Reasonable, Gross and the Great Lie..

Many people believe, that if they study martial arts then they will be able to protect themselves and their loved ones.

That is simply not true, self-defence is something completely different.

This is further complicated by the common belief amongst instructors that if you teach martial arts you are automatically qualified to teach self-defence.

These are two of the greatest misconceptions of our time and should be added to the other great lie, the check’s in the post.

In the past, most martial arts were combat arts but today, the majority are taught as sport by instructors who are professional coaches and athletes.

There are 3 key aspects to self-defence:

– Technique
– Law
– Conflict Management

It could be argued that martial arts is predominately about students learning combat and fighting technique, therefore they will gain knowledge of self-defence.

On deeper inspection most of the techniques are not fit for purpose.

The majority of techniques taught, rely on many hours of repetition, as they require the development of fine motor skills and balance.

Self-defence should be quickly learned and easily replicated.

Anyone, regardless of size, physical fitness, gender or age should be able to use the techniques in real life situations.

We should consider the effect of fear and combat stress on our physiology and have an understanding of how this will affect an average person.

With this in mind, self-defence techniques should be designed around the use of gross motor skills and based on the scientific principles of Hicks and Guthrie.

Most martial arts instructors have know idea about combat stress as they are sportsmen and women.

They have little or no experience of real conflict as their combat has rules.

They train for bouts lasting 3 mins, with safety considerations in place and medical teams ready to act.

Self-defence has no such niceties.

Physical encounters last between 12-30 secs, just check out YouTube.

An average person has the physical resources for at most 3-6 seconds of response.

That is why I mentioned real life scenarios.

Instructors should discuss modern risks.

These should be based on real events and situations outlined by local and national crime statistics.

Do you know the 10 most commonly used physical attacks?

No, then how can you design techniques to defend against them?

Being able to defend yourself with a long pole against a sword wielding horseman might have have been useful in the middle ages, but it isn’t likely to help on a saturday night out or be of use to a child being bullied at school.

So keep it real..

Moving on, lets look at the law.

In today’s world, if you defend yourself you will need an understanding of the law.

By this, I mean the real laws and not urban myths.

The urban myth I like most, is the one where I have to warn someone three times that i am a trained martial artist before I can defend myself.

That’s nearly as bad as only being able to fight in bare feet or the “no touch” policy advocated by schools.

If you teach self-defence you should have a thorough understanding of the law.

You should be able to define the aspects of reasonable force and list the laws which govern the use of force.

You should also, as part of what is reasonable, cover de-escalation and conflict management.

This is a topic seldom covered in martial arts.

Disengagement is a great life skill, having the ability to remove yourself from situations of danger, before the need for technique, reduces the chance of injury.

Remember as an instructor, you are deemed to be offering professional advice.

You could be held liable for the actions of your students and will need to defend what you taught in court.

Criminal cases aside, you are betting your house on your knowledge, civil suits are expensive.

For free advice on any aspect of self-defence drop an email to


A Dying Breed..

People’s attitude to training has changed.

Please don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an anger filled rant or a needy expression of emotions.

It is just the voicing of quiet disappointment.

So, how have things changed?

With instant gratification available now, people’s attitudes to the arts have changed.

You can have anything now, or at the latest, tomorrow with next day delivery.

You no longer need to earn stuff.

Sure you need money but with the welfare state you can even get that for free.

You can have anything you want, as you are entitled.

It is your right as a citizen to have everything you want, when you want and anyone saying different is denying you your human rights.

Therefore, nothing has value.

Training in martial arts used to mean something.

It meant you understood the reality of life, the need to protect yourself and your family.

The need to harden yourself for battle.

You realised your training needed to be hard to prepare you for what was to come.

Sweat shed in training was blood spared in war..

That changed in modem times, it became a need for self-improvement.

To become something more.

Students still trained hard, understanding the hardship would transform then into better people.

