Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Free Martial Arts...Part II

I had some great feedback on the first Free Martial  Thank you to all that took the time to comment and provide insight.  Recently, Kai added to the conversation/discussion.  By the time I finished thinking about all the points that had been raised and responded, I realized I had enough for a follow up post.

I've copied over Kai's comments and my response/follow up, um, follows...

This topic has had me doing quite a bit of introspection.

Kai's comments:

"Dear Journeyman,
I love this post, it is so vulnerable and open. Here are my thoughts for what it is worth . . .

- No you are not “overthinking”, or being over dramatic by presenting this as a case of handing over “the keys to the kingdom”. I actually think that’s a very good metaphor in this case, given how much you have to offer this man, and the world in general. Your system is like your own baby and you need to be absolutely certain and comfortable before you entrust it to anyone else’s care.

- So I don’t think any of us can advise you whether to go for it with him at present. You just don’t know him that well, as you say, so how can you trust him with your precious material? So in my view your options are not so much about whether to hand over all or part of your material (etc). It’s more about deciding whether he has any potential, and if he does, then deciding to invest some more in getting to know him. BEFORE you commit to this relationship, or give anything to him. And if you decide that he is not going to be the right person, ether now or after you get to know him, it’s fine for you to just walk away.

- I don’t know much about this kind of scenario myself, but just Googled “How to choose a business partner” and found LOADS of good articles – here are some: 10 questions to ask before committing to a business partner; Is Your Co-Founder 'the One'? 7 Ways to Tell; Evaluating and Selecting a Strategic Partner. (Sorry the links haven't copied over into this reply).

- But I think the deepest, strongest question in your article is the one you don’t actually include in your list at the end which is: is it ok for you to charge money for something as pure, noble and beautiful as the martial arts? It feels like you are drawn to transforming your hard work into income, but are unsure whether this is actually ok in the first place, and you are asking us either to validate this action, or tell you if we disapprove (because money would somehow taint and soil our art). 

- Again this is just my opinion, but I would say that you absolutely have the right to be paid for your hard work. People draw salaries for their day-to-day jobs all the time and no one thinks anything of it. So why should your work be any less valuable just because you’re doing it independently and not for an employer – and out of love? Your blog is beautiful, and clearly the result of so much work and knowledge, and you have every right to capitalise on this; you would really not be doing anything wrong. 

- Of course some people make money from the martial arts in a wrong way, such as opening up a poor quality “belt factory” and teaching crap - or abusing their students etc - but from what you have said, that kind of activity is absolutely nothing to do with where you want to go. 

- Your post also made me think of the Buddhist concept of “Right Livelihood”. People have to make a living, and it’s proper that you should do this in an ethical way, and make the world a better place in the process. And helping people to find personal power and stay safe is an awesome way to serve humanity.

- On a stronger note, I also thought of the Parable of the Talents (bible) when I read your post. The first two servants use the money they are given well, and double it. The third servant in the story does nothing with the talent he is given – he just buries it in the ground to keep it safe. And the first two servants are rewarded - but the third man is severely punished. This sounds like a harsh story, but I believe its message is that we have a moral responsibility to make the most of what we have been given in life?

Sorry this reply is so long! and hope it doesn’t sound too “prescriptive” :-) it's really only my own thoughts and feelings on your story. Wishing you all the very best with this – are you going to keep us updated via your blog . . . ?

Best wishes Kai"

My Response:


Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful and insightful response. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.  

I do feel like my system/program/vision is, as you said “my baby”.  At the same time, I don’t want to be too full of myself or selfish.  Your suggestion to get to know him better before coming to any arrangement is spot on.  I’m going to check out your suggestions for choosing a business partner.  Thanks.

You said:

“But I think the deepest, strongest question in your article is the one you don’t actually include in your list at the end which is: is it ok for you to charge money for something as pure, noble and beautiful as the martial arts? It feels like you are drawn to transforming your hard work into income, but are unsure whether this is actually ok in the first place, and you are asking us either to validate this action, or tell you if we disapprove (because money would somehow taint and soil our art).”

I’ve struggled with this for a long time.  The ‘logical’ side of my brain says it’s ok to charge money, but it’s in conflict with the more emotional side and I’ve often wondered why. 

