Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach ....

Last week, in the lead up to this years school summer break, I was involved in a cross curricular programme of activity at a high school. These events seem quite popular these days. Providing a wide range of activities and engagement for the children in the wind down to the school break.

I’ve done similar events before, but not for a whole week in a school and not at a high school. So what did I learn? Because learn I did, in fact any coach/instructor worth his salt should learn something from all his teaching experiences.

So what did I learn?

Well I learned that two and half hours is far too long for prolonged physical activity in the lead up to summer. Even with a break, it’s hard to engage in a level of activity that requires a high level of physical interaction - our standard Boxercise classes last 60 minutes and that’s for adults.

I also learned, contrary to what I’ve just stated, that with kids, it’s better to keep the action fast, furious and continuous. It reduces the amount of time children are left to ‘day dream’ and ‘misbehave’ and produces an element of competition that they love.

So, to recap and conclude these points, the ideal class is an hour in length and is made up of virtually continuous action.

That’s the positives what about the negatives?

Unfortunately there are a few.

Firstly. Considering the children were supposed to be engaged in physical activity it was disappointing that most of them turned up in jeans, standard shoes and casual, sometimes smart, leisure wear.  There were jackets, leather and fabric, in fact some of them looked like they were ready for the catwalk rather than sporting activity.

And as for water, most came without, despite me advising that Boxercise is thirsty work. But the worst thing above all was the lack of respect displayed by some, to the teachers, myself and each other.

When I was at school I would never have said ‘No’ to a teacher and yet this is a word I heard several times. The ability to listen to an instruction and follow it seemed beyond some. I will always take responsibility for this, deeming it my fault if people don’t understand. However, after several times with the same instruction and the same inability to follow, you start to doubt that it is actually your fault.

I had kids doing exactly the opposite of what I’d instructed, I had others refusing to keep quiet when I was talking and some of them were quite quick to give me lip.

It was suggested that perhaps things were so strict at home for some of these kids, that they viewed school as an opportunity to stretch the boundaries. To a small extent I agree, but in my experience, ill discipline at school is merely a repeat of the ill discipline at home.

I only have to deal with these kids for a few hours; the teachers have them for a large part of their lifetime.

I have nothing but admiration for teachers. Especially those who invest their own personalities, compassion and motivation into their teaching. We don’t invest enough time and respect in our teachers. And as for this bollocks of a 9-3 working day - it’s a media fuelled fallacy.

Most days I was at the school 7.30 -7.45am. Staff were already there or arriving while I waited. Yes the bell goes just after 3pm, I’d leave about 4pm and staff were still there. For the sake of these kids, devoid in many cases of decent home living examples of discipline and respect, we need to invest more in our teachers, so that the good ones remain in the system and help shape the future these kids need.

Guardian teaching survey 2016

  • 43% of the state school teachers polled said they were planning to leave the profession in the next five years.
  • 79% of schools say they are struggling to recruit or retain teachers
  • 88% predict things are going to get worse and that this will severely affect students.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward


The good guy with a gun, a Brit's perspective ...

Another week, another mass shooting. Will it ever end?

No, really will it ever end?

I doubt it. In the same way that misguided logic and stoic re-interpretation of religious beliefs provide the impetuous for outrageous terror attacks, a similar misguided, as it appears to me at least, belief drives the quite bewildering notion that less gun control is the answer to these mass shootings - by less I mean, allowing more 'good' people access to firearms, because a good guy with a gun is the only way to beat the bad guy with a gun.

Yeah, in a white hat black hat sort of way I'd agree with this simplistic logic.

But simplistic logic is far removed from the logic of reality - take for instance the misconception that a guy with a gun, even a highly trained one, like a police officer can 'outdraw' a man armed with a knife at a distance of 10 feet.

That's a huge gap, and yet scenario training has shown that that the man armed with the knife can cover the ground quicker than the officer can draw - I could be wrong, but I think the ideal distance to ensure success was established at around 21ft.

Now I know that the Orlando incident was a mass shooting, not a mass stabbing, the point I'm trying to raise is that nothing is ever as simple as it seems and even the highly trained can get it wrong - a guy with a gun is always gonna take out a guy with a knife, isn't he?

I've done a little research and I can't find any incident of a 'good guy' with a gun ever shooting at the bad guy involved in any of these horrendous incidents.

What does that prove?

Absolutely nothing.

It's just an observation which intrigues me.

Has any mass shooting 'survivor' ever admitted that they had a gun, but left it at home - I have no idea, but to my way of thinking wouldn't it mean that everyone would have to be armed for the 'good guy' principle to act itself out?