You learned the discipline and hard work changed your life.

Principles that stood you in good stead for the outside world. Having a solid work ethic will improve your circumstances.

With the change in society, the need for self-protection has been replaced by protection by state.

Unfortunately, society believes violence no longer exists. This is a believe I do not hold, but that I will cover at  another time.

This paradigm shift has changed our arts into nothing more than a social acceptable form of fitness.

No talk of violence, no talk of law, no discussion of the need for vigilance.

Instead classes revolve around fitness, calories burnt and excessive water breaks, which allow you to take “selfies”, tag social media while checking your phone for notifications.

People no longer value the lessons the arts teach

No more do we need discipline or work ethics, everyone is a winner for participating.

Students want a holistic learning experience.

Classes need to include:

– Light physical training
– Emotional counselling
– Life coaching

We are no longer instructors but fitness and nutrition providers, customer service practitioners and marketing specialists.

In a week we deal with more issues than an internet help desk.


Students no longer respect their instructor or classmates, they turn up late or just skip lessons completely.

Not fully realising how this impacts learning, they complain when their skills do not improve.

Knowledge doesn’t accept apologies or excuses, that is if you actually offer them.

You were late because of other commitments, but still want your full lesson.

You had an appointed class time and we have other commitments too.

You didn’t come to class because you were too busy.

And yet you expect us to be available when you drop in unannounced because you need someone to talk to.

Only martial art instructors offer 24 hr advice and counselling service, for the payment of a 2 hr class..

As I said at the beginning, this isn’t a rant.

I’m not suggesting you don’t pop in for coffee when passing.

If you need advice, ask, we’d never ignore our students.

We will continue to provide the help and support you need.

Just pay your class fees

Parents haggle over discounts, as if your knowledge is a cheap rug being sold in a Persian market.

You are learning something that will save your life.

Whether that is by reducing the chances of a heart attack or illness through improved fitness or by giving you techniques to survive a violent attack.

Our knowledge is valuable, our teachings have worth.

Late and unpaid fees.

“I can’t pay this week because of your bills..”

That’s ok, just train and we’ll sort it out later. We would rather you continued learning but guess what,?

We have bills too,this is our job.

Most people don’t appreciate the time, effort and sacrifice needed to become a competent instructor.

It isn’t 2 hours, twice a week with a couple of weekends thrown in a year.

Unlike most professions, which needs 3-5 years of higher learning or apprenticeship, it takes decades of dedicated training, both inside and outside of the dojo, to become a good instructor.

The commitment and costs are high.

It has cost thousands of pounds in fees, equipment, travel and accommodation.

None of which was assisted by student loans, grants or apprentice wages. We had to work at another job to fund our learning.

And then there are the lost relationships.

Arguments with loved over time.

Missed family events, parties and funerals.

Missed social events, nights out with friends and date nights.

Missed holidays, saving days off for seminars and gradings.

All sacrificed in search of our knowledge.

And yet we don’t charge you the earth for our services.

We are a dying breed, train with us before we’re gone..


How Big is Yours? Hosting martial arts events.

I have been asked to post a blog on hosting martial arts events.

It would probably be helpful if I tell you a little bit about my background..

You mightv not know this, but I have been involved in the entertainment industry, on and off, for 30 years.

Tired of working for others, I started a company specialising in event entertainment and management in  April 2000.

I have the personal experience of planning and coordinating thousands of events.

Events ranging from intimate Highland weddings at local castles and estates for millionaires and foreign dignitaries to fashion shows for an internationally renowned clothing retailer,

And as the head of the SBA I have hosted many martial events.

We have had individual guest instructos from across the globe and larger events with multiple mats operating with 11 instructors from varying styles.

Now You have an idea of my background, it should give more weight to my insight.

As with most things in life you have to consider size, cos size matters.

Let’s start with small, in-house events.

These are usually with a guest instructor or to cover a specialist topic.

