings by Miyamoto Musashi 新免武蔵守藤原玄信 is a book I read about once a year. The excellent version I have on my lap is the one translated by William Scott Wilson. For those who don’t know the book, it is understood that it comes from Pamphlet by the same author.
The context was to apply for a position teaching for someone of high rank, and you had to construct a sort of CV detailing what and how you intended to teach. A lot of consideration was given to why you may teach something in a certain way, significantly if your concepts differed from the standard ideas. So, this book can be seen as a sort of manifesto, selling the authors skills.
What we got from Musashi is a fantastic insight into how a warrior thinks and may also live his life. Musashi stated that he had fought starting aged 13 and won 61 sword fights, then he retired. The lecture I attended a few years ago noted that he authored this book after his dualling days.
Most of us martial artists these days are unlikely to be involved in duals to the death, but we can still use the books’ information to understand how to approach training for that event. It’s an excellent way to cross-check yourself first as a martial artist and how you live your life and practice and develop other skills.
To quote Mr Wilson: The book gives timeless advice with regards to defeating an adversary, throwing an opponent off guard, creating confusion and other techniques for overpowering an assailant that will resonate with both martial artists and everyone else interested in dealing with conflict.
The book does that and much more and is a recommended re-read each year. I use the strategy in my daily work life (Asset Management), and it works. I am a global award winner for my work, and this book played its part in that.
This blog’s primary goal is to talk about the training we are undertaking in our KORA class and help people with their training journey from afar as best we can. The idea is to be positive and promote the benefits of martial arts.
One of the reasons I started a blog was that I realised that I was becoming a bit of a martial arts recluse. The situation is not helped because I retired from teaching members of the public in 2005 and have been quietly researching and teaching in a low-profile way ever since.
Over the last thirty-five years or so, I have helped train professional fighters, soldiers and even some A-listers along the way; for most of that, I am under a non-disclosure agreement, and for those I am not, I keep my word to keep things private. A few people have gone on the record to thank me, that’s muchly appreciated, but that’s very their decision.
A quick view of the about me section details a small proportion of my overall experience, and hopefully, it shows how grateful I am for my past and current teachers and martial arts friends. I commit to give credit where credit is due and also be transparent.
In my research group, we study two different core activities: first, under the KORA banner, we study MMA, Grappling, Sword and Dagger, full-contact stick fighting and Savate with a Basque flavour. Separately in a closed-door class, we study Pukulan Sera. I draw on my long-term military, practical, and coaching experience to construct and refine my curriculum and attend regular coaching courses in various fields.
Over the last year, since I started chatting to people on social media and writing my blog, I have had some great feedback, and I guess I got rediscovered. This is great as I made some new friends and even reunited with some old students or their students.
The downside of this is a small element in the martial arts world that resents people’s success, even when the person is non-commercial like me. Some people also resent others getting any form of recognition, still more see other people as a commercial threat. Not great, and if that’s you, maybe you need to do a revaluation of your life.
We also have flimflam merchants who tell a great story and insist it’s their way or the high way. Tell them to do one and train with who you like. I recommend shopping around and trying different coaches and arts.
Next up have the con artists, people who don’t do the work and make false claims. Being low profile, I have mostly missed these guys as there is no point in claiming teaching credentials from someone no one knows. A few of my friends have been victims of this kind of thing in the States, but it’s a new one to me.
I recently found someone who was using my writing but with his name under the title, even using a similar logo. Someone else was copy and pasting my words of advice and posting as if they were theirs, and separately someone else making claims that he was a full instructor under me. Three separate people, all of which I had to deal with. That’s all now been dealt with, and there will not be a reoccurrence from those guys.
I can’t patrol the internet and social media all time; I have protected my logos and the group’s name with these guys: Protect my work.com.
My training partners and friends also keep an eye out for me, and I do the same. If you come across anyone making any claims regarding being an instructor with me or teaching KORA, please let me know. I will be happy to confirm and recommend authentic teachers in other arts or even people.
All of us coaches have a unique way of doing things, and most of us know each other in the UK. It’s, thankfully, a small world filled with talented people.
One quick look at the UK news gives you a good indication of where the knife crime statistics are going. In South London, the local social media is littered with knife muggings, gang-related knife fights, and stabbing games.
“Data gathered and analysed by the BBC found there had been 55 fatal stabbings so far this year (10 Oct 2020). Other findings over the last ten months include that 12 teenagers have been killed – all of them male – while six homicide victims were children aged ten and under”.
So, the question is:
Why is knife crime on the increase?
Why do so many people appear to be carrying knives both for use in crime and for their self-defence?
If we take away some of the social factors that lead to crime use, such as drugs and poverty and consider the knife, we realise that it’s a cheap, easily affordable, easy to carry cancelled option. Blades are also lethal even in a non-trained person’s hand.
The reality of knife defence
Please pause here and take just five minutes to google knife defence training…
What did you see? Dozens of YouTube videos showing empty-handed defence against knives, complete with splendid disarms. I bet for every video extolling the virtues of xxx martial art; there is a counter video posted on how that defence does not work.
Most martial artists disagree about most things but mainly about knife usage and defence. That’s not surprising because most of them have never been in a knife attack and probably know as little as the layman about what happens. The same goes for the local law enforcement, they have the training, tasers and stab-proof vests, and on the rare occasions they go head-to-head in a non-pre planned operation, they often come off second best.
Those of us who have been involved in knife crime as either the perpetrators or victims know that any knife attack is probably one sided. If the attacker has the intent to harm, he will likely succeed with a mixture of speed, surprise, and ferocity.
So, the answer to the first part of my question is that knives are easy to obtain, easy to conceal and use if you have that kind of intent. That makes them very useful in acts of violence connected with criminal acts.
The issue is that most teenagers living in London understand all of the above points. That realisation leaves them in a huge dilemma. If you know that your immediate social group has knives and uses them regularly during the violence, you must consider your safety. You may have even already seen or been a victim of knife crime and know that running away is often not a viable option.
It must be very tempting not to consider carrying a knife yourself, just to provide some sense of protection. I think this is why we see so many young people carrying knives for protection. If you carry a weapon, you will likely use it if you can—a life-changing moment for you and your assailants.
I have an excellent example of this; in the early eighties, I had a good friend from the local boxing club, we will call him George, a made-up name, but the story that follows is all true. George was a nice guy, and when he walked into his local pub, he was not carrying a knife and only intended to pop in for a post-work pint. While queuing at the bar, he noticed someone semi slumped over the bar, half seating on a bar stool, half hanging from the bar.
Somehow the two of them got into a conversation, friendly at first until the stranger, clearly drunk, got increasingly aggressive. Threats were made, George felt off-balance, and now the stranger was looming over him with his right arm pulled back to throw a punch. George stuck out with his right hand to the stranger’s face, and the stranger crumpled to the floor.
George became aware of a tingling in his right hand and noticed that it was deeply cut. He had inadvertently punched the stranger with a pint glass in his hand. After he was sentenced with causing Actual Body Harm (ABH) and jailed, I spoke with George, and he explained he did not even realise he had a glass in his hand.
I suspect that deep in George’s subconscious, he knew he was facing an immediate threat, and in some fight or flight mode, it grabbed the nearest weapon. Not great, and two lives ruined.
So we have two groups wondering our streets, one set on crime, using something that is a readily available equaliser, that does not require training to use, the other fearing for their life and carrying a knife for self-protection.
Somewhere in the middle is you.
In part two, I will discuss what I think is the best ways to avoid and stay safe from knife crime.