I’ve come to realize that my beginnings in the world of martial arts were heavily influenced by some great teachers, one of whom is still my Sensei, and their attitudes towards money and the martial arts.  A common quote I heard was “You’ll never make any money in the martial arts”.  That statement was multi-layered and what it really meant was that the “belt factories” as you so aptly named them, had washed down technique and were interested ONLY in the money.  As long as you paid, you progressed.  

These dojos often had the newest, shiniest equipment, in stark contrast to the small storefront, leaking roof, duct taped mats that I was accustomed to.  The chain style schools didn’t seem to care about your individual progression, or your actual ability to defend yourself.  So I always shied away from such establishments.  It has served me well over years.  I still train with, and am friends with, several people from those early days.  And that says something about the quality of the people and the training.

To be clear, I always paid some money, there were always club dues, but looking back, I realize just how little I was paying for what I was getting.  And everyone who ever taught me had a full-time job outside the training hall.  It was a labour of love for them.

If I am to be honest with myself, one of the reasons I may be reticent to generate reasonable income from the arts is that I wouldn’t attract me.  What I mean is that the ‘me’ from back then, who had little to no money, might never walk into my program/school/facility due to the financial factor.  

I wouldn’t be the ’me’ that I am today, in the arts at least, had it not been for the experiences I had back then.  I remember being completely broke and occasionally not having the monthly dues.  The Sensei(s) never turned me away.  Bad business model, but I am still loyal to them today, nearly 25 years later, so maybe it had some merits…and I was the first one to help with water damage, moving a dojo location etc.  So, it’s complicated.

On the flip side, generating income can greatly assist in improving the quality of training delivered, if the development of the student remains the main focus/priority.  And it helps to offset the time and energy expended on such a pursuit.  It also allows the teacher (me in this scenario) to continue to upgrade their own skills and knowledge, and have safe and effective training equipment etc.

And you’re absolutely correct, 

“People draw salaries for their day-to-day jobs all the time and no one thinks anything of it. So why should your work be any less valuable just because you’re doing it independently and not for an employer – and out of love?”
And thank you for bringing my attention to the Buddhist concept of “Right Livelihood”.  I’ve been thinking on this quite a bit since I read your comments.  
“People have to make a living, and it’s proper that you should do this in an ethical way, and make the world a better place in the process. And helping people to find personal power and stay safe is an awesome way to serve humanity.”

I had not thought of it quite like that before.  I’m going to meditate on that. Thanks.

The ‘Parable of the Talents’ is also interesting, “…a moral responsibility to make the most of what we have been given…”  More food for thought.

Thank you again for your comments and I’m happy that you enjoy the blog. You’ve given me lots to think about.  Thank you for that.    


Monday, September 21, 2015

Free Martial Arts...

Greed or Quality Control?

That was going to be the title of this post at first.  Or Altrusism vs. Pettiness

I have a martial conundrum.  

I was recently approached by a very well meaning martial arts instructor who wanted help in developing/designing a self-defense class for his martial arts school (where he is a lead instructor, not an owner).

I agreed to meet with him and see what ideas he had.  I firmly believe that the 'end-game' in martial arts should be to help others, and in many ways, that should be reward enough.

I met with him and we sat down to chat about martial arts, specifically self-defense.  

This instructor is very skilled in his chosen martial art.  I had to give him credit, he knows his stuff.  Just as importantly, he also knows what he does not know. He had very little idea where to start with a self-defense specific class.  He wanted to draw on my experience and skill set to help.   

After chatting for the better part of an hour, a couple of things became quite clear.

1. He really did have no idea where to start.
2. He wanted me to provide all the material.  

So, when I say he wanted me to provide all the material, I mean just that.  He wanted to do design, develop, and maybe even deliver the product once.  Or show him how to deliver it.

So what's the problem?

I find myself struggling with how to handle this. 

On one hand, I want to help people learn how to defend themselves from real violence.

On the other, I don't want to just give away all my material to someone and walk away.  I've spent a long time working on researching violence, selecting and tweaking effective techniques and developing teaching methodologies to put together what I believe to be a realistic and effective program.