You are only looking to involve your own students, which means you can use your class venue or dojo.

Planning can be ad-hoc and could be done by one person.

Marketing is easy and should include class announcements or texting and will need a months notice.

Timing is important, make sure it doesn’t clash with other events or holidays.

Running a Kata day on a Sunday might sound like a good idea, but if it clashes with “Mothers Day” it’s going to be a quiet class.

Schedule towards the end of the month to take into account when people get paid.

Medium sized events will require a little more planning and resources.

As they are bigger there needs to be communication.

You will have to source a larger venue, meaning you have to consider your budget. This could mean an increased costs to students attending.

Suitable venues often have peak times which you need to consider, for example most hotels are busy during the wedding or festive season.

This means space is of a premium and hire rates can go through the roof.

Inviting other instructors, clubs or association’s will increase numbers and therefore revenue.

But with increased numbers comes scheduling issues as there are only 12 “Pay” weekends a year and everyone is working on the same calendar which affects instructor availability.

From a planning point of view you need to look 3-6 months and have a small team to work on the coordination.

Big ticket events..

These bring you the largest revenue

There will be more opportunities to upsell with branded event products and merchandising.

But big ticket events needs organisation and longer planning.

There needs to be a competent team of organisers. experienced in hosting and marketing large events.

Planning should be minimum of a year, allowing people to save and book travel and accommodation.

As the host, you will needs access to big name instructors.

You are looking for headliners, people capable of drawing a crowd.

Scheduling for larger events will be difficult but you’ll need confirmation of participating instructors before you can even think about advertising.

No one will register for an event without knowing who is teaching.

Now, let’s consider the logistics:

Firstly location.

Location location location..

Yes, it is really that important.

Is your town suitable to host a large event?

I’m sure it’s a lovely place to live, with loads of local sites that people could visit but if you are looking for large numbers of people to attend, then it needs to be accessible.

In reality it has to be in a location with a hub airport and great transport links.

If your town/city is known for hosting conventions, then you should be good to go.

You need a larger training venue,

Depending on the number of guest instructors you may need to think about a venue big enough for 200+ people per day.

During the day, attendees will need to be fed and watered.

Does the venue supply catering or will you need to out source.

The venue has to have attached or nearby accommodation preferably with a variety restaurants.

If the location is family friendly you’ll get a larger audience. People are more likely to make it into a vacation.

Lastly to host any kind of event, you’ll need deep pockets.

You need strict budget control as revenue won’t flow until registrations occur and that will be after everything has been booked and payed for.

Obviously I can’t cover everything in a single blog post, but If you would like further advice on event hosting, please get in touch..

Speak to you soon..


How flexible is your training?

Having just finished my 3 month trip Stateside, I finally have time to write again.

I received an email while I was away, which is the foundation of this post.

Long story short, the person had attended a seminar where, as part of a discussion on kicking, I had talked about improving balance.

I showed how balance could be improved through the use of partner stretching.

They emailed asking how they could train without a partner and what equipment they should buy to achieve similar results.

I love how training practices have changed over the years, it has been improved by the use of technology and the application of sport science.

There are machines designed to work every muscle in the body.

Just go online, you’ll find loads of sites all offering different answers to your flexibility problems.

Quick and easy solutions with their equipment and 4 monthly payments.

I could probably make a fortune endorsing them but they are expensive and usually end up occupying valuable closet or garage space.

So what should you do if you want to train on your own?

I would recommend that you add Yoga to your daily routine.

Not only does Yoga improve your balance, it will greatly improve your flexibility.

Because Yoga works with your own body weight, it reduces the chances of injury while increasing muscle endurance and core strength.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it looks.

You’ll probably find it highlights gaps in your current training regime, usually things you hadn’t even considered.

The combination of movement and breathing, increases blood flow throughout the body.

This allows you to continue training around injuries which in turn promotes recovery.

