By the Sword

Towards the end of last year, I posted on my FB page how much I was looking forward to resuming my sword training post-COVID-19 pandemic. My previous experience had been Olympic foil fencing for about four years and a smattering of some sabre up until I was sixteen.  I have studied Filipino Martial Arts and the Thai art of Krabi Krabong from the mid-eighties, but I was mostly interested in stick fighting. So really, I only have five years of formal sword training, mostly related to sports fencing.

Over the last couple of years, I have developed an interest in sword work, and am lucky enough to have an instructor. Struggling to get past my thirty-plus years of whacking people with sticks and poles, but slowly getting there, getting used to stabbing and slashing correctly. The issue is my fault as my main interest has been full contact stick fighting.

When I posted about my new hobby, I got a few people questioning the value of sword training in the current age, after all as one genus noted you couldn’t walk down the street with a sword in open carry in the UK (nor would you want to).

To understand why I get real value from sword training, we have to look at the sword and its place in history because it is somewhat unique. After all, unlike a knife, the swords sole use is for combat and designed as such. Someone went out of their way to create something that was an efficient killer when wielded correctly.

I would guess that not long after the sword was invented and used, the opposition also acquired them, and people noticed that both combatants would often die or be injured, which probably meant a slight delay in death. Dead is dead, and that is not a win-win. Far too easy to walk in to successfully score, only to be struck down on the way out. Taking shields and armour out of the combat equation, someone smart (a genuine genius) noticed that standing square on with everyone slashing and stabbing resulted in both sides failing. Probably via trial and error in the practice room, systems developed to take into account the use of footwork, angles and control of the other person’s actions to gain an advantage.  The skillset and ability to win in a sudden-death match via guile and skill is the process and art that fascinates me.

The other major bonus is that I can take the concepts, such as a hit without being hit and apply it into my dagger, different weapons and empty hand skill sets. Any form of study is always a growth experience, but this art has some fantastic genuine crossovers, and best of all, it’s a lot of fun.

I got the attached photo from the La Verdadera Destreza in History and Practice group on FB. A great group to be part of if you are interested in the sword.

Basque Boot

In the mid-eighties, I had a French training partner, and in between Muay Thai classes, we used to work out privately together in a local French restaurant. We would clear away some tables, and we mostly worked on our Boxing and Muay Thai fight preparation. Fred was a great training partner, powerful and an excellent boxer and fighter. 

During one of our training sessions, a family friend of Fred’s, who I had briefly been introduced to, watched nearby. Now and then between sips of coffee, he would shout out advice to Fred in French. After a while I was hoping he would shut up and go away to France, where I assumed, he came from. Every time he said something, Fred would adjust, and I would receive a new counter punch in the face.  We moved on to Thai rules clinch work, and now the stranger was up and coaching hands-on. He was crushing my double collar tie and throwing me around. Total drag really as that was meant to be my area of expertise.

We finished up training, and whilst the family friend was off getting his fifth cup of filter coffee and cigarette for the hour, I asked Fred who the unwanted coach was.  Fred said something like, he’s high up in French Judo, that would explain the grappling prowess and he has trained French Boxing, sometimes called Savate.  My only view of Savate at that point was seeing magazines with guys in strange gear, playing what looked like kickboxing.

To cut a very long story short, it came down to the stranger discussing my Muay Thai kicks, with Fred as an interpreter.  He liked our kicks but wanted us to consider the shoe as a weapon. He also felt that I should play an outside game more to use my long reach. His advice was peppered with strange-looking kicks and movements in the air, that looked like flicks. Finally, he said I would show you, and he kicked me in the lead leg with a kick that used the heel and shut down my thigh for a few days.

I became an instant believer; he had kicked me with training shoes on, and it felt like being hit with a hammer. Over the next two weeks or so, we got to work out with our new coach, probably no more than twenty hours actual training time and about the same socialising.  I was mainly interested in street kicking and picking up some good boxing.