And therein lies another issue.

Earlier this week I commented on someone's post (a little sarcastically) that the 'good guy with a gun' philosophy seems to be the only option that the NRA (National Rifle Association) appears to support.

Someone replied to my comments directing me to an article. Long story short, the article was in effect: "a good guy with a gun etc and how guns don't kill people, people kill people."

I replied saying that I understood his support of said article, but no matter how many times I saw it written down, how it was written down, how may nice platitudes were used, I would never, ever understand the thinking behind it. Goodbye and have a nice day .....

Ah! but I got a reply to my reply.

Extoling the virtues of good guy gun ownership and how the Japanese never invaded the US 'cos everyone had a gun. he then wished me luck when I got mowed down by either terrorists or my own government ...

I did point out that it was a bad analogy. There was a war on and if I thought my home was on the verge of invasion then yeah, I'd probably want a gun - I ignored the mowing down bit, as it didn't make a lot of sence.

Bear with me we're nearly there ....

So I replied, to his reply, replying to my reply and basically said that, if I did subscribe to 'good guy with a gun,' then I would need regular training to ensure that my amygdala and limbic system didn't go into meltdown and freeze me to the spot.

He wished me a good day and told me that he had better 'resolve' than me and that he was a marine!

FFS! A marine!

Someone who lives and deals with armaments as a way of life, someone who could no doubt strip down your average M16 before I've even, in my unresolved manner, reached out and put the kettle on.

Fair play he's a marine so he's probably laid his life on the line for his comrades and his country - RESPECT!

But come on, the average, peace loving, white collar, two up, two down, two kids citizen, doesn't have the inclination or RESOLVE to own a gun let alone learn how to use it effectively by continual training and appraisement.

This is the major flaw with the 'good guy with a gun' philosophy.

I'm not saying people shouldn't own them, the American psyche is too aligned with the notion of gun ownership and, to be honest, guns have a history in mankind’s development too important to just dismiss.

Surely the way forward has got to be stricter gun control and regular training - of course bigger men than me have debated this issue and, I suspect, bigger men will continue to debate for many years to come while, alas, the killings go on regardless.

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”


Confusion reigns ...

I don't think I'll ever understand the business of setting up and running clubs. When I first started out at Stopsley I had, after a 5,000 leaflet campaign, 3 people turn up for my first junior session.

I took almost 16 months to gert to double figures. We had a club in Harpenden, we tried 3 different venues until we scored and then, again, it took over a year to get to double figures - and that after another leaflet campaign.

We had to relocate this club (I upset someone) and that was a painful process. Anyway, only one of the kids came to the new venue and after losing money for the 4 months on the trot I gave it up as a bad lot and moved out of Harpenden.

Now, on to Lewsey, not a particular affluent area, in fact, demographically speaking, probably not a good area to run a monthly subscribed club. I inherited the club after my instructor passed away and most of the kids stayed, there were a couple of dissenting parents but on the whole it was a smooth transition. I don't advertise either by way of leaflet or posters for this club, it doesn't even have a dedicated website like Harpenden did, but I am now in the odd situation of having to turn people away because I can't accomodate the extra numbers!

I recently launched a club at the once defunct Putteridge Leisure Centre. After several weeks we now have as many new starters as we had at Stopsley after 10 months! Again no leafets, just one poster and several facebook ads - incidentally not one of the new starters was in responce to these ads.

So there you go. Advertise, don't advertise it's almost as though the universe decides to muck in and throw you several tidbits or not, as the case maybe.

.... and don't even get me started on Boxercise!

New year ... new venue

We're currently looking at a venue, other than our own in Taylor St for a Monday night children's class. Top of the list currently is Putteridge - we'll keep you posted.

Security and safety, don't underestimate it....

So, I'm in MAGFA, tidying up, vacuuming, emptying bins and what not. I have our dog Lacie with me, my preferred spelling, the family prefer Lacy. She's having a good old nose around, avoiding the vacuum as dogs do and also giving the stereo, pumping out Rod Stewart a wide berth.

I make myself a coffee and we both retire to my office for a bit. Now I know hearing is supposed to deteriorate with age but even with Rods vocals going full pelt I can hear footsteps.

"Wass-at Lacie?"

She looks at me as if to say, "**** knows, but I'll have one of those biscuits your eating."

I listen intently again. Yep footsteps, definitely.