I can’t stress this enough, using Yoga as part of your daily training, will make you a better martial artist.

You could also use Yoga to improve your social life by getting friends and family to join you in a non-martial activity.

Yoga can help with weight loss and mobility issues.

Finally, practising Yoga is a great way to battle stress and re-focus the mind.

If you would like advice on how you can add Yoga to your training, drop an email to


Practice and Sacrifice..

As an instructor I have been lucky enough to teach at events across the UK, Europe and the U.S..

One of the key questions that I’m asked is:

“How do I get better at..  ”

Ok, the end of the sentence might vary but the basis of the question is always the same.

I reply with one word:


Whether you are a student who is struggling with a grading or a competitor working towards their next tournament, the answer is the same


It’s not rocket science, if you want to play guitar, then you need to play guitar.

If you want to improve your kicks then practice kicking

If it’s martial arts in general then get to class and TRAIN.

There is no quick fix, martial skill requires repetition.


I have been training over 30 years, it has cost me a small fortune and probably a couple of relationships, to get where I am.

I have missed important events, birthdays, weddings and funerals.

And I’m sure I’ll miss even more in the future.

It has been said I’ll be late for my own funeral cos I’m too busy teaching or talking about class.

But it’s who I am and those close to me get it, they might not understand but they get it.

After all, it’s the choices I have made that makes me who I am.

There is not a month of the year I am not traveling to seminars, competitions or teaching.

I make no apologies or ask forgiveness.

Martial arts is my life..

But I also understand the other side of the coin.

Not everyone shares my feelings or level of commitment. But if you aren’t prepared to put the work in, don’t expect success.


It is harder to train every night, than please partners by staying home.

It’s harder to maintain fitness and cut weight for competition than go out socialising.

It’s easier to watch your team playing football than make classes.

But when all is said and done, it’s your choice and you’ll do what you do.

So back to the question that was posed at the beginning..

If you want to improve then you need to TRAIN.

No excuses, no stories, no bitching and start making class. There are no short cuts or secret techniques.

Only TRAINING and PRACTICE will deliver the results you want.

I love a beer with friends but no beer has ever given me the buzz I get from success.

One last thing before I go..

Someone I respect deeply for their commitment to their own training, told me that the Gracie’s had a saying above their door:

“SACRIFICE – Giving up something good in the pursuit of something better”

See you at class..


Why I’ve been quiet..

It was pointed out to me, in a concerned email, that it’s been a “wee” while since I’ve posted.

So I thought I better tell you all what I’ve been up too.

There have been some major changes in the way we do business.

We have invested in two new online learning platforms.

The SBA platform is for martial artists.

It has been set up as a study resource for members of the association, both in the UK and internationally.

At present it’s still in its infancy but eventually it will hold our entire syllabus in video lesson format, available to stream on any smartphone or mobile device.

We asked students what else they would like to see and  have added sections on general fitness, diet and nutrition.

In the fitness section, we have instructional videos, including yoga, weight training and kettle bells, to help students increase their fitness away from class.

We have a wide selection of diet plans to suit a variety of goals, these are available for members to download for personal use.

Over the next few months, we will be adding an “Instructors Only” section.

In this section there will be access to courses and resources on teaching, marketing and additional revenue schemes.

All the things that instructor’s need to open and successfully run a full time business.

The site also contains footage of seminars hosted with instructors, going back nearly 20 years.

The second platform we’ve put in place is specifically for the training business, GSG Training

The site has over 20 compliance and business courses run through a state of the art learning management system (LMS)

All courses can be studied and completed online, at the learners pace, allowing them to plan their studies to fit even the most demanding of schedules.

Covering subjects from conflict management to GDPR, our courses cover the mandatory training, employers are required to provide.

Both platforms are fantastic resources for our learners and will only get better with time.

If you are interested in a free demo of either platform, please email me at

Speak to you soon..


Taking things to the 10th degree..