This is still a work in progress but the major 'guts' of it already exist.  

To this instructor's credit, again, he was interesting in having me deliver the program the first time, and not for free.  He wanted to watch and then take over teaching it from that point on.

I'm uncomfortable with this.  I don't know him that well and I have concerns he wouldn't deliver it in the way that I would.  A good self-defense program is reliant not only on techniques and concepts, but in the instructor's ability to deliver it and have the lessons 'stick'.  If you can't retain what you've learned past the lesson, it's of no value.

Am I being petty?  Greedy?  Have I lost sight of the true meaning of the martial arts?  

Or am I just concerned about people not receiving training that they could actually use to save their lives or protect them or their loved ones from injury?

I don't want a watered down version of my material being delivered.  

Long term readers of this blog will know that I've often pondered whether or not it's ok to make money from the martial arts.  In the spirit of openness, I would like one day to be able to supplement my income somewhat through teaching self-defense.  

So, in some ways, this could be an opportunity to show my stuff, as it were, in an established club. But...

Luckily, I have a bit of time to decide what to do.  The instructor in question didn't really even know who the target audience was, how long the program would be, if it would be an ongoing thing every week or a program with a start and end date, for example 6 weeks, once a week etc.

The target audience changes the way in which a program is delivered.  I would take a different approach teaching seasoned martial artist than I would people who have done little or no training at all.  

I've left it that he needs to put together a shell of what he wants to deliver, and to who, before I could really weigh in on it.

This much I know.  I want to help, in some capacity.  But should I turn over the keys to the kingdom? (wow, I'm being dramatic...).


Should I just say no?
Should I consult on his material only?
Should I give him my whole program and hope for the best?
Should I deliver it once but not turn over the supporting material and hope for the best?
Should I give a one day seminar and see if they want to hire me for the rest?

Or are there other options?

Should I copy-write my material?  Register a business?  Develop a train-the-trainer program?

Am I losing sight of the big picture?  Am I over thinking all this?


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pain in Combat

I clicked a link over at Kojutsukan to a t.v. interview/panel discussion on pain. 

To summarize, two elite athletes, one in Cricket and the other a boxer, discuss pain, or the lack of pain, that they experience during their chosen sport/profession.

The boxer discusses how she has only been hurt or felt significant pain twice in her fighting career.  She was aware she was being punched in the face but it didn’t really hurt. 

Is she superhuman?  Immune to pain? 

No.  She goes on to say that she feels agony when she stubs her toe at home.
There are panel guest who explore the why’s and how’s of it all.  I watched a good deal of it.  Here’s the link, if you're interested.

Well, it got me thinking...


People experience pain in varying degrees and in varying situations.  This stands to reason. 

If you are training to survive a violent encounter, you must factor in the fact that you and your opponent may experience pain, or my not experience pain, during combat.  

Bottom line, if you are fighting for preservation in a real world attack, the techniques you’ve practiced that hurt like hell during controlled, partial power practice, may have little or no effect on your attacker.  This will be exacerbated by the attacker’s level of commitment, focus, anger and adrenaline. 

Pain is an interesting thing.  As Dalton said in Roadhouse “Pain don’t hurt”.


Many people practicing martial arts have never been hit, not really been hit.  Hopefully most people won’t ever be assaulted by someone who is really trying to hurt them.  But if you are, you may feel pain, or you may feel numbness, or confusion, or a combination of these sensations.  

I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple good hits in my lifetime.  While shocking to a degree, I did not feel pain, per say.  I was acutely aware that I had been hit hard, possibly injured, but the actual acute pain didn’t set in until a while later, when the situation was resolved.

The experience is quite off-putting, to say the least, and if you aren’t prepared for the shocking nature, you may naturally sort of ‘shut-down’, covering up (natural to a degree) as opposed to defending yourself.  There are a lot of videos on-line where you observe people just kind of ‘taking it”.  It’s tempting to ask why they just stand there or cower and continue to receive a beating.

Like so many things, you have to prepare yourself mentally.  If you haven’t been hit before, understand that it might hurt or it might not but it will be a jarring experience.  Visualize receiving this shocking blow and use the mental rehearsal to create a trigger or response stimulus.  For those of you who have experience, do the same.  Use it like the gun going off to signal the start of a race.  The race in this case being your survival.