Here’s what I picked up during that limited time:

Muay Thai kicks are like being hit with a sharp baseball bat, the force cuts through the target (generalising a lot but that’s a way of looking at it) Savate kicks are like being hit with a hammer, and the force goes in deep and rattles around a bit. The targeting of the kicks split muscle from bone and should leave small dents.

Constant movement in and out of position sets up the opponent for the kicks and some sweet boxing deals with opponents who get close. Lots of evasive straight punches also keep the distance.

Boots or strong shoes are a great accessory, and you need to train in them or at least some of the time. Training shoes are ok but not the same.

Boot kicks hurt and they cripple.

After the two short weeks, I never got to train with the coach again and it being the pre-internet era (letter writing instead of emails) I lost touch with Fred a few years later when he went travelling.

I placed my little knowledge of art into what I refer as my boot kicking module, and over the years, I have shown it as a subsection of my Combatives art. It’s a good match for Combatives guys as it is so brutal and it blends well.

I tried to seek further training in Savate, travelling to France several times and enjoyed the cross-training. However, the Savate I was shown had a slightly different flavour. My first coach lived in the Basque region and had picked up his Savate flavour there, hence his slang name for his art: Basque Boot.

2020 The Journey so far

My martial arts journey started with formal boxing classes in 1977, the local vicar Michael Insley taught two classes a week, one was fencing, and the other was boxing. From the early eighties, I also trained in Combatives as I was joining the army. While in the military, I continued to study boxing, fighting at an amateur level and obtaining a coaching certificate, I also continued to study Combatives.

In 1983 I began to study Muay Thai. We had a loose group who used to train together in the gym. The group was a mixture of boxers, Muay Thai and judo guys and it was an early form of MMA. When I left the military in 1985, I continued to study Muay Thai. I worked freelance then, so I was training all the time and doing five or six classes per week. During this period, I also had the opportunity to begin my study of Pukulan Sera.

In 1987 I started training with Bob Breen. At that time, he was teaching a mixture of Kali and kickboxing, and I was also lucky enough to train under Gary Derrick, in Muay Thai, who taught at the Academy.

I got a group of people together locally to compete, and by default, I became the lead coach as I have coached in the military. We would train and fight in western boxing and Muay Thai. During this period, I renewed my interest in close range pistol shooting, Combatives and Savate.

The group became a formal class of around twenty people, just by word of mouth alone. Marcus Trower, the author of the book The Last Wrestlers, was a founder member of the group and training partner.  

In 1989 I started to hear about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and a guy called Rickson Gracie and by chance got to take a couple of private lessons in that from a Brown Belt under Carlos Gracie. I started to develop an interest in Vale Tudo fights, grappling and martial arts challenge matches. I was training privately and in regular classes until 2005.   

In 1993 I started to train privately with Sifu Dave Carnell in the arts of Jeet Kune Do, Kali and Pentjak Silat. Sifu Dave was a fantastic instructor, but in 1997 I had to change my carrier path and take a new job. The change of career meant I was unable to get up to Stoke on Trent to train regularly. During this period, I also got to train with Sifu Marc Mcfann and his UFA guys here in the UK.

In 1997, I met Doug Tucker, who used to come to train at an informal sick fighting group I hosted with Richard Hay, my training partner. Doug and I hit it off straight away, and he would coach us all in his Arnis system.  

In 1998 I went to LA to train with the Dog Brothers and fight at the September gathering with Eric Knaus AKA Top Dog. While in LA, I got to train with Eric Paulson in Shooto and the Machado Brothers in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Again, by chance, I got to take a one-off workshop in Vale Tudo.

In 2000 I had changed my class to a Vale Tudo class by blending our stand up, clinch and ground grappling. I kept the informal full contact stick fighting class going for another two years. Vale Tudo changed its name to cage fighting and then became MMA. In 2005 I closed my public class.

I have produced great boxing, Muay Thai, full contact stick and MMA fighters and coaches over my years of teaching. Our group has had some excellent results in competition, real self-defence situations, and probably more importantly we have help people turn their lives around.  