There is a lot of confusion in the martial arts over grades and rank.

In a previous blog, I looked at rainbow or Kyu grades.

In this blog I’m going to look at Dan grades.

In my opinion, there are 3 main issues which should be discussed:

– Standards
– Time in grade
– 10th Dans

Now I don’t mean to cause offence, as I said, I’m voicing my own personal opinion and sharing the solutions I have found.

I’m not pontificating and looking for everyone to adopt our working practices.

I just want you to consider possibilities.

Every art is different, as are associations, what we have in place with the SBA is functional for us but it is very much a “work in progress”

I just want you to consider the problems and find a solution that fits for you.

The first problem, as I see it, stems from the variety of styles, associations, syllabi and assessment criteria being used in the world today.

For argument sake we will dispense with style or art and concentrate only on structure.

If the world was a simple place there would be 2 types of belt.

The rainbow or colour belts, these would denote a junior or student grade who has not passed the coveted black belt.

And black belts, only worn by those that have.

Everyone would understand the difference and would know what had been studied by the belt being worn.

Unfortunately, the world is not a simple place.

So in the real world we have major discrepancies in grading criteria.

Junior black belt vs Seniors is always a bone of contention.

Should a child be awarded a black belt?

And if one is issued how does that child rate against an adult?

Leaving age aside, for the moment.

What one person does for a grade may not be the same as another, even though they train in the same style and same association.

Add to confusion, by allowing students to change grade by changing associations and we have a major mess.

The SBA looks at the arts in a different way than most, replicating itself on formal academia.

We start with the age issue by teaching kids in a slightly different technique order than adults. This is to protect them during their physical development.

We also adjust grading times so students are minimum of 15 years of age before starting the shodan syllabus.

We have 12 coloured belts, or 15 grades for kids, traditionally called Kyu grades.

Technically, it takes a minimum of 4 years 6 months for an adult, training 2 sessions of 2 hours a week, to accrue the knowledge you need for black belt.

Unfortunately, life gets in the way.

We have never had anyone pass black belt with under 6 years of training.

1st to 2nd Dan is minimum of a year (though it usually takes 2 years).

2nd to 3rd Dan is minimum 2 years.

3rd to 4th is minimum 3 years.

4th to 5th is minimum 4 years.

All these are combat grades and require physical assessments.

6th Dan and above are awarded on services to the association, with a minimum of 5 years between grades.

As I said earlier, we favour an academic based structure for our association, your belt is only recognition of your personal study.

The black belt is but an extension of your study to show your progression to higher learning but does not confir on you the abilities to teach.

Becoming an instructor, coach or teacher of any subject requires separate study.

Learning on pedagogical approaches, lesson plans and structure is just as important as strong subject knowledge.

The Martial arts should be the same.

With that in mind, the SBA requires all instructors to have a formally accredited and nationally recognised level 3 or above teaching qualification.

This gives our instructors a level of professionalism above what is usually expected for a martial art.

Each grade has a minimum standard that is formally laid out in the assessment criteria.

Only instructors with formally accredited and nationally recognised assessment qualifications can be used on our grading panels.

Thus providing every student with an unbiased bench mark of their current abilities against the recorded standard.

There is, at present, a disregard for high grades. People claiming that others haven’t earned them.

I believe that if more martial arts favoured this structure a lot of the in fighting could be resolved.

People would respect their grades and those of their peers, reducing the need for politics.

Moving on to our second problem, time in grade.

Above, I have outlined the SBA’s syllabus times.

Although we favour an academic structure, we still use the traditional time in grade as part of our criteria but as I’m about to suggest, this maybe something that we may need to reviewed in the future.

If we consider the arts as a purist form of learning, which is a point I doubt many people will argue with, then we should possibly reconsider the “times in grade” and look towards “Guided Learning Hours”

Students have different natural skills and start learning from their own unique level but let’s put that aside for the moment.