I step out the office slowly to be met by a gentlemen (I could hazard a very strong guess as to his ethnicity but won't as it's has no relevance) coming out of the ladies changing room.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"I've come from London [some gobbledygook, I don't and neither want to understand] what is this place?"

"I'm asking the ******* questions, never you mind! And if you spent more time reading the signs on the outside of the building rather than opening doors which to the casual observer look locked, you'd bloody know. So kindly leave my building now." My voice wasn't threatening but it was firm and in no mood for forced pleasantries."

At this point Lacie decides to get up and investigate, the guy almost pooed himself.

"Don't like dogs, huh! Well remember that next time you walk into a building uninvited."

I lead him down the stairs and along the passage to the gym door.

"You'll notice there's no lights on - that means we're not open if we were, the lights would be on." Out the gym door down the gloomy hallway to the front door.

"Was that door closed, when you walked in?" I asked, I knew it was. He nodded, "So a building with no lights on, with a door closed so the building doesn't look open and you decide to try the door come in and just walk around."

He apologised.

I can hear what you're saying, I should have locked the front door or at least the gym door. You are correct but the building looks closed with no lights on and the red door pulled shut. I've done it loads of times. So what lessons can I learn from this little event.

Lock the doors? No!

Put up a closed sign? No!

Don't play loud music? No!

Well what then?

Golden retrievers make absolutely rubbish guard dogs!

Discipline the road to what?

I come from a time when teachers would throw chalk and wooden board erasers at you in class. A time where, in PE, if you were deemed to have deliberately not passed to the teacher during a game of football, he would either up-end you with a well placed kick, or cuff you around the head.

I remember being clouted around the head for mis-spelling words, screamed at for not wanting to stand up and read in class and basically bullied and shoved around physically by the teaching staff.

It didn’t harm me, but we have progressed from there. I still believe that the cane could have a place, but only as punishment for misbehaviour and ill discipline.

But clipping a kid around the head for not ‘performing’ something correctly is so wrong on many scales.

So, finding out that some coaches still employ this kind of reprimand during their classes comes as a bit of a shock.


Smacking, punching, kicking a kid when they fail to perform something correctly is acceptable?

I am flabbergasted.

However, what I find really disconcerting is that these kids will not misbehave in those classes thus affording their coach a degree of respect, but thy are quite okay with mucking around in mine and affording me little or none.

Lately I’ve been seriously thinking about chucking all this in. Incidents like this I definatlely pointing me towards the exit door.

“Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Blinkered view and myopic logic

Okay this is a bit of a rant, but mainly based on my inability to understand certain illogical thought processes. Yesterday, Sunday 11th October we hosted a joint Krav and Sombo seminar. This was our second seminar held this year, the first being Rory Miller back in January.

Now, this is not aimed at my students who didn't turn up for the event, because being my students, they will benefit to some small degree from what we learned and saw. That is the nature of the way I teach and also reflects my choice in invited coaches who I deem to be the best in their field or at least very approachable. This is aimed at those individuals who, given the opportunity to attend were not interested.

I am flabbergasted!

There are several reasons why people choose not to attend such events, these are some of them:

1) Too expensive
2) I'm not available
3) I'm not interested 'cos I already do jujitsu [or whatever] and that's good enough for me

Too expensive
2x world class coaches £45 for 4 hours .... that's £11.25 per hour! Seriously too expensive? A pint conservatively costs £3 ... I would suggest that rather than being expensive that represents outstanding value for money!

I'm not available
Fine, not a lot I can say to rebut this one. Weekend time is precious for the average working man/women/parent so I get that, but then these guys also have jobs, families etc. Yes I know they're getting 'paid' for their time while you' aren't. Again, what can I say.

I'm not interested 'cos ...
Of all the reasons for not participating in events like these, this has got to be the most ridiculous. If I thought for one moment that everything I've learned while training in jujitsu prepared me for a bullet proof life of self defence tuition and personal safety I would walk off in to the sunset now never to return.

If you seriously think for one moment that your 'system', 'style,' 'method' etc provided you with all the answers I have to say that Stevie Wonder is better prepared.

That one drill of getting up off the floor we went over yesterday had more merit, than a lifetime of techniques from some systems!

If you're happy training in your martial art and don't want to broaden your knowledge or horizons then so be it, but if you go around calling it 'self defence' without recourse to other avenues of learning then you deserve a giant metaphorical kick up the arse!

Only this week I've discovered yet another 'club' training at a 'state of the art leisure complex run by monkeys',  advertising 'self defence.'

I've checked out the youtube channel, I wish I hadn't.