I now teach mostly on a closed-door basis to my KORA group or private lessons and continue my martial arts research. The arts we study under the KORA banner are Bare Knuckle Boxing, MMA, Grappling, Sword and dagger, Stick and Savate with a Basque flavour. I teach Pukulan Sera separately from the other arts.

Richard

Ranks achieved or held

Assistant boxing coach.

Muay Thai coach.

Vale Tudo/MMA coach.

I am certified to teach Jeet Kune Do, Kali and Pentjak Silat.

I am Head Instructor and founder of Killick Off Road Arts.

2019 The KORA Research Group Update

I receive quite a few private messages regarding my research group’s nature, and I want to take some time to clarify a few details.  

When I retired from public teaching in 2005, after over twenty years of serving my community, I closed my school called the Primal Focus Gym, which covered my MMA or Shoot Boxing classes.

My MMA journey began when I was teaching Muay Thai and met some students in the early nineties who wanted to upgrade their stand up for Vale Tudo matches. Slowly I modified my Muay Thai to take on board what my Brazilian friends were showing me; BJJ and some catch wrestling. The areas we trained were stand up, clinch and ground for sport. Interestingly, I managed to get out of MMA in 2005 just as it was going mainstream. 

I began to research some of the arts I had put-on hold previously in retirement, and broadly these were, bare-knuckle boxing, Combatives, Savate with a Basque fighting arts flavour and Pukulan Sera. I had studied bare-knuckle boxing, Combatives since 1977, and Savate and Pukulan Sera since 1986.

I had kept in touch with a few former students, and we used to meet up informally to train whatever art I was investigating. During this period, I feel we covered off my Combatives module and the Savate boot kicking module and this research period naturally came to an end.

In around 2010, I started to look again at Pukulan Sera, of which I have lucky enough to study two separate and distinct branches. The first Sera branch was fascinating and intriguing, with some great people involved.  

The second branch of Sera I have been lucky enough to study, is a small, non-commercial private community, and for me, it’s everything I ever wanted, and I love it. My current instruction is helping me make sense of my former education. I soon realised that I would need some people to train with after I visited my teacher and so I formed a small private non-commercial study group for interested people, which is how my current group came into being.  

We are lucky enough to have a great mixture of experience and teachers in other arts combined with a few beginners. The instruction is in Sera as currently taught to me. In effect, we are exploring a brilliant curriculum together.

The research groups primally interest is Pukulan Sera and the study of my KORA system.  KORA covers my Vale Tudo (MMA) experience, Grappling,  Sword & Dagger, full Contact Stick Fighting and Savate with a Basque flavour.

On a back burner, i.e. not currently taught in my class is my Shoot Boxing for MMA sport module which includes stand up, clinch and ground and my Combatives module.

Over the last few years, I have realised that the group would come to an end if anything happened to me. This year, I have put a structure in place to allow group members to progress to teaching the arts one day and introduce all members of my group to my teacher.

We are a small, private closed-door group, and the first primary rule is we are not allowed to share any of our Sera outside of the group. Every new member gets the same twenty-minute introduction and history talk from me, and part of that is them agreeing to keep everything in house with regards Sera.

We support other instructors in the martial arts world, and if we get any new membership inquiries and are full with regards to members numbers, we pass on people to those we trust in the martial arts world. 

So that’s a little history and an update on the group. It differs from other groups as its primary mission was to investigate a closed-door curriculum rather than produce lots of satellite groups. It’s not commercial as we don’t have anything to sell, and it keeps a relatively a low-profile so no videos or workshops in the Sera side of things etc.

From time to time, I get asked many questions on training and will post a few more replies here in the future.

Something’s cooking

This blog will cover the martial arts and related disciplines that we study under the banner of Killick Off Road Arts as taught by Richard Killick.

We publicly teach and study MMA, Grappling, Sword & Dagger, Full Contact Stick Fighting and Savate with a Basque flavour. Privately we study Pukulan Sera.