Let’s take 2 students, identical in every way.

If student A trains once a week for 2 hours, then in a 13 weeks / 3 month period you will have accrued 26 hours of practice and be eligible to grade.

No one would argue that.

If you consider it takes 6 years to earn a black belt, you have trained twice a week and completed 1248 hours of training.

Now look at Student B, who trains full time, studying 40 hrs a week.

To match the same time in grade criteria would be approximately 32 weeks.

Just let that sink in.

Not much more than than 6 months to black belt, how many would scream McDojo or rant about martial traditions.

If we hold the student back, respecting the traditional 3 months between grades, then how many would claim it’s all about the money.

Students want to progress quickly, many will pay to take private lessons or attend more than the 2 classes a week we have used in our example.

Training in smaller classes or “one to one” with the instructor, will reduce learning times.

If they fulfil the criteria should they not grade early?

Now this example was for two identical students.

If we drop student ability back into the mix, the chances are we are really restricting the student’s growth.

We have all heard about gifted children.

Let’s for example consider Michael Kearney.

He enrolled at the Santa Rosa Junior College, completing an Associate’s in geology at age 8 went on to finish his Bachelor’s degree by age 10, making him the world’s youngest university graduate.

Should he have been kept back?

He passed the assessments and fulfilled the criteria of the degree.

Has there been an outcry from the academic community?

No, it is only in martial arts that traditions need to be maintained.

Students have to be a certain age with many years training to hold a “legitimate” grade.

Which leads us on to our final problem, the elusive 10th Dan grade.

For traditionalists the 10th Dan is the pinnacle of martial arts achievement.

They should flow through the room, killing everyone in their way.

Pausing, only briefly, to survey the damage in their wake.

Other notable qualities should include, walking on water, being older than the mountains and able to speak only in riddles.

Ok, none of that is true.

But we do expect 10th Dan’s to be old and wise, right?

Do you really need to be old to be a great martial artist?

I don’t think so.

Bruce Lee, arguably the greatest influence the martial arts world has ever seen died when he was

Elvis, the King, died at 42.

Let’s not forget James Dean, who only made it to 24.

All proof that greatness cannot be defined by age.

Then surely we must consider the number of years training.

People will argue 30, 40 or even 50 years to become a master.

With that kind of timescale to become a “master”, how long would you need before it would be acceptable to form your own style?

Judo was established in 1882 by Jigorō Kanō.

He was born in 1860, making him only 22 when he formed his own style.

Granted he wasn’t a 10th Dan at that point but surely this nulls both the age and time in training criteria?

So where are the criteria we should use to award a 10th Dan?

Who has the grade to award it?

Every style and association will have their own thoughts, which due to human nature and politics, will be ignored by all the others.

I would suggest that we could again look to academia for a solution.

Maybe the 10th Dan should be awarded as an honorary degree.

An honorary degree, in Latin honoris causa or “for the sake of the honor” is an academic degree for which a university has waived its usual requirements and may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with that university.

It is often conferred as a way of honouring a distinguished visitor’s contributions to a specific field or to society in general.

I feel this would bring styles and associations together, people could be promoted for their dedication, influence and success, not only in their own style but by others.

Honorary degrees are often given to famous people, actors and politicians, there is no criticism or ridicule.

It is accepted practice.

Sean Connery received one from Edinburgh University.

But that couldn’t happen in martial arts or combat sports right?

Or could it?

The boxing hall of fame, inducted Sylvester Stallone, a man who never boxed, at the same time as Mike Tyson.

No one thought it was wrong.

There were no demands for Stallone to prove himself by getting in the ring.

Only in the martial arts, where respect is supposedly taught from day one, do we have keyboard warriors trashing reputation of people they have never even met.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read such a long post.

As I said at the beginning, these are just my thoughts. They hold no more weight than anyone else’s.

But hopefully I have given you something to think about.

Stay safe, Til we speak again..