You know that device that they use in Men in Black  that makes everyone forget I want one now, my eyes are bleeding.

Thanks again to:
Tony Preston
Georgi Georgiev

When is self defence not self defence?

Self defence gone wrong

So when is defending yourself not considered self defence in the eyes of the law? The recent story (featured above) from one of our daily newspapers, perfectly illustrates how a simple process can become complicated by incorrect knowledge.

But, before we examine the article in more detail, let me enforce the complexities of this often misunderstood area by using a more graphic example from the US of another ‘self defence’ incident, where the ‘innocent party’ didn’t get quite what he’d bargained for.

Person ‘A’ came out of his apartment and saw an individual vandalising his car in an attempt to break into it. Vandal ‘B’ runs off with Person ‘A’ in hot pursuit. Person ‘A’ catches up to ‘B’ and under a barrage of aggressive and abusive expletives threatens physical harm to ‘B’ who, armed and in fear of his life - remember this is the US - takes out his gun and shoots ‘A’.

At the subsequent trial, B, even though he had been engaged in a crime before the incident, was judged to have acted in self defence and was found not guilty of bodily harm.

Did someone say gun control?

Now, on to the newspaper article.

The gentleman in question, Mr L, was involved in an incident where another driver pulled out in front of him while he was driving with his family.

We’ve all had that happen and, done it ourselves, if we’re honest. At this point it would appear that neither vehicles, drivers or passengers were harmed, damaged or injured in any way.

Most of us would of indulged in a bit of neanderthal fist waving and expletive hurling (go on admit it) or, having bathed ourselves in all those positive chakra and ‘love thy neighbour’ affirmations’ just ignored the event, smiled sweetly and said in a quite controlled voice: “That bit of road is obviously very important to him, therefore I shall let him wend himself upon his journey, unscathed, with much love and harmony.”

Yep, whatever you’re currently thinking, is probably nearer the truth - anyways to continue…

The point is, that in true, lawful, self defence, (at least in the UK) an individual, even when threatened, must be seen to, or prove their intent not to engage in an immediate physical response - a willingness to retreat if you like.

Even with a preemption strategy, physical action should always be preceded by a response not to engage ‘in fighting,’ or at the very least inferred as such: witness, victim statements etc.

Being cut up in a car, getting out and indulging in the proverbial ‘monkey dance’ with words or physical posturing does not, by any stretch, show a willingness to retreat, quite the opposite - and this applies to both parties.

“We both got out of our cars and I was hit twice, before I retaliated and knocked him down,” says Mr L.

Mr L declares that his subsequent actions and motives were self defence in nature; after all, he only fought back once he’d been attacked.

Once Mr L had decided to get out of his car to confront the other driver, those self defence motives became tarnished. If the other driver had set about damaging Mr L’s car then, it’s reasonable to assume, that Mr L could emerge from his vehicle and engage in some form of physical response to protect his property, the law of self defence allows this, but this was not the case, or at least it does not appear so from the report.

If the other driver felt threatened by Mr L’s physical presence and demeanor and was convinced that he intended him harm then, it could be argued (and I suspect it may be the case, considering the verdict) that he and not Mr L acted in self defence, all be it preemptively, which is legal.

We would also have to consider Mr L’s physical presence compared to the other driver. If he were significantly bigger, stronger looking, indeed if he even looked capable of handling himself compared to the other driver that too may also have worked against him.

That is how the law operates. Whatever happened after that initial ‘physical response’ by the other driver is rendered inconsequential, at least in reference to this incident, assuming that all the facts are contained within the report.

The best course of action for both parties was not to have left their cars and engage in any form of confrontation - I’m not judging either party, we’ve all been there or seen such incidents.

Rather than relying on the inaccuracies of the tabloid press and I’m not suggesting Mr L has done so, but his logic appears badly flawed, anyone truly interested in the legalities governing self defence, reasonable force and preemption should look at: Criminal Law Act 1967 (section 3) Criminal Law & Immigration Act 2008 (section 76)

Some would say that morally Mr L is innocent - possibly, but the law doesn’t deal in morals only facts. Facts couched in words, phrases and examples refined by decades of legal expertise.

You are allowed to protect yourself, loved ones, property and come to the aid of another. Just make sure, without any reasonable doubt, that you have demanded a ‘request’ for the other party to desist in whatever it is they are doing or that you have offered a verbal appeasement as an option for de-escalation or avoidance - then hit them!

Hard and fast!

Stay safe, stay free and above all try and treat everyone with the respect that you, and not necessarily they deserve.