Beyond your own reaction, be aware that your attacker may be less fazed by your defense than you anticipate.  They may not be stopped by a well-placed strike or two. If they are on drugs or alcohol, their pain centers may be further impeded.

This is why, when training for the worst case scenario, the situation you couldn’t extricate yourself from safety, you need to make sure your training is effective, brutally effective. 

Any training for realistic self-perseveration should include techniques that do real damage. 

Consider joint locks and breaks and attacks to vulnerable targets like eyes and throat. 

Even if your attacker doesn’t feel pain, you need to disable their attack ‘delivery system’.  If they can’t stand or their limb or hands are disabled, or they can’t breathe or see, then they are less able to injure you and you are more likely to be able to create an opportunity to get away to safety and get help. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Real violence is ugly and nasty.  Make sure that your training and mindset is prepared to match this reality. 

Be safe.


Further reading:

I posted some time ago about pain compliance techniques and when they can (and can't) be used effectively.  Click here and here.

More reading on pain:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Random Image and Technology

I'm certainly not the most tech savvy individual but I feel pretty comfortable in the 'blog-o-sphere'.  As many of you know, I was offline for a while and have recently returned to (somewhat) regularl blogging.

I just discovered a 'spam' folder - where comments go that Blogger thinks might be suspicious.  I found a few kind comments from friends of this blog.  I was touched and promptly marked them all as "not spam", as I planned to respond to them.  

Well, they disappeared from view in the spam folder and I now have no idea where they went.  

Soooo... for those of you who took the time to leave a comment or kind word and never heard back from me, I apologize.  But thanks.

Oh, and here's a cool quote (I think from Buddha):


Be well.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwing in the Martial Arts. Are we doing it right?

To go or not to go…with the throw.  That is the question...

When you learn to do throws and break fall, you need to be pretty cautious.  You need your partner to be cooperative on both ends of the equation.  If you don’t then one of you is likely to get hurt. 

Once you get the hang of the mechanics, though, you need to start adjusting your technique.  When you are the one being thrown, it is easy to get in the habit of assisting your partner by ‘jumping’ into the throw even if it’s not being executed properly.  While a certain degree of cooperative effort is required, if you regularly leap into throws, you are doing your training partner a disservice.

A properly executed throw requires 'kuzushi', the breaking of the balance of the "throw-ee”.  When done properly, the person being thrown literally falls over you, and you just assist them in trajectory and force.  If you program yourself to assist too much, your partner will never master kuzushi.

In the real world, you either need this balance breaking or you need to ‘muscle’ the technique, which isn’t normally a good idea.  It tends to involve twisting and lifting at the same time, a nasty combination and a good recipe for injury.
Even if you do break someone’s balance, they may not react as smoothly as a trained uke.  You need to discover what it feels like if someone lilts to one side as they go over so you can learn to adapt and finish the technique effectively.

Don’t forget the fact that most throws and break falls are performed for the benefit of the one being thrown.  

When you examine most throws, the actual damaging portion usually occurs previous to the person hitting the ground.  The throw/break-fall is meant to protect the person being thrown.  

When you break down the throws, you’ll discover that there is normally a break of an arm or dislocation of a shoulder or other joint prior to the person going airborne.  

In fact, if you were to actually perform one of these techniques for real, there’s a fairly good chance that the person would appear more to crumple than to majestically fly through the air. 

When practicing throws, keep both points in mind.  As the thrower, the end goal is not always a big throw, and as a throw-ee, don’t be too quick to ‘go with it’.  
Both are problematic.

Food for thought.

Train well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Keep Kicking Ass, Sue

I want to wish Sue at Journey to Black Belt all the best as she signs off her excellent blog.  

She has a ton of excellent posts and we’ve had several great discussions/debates over the last few years.  Maintaining a blog takes a lot of time and energy and she is pursuing some other interests and dreams.  Good for her.

If you haven’t done so already, there’s a lot of great material over there.  Take a look here.  You'll be happy you did.

Sue, thanks again for all the support and food for thought.  Hope you're back one day...