10 Questions with Dan Holloway (themartialview.com, Eiryukan Aikido and Function First)

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and your martial arts journey – how did it start?

I first started martial arts when I was 6 years old with Karate in the local church hall. I think I started as my parents wanted me to improve confidence and gain fitness, flexibility etc. I did Karate for a couple of years but then to be honest got a bit bored with it. I wanted to continue martial arts and so found an advertisement for Aikido at a local RAF base. That’s when I started and continue to teach and practice Aikido today. I’ve also done various other arts for varying degrees of time. I did MMA at Hull University for a few years under Louis Chapman as well as Jiu-Jitsu and Boxing. When I left university I spent some time in Australia training Aikido full time with Sensei Joe Thambu who is internationally recognised for his Aikido and self-defence skills. I then joined Matt Frost at Function First Lincoln and started to learn KFM, and now his new Renegade Street Tactics programme that he has just introduced after a few years of development. I feel really fortunate to have found martial arts so early and to have trained under such great people like Joe Thambu, Matt Frost, Robert Mustard and Justo Dieguez.

 

2) In our conversations we’ve mentioned the role of ‘traditional’ martial arts today as an area of particular interest. What role do they have for you personally, and for society in general today in your opinion?

I’ve actually written an article on this for my blog www.themartialview.com. It’s a complicated subject with lots of different elements to it.

You can firstly look at combat effectiveness and that’s what the early UFCs wanted to look at. Which art was the best when it came to a no holds barred kind of fight? Having trained primarily in Aikido for a number of years a constant criticism I hear for this art is that the techniques are unrealistic and reliant on the compliance of your partner. It’s true that when we first learn Aikido we work together to get the technique down, but what people sometimes don’t grasp is that the techniques are sometimes irrelevant and merely a way to understand the main principles of that art. All martial arts regardless of style work on the principles of unbalancing your opponent while keeping your own balance, neutralising the attack, and then employing power through the hips and lower body. Therefore I think all martial arts have their own element of combat effectiveness and teach the same principles, even if there is a slightly different slant. It’s dependent on the individual learning the art to keep realistic examples in mind, as well as the instructor to show how the art can be used for self-protection.

Self-protection or combat effectiveness is just one element to the martial arts though and I think that the development, fitness, self-discipline and respect that you learn are more important. Especially for children. As I’ve already said, I think the martial arts have shaped who I am today enormously and hope to continue training for the rest of my life. If martial arts were compulsory in schools and taught from an early age I think that society and people would have a lot more respect and discipline towards each other than it does at the moment! That’s just my opinion but I think the martial arts can offer an enormous amount of benefit to society today both in terms of practical self-protection, but more importantly, just improving you as a human being. The full article can be found here: http://www.themartialview.com/the-role-of-traditional-martial-arts-today/

 

3) How does self-protection fit into what you do?

Self-protection is just one element of Aikido as I’ve already discussed and it’s one that I personally like to focus on as it’s something that I enjoy and want to learn as much as I can about. Aikido is traditionally seen as a soft martial art but I again think that depends on the style and instructor teaching. I like to add realistic elements into my training and teaching, and think it’s an important aspect to Aikido that is sometimes overlooked. It’s known as the art of peace and that’s fantastic with the way it can improve people’s lives and a really important element, but I always remember that it is a martial art and needs to be treated as such. Some Aikido out there looks fake and put on to me and this just damages the reputation of those who want to learn effective Aikido; lowering the reputation of martial arts in general. Recently I’ve had the opportunity to train at Function First Lincoln, which (as is in the name) puts the function first. The head coach, Matt Frost, has led an incredible life and gained some real insight into real world violence and self-protection and so in terms of effective self-protection I don’t think you can get a whole lot better than him. You can read all about him and his experiences again in my 3-part interview on my blog.

 

4) What motivates you in your training? How do you get yourself going when you’re not in the mood or you have other things to do?

To be honest with you, I’m normally in the mood to train as it’s just something I’ve done for so long it comes naturally to me. When I was training in Australia I was training 6 days a week, for sometimes 7-8 hours a day in 40 degree heat. That was tough and there were a lot of times when I didn’t want to train. When that happened I remembered I was here to learn from the best and needed to make the most of my time there and so tried to improve one thing per lesson, no matter how big or small. That kept me focussed and gave me a realistic goal I could achieve after every lesson.

 

5) What would you say is the most important skill or attribute for a teacher?

I think patience and being able to communicate effectively are two majorly important aspects. You need to be patient and understand that people have different learning styles, or learn at different paces and the content needs to be fun and personal enough to ring true with people. I think the use of humour is really important as well as it can just make people feel at ease and be more receptive to the knowledge you are trying to pass along. Safe International recently wrote a great article about the use of humour in their self-protection courses which can be found here: http://safeinternational.biz/blog/2014/03/12/humour-is-the-missing-link-in-most-self-defense-courses-2/

 

6) What would you say is the most important aspect of your training, skill you develop or attribute you cultivate in your training and teaching?

In terms of learning from Matt at Function First Lincoln I’m still just a beginner and so am taking in everything I can to do with Renegade Street Tactics and thinking how it applies to what I’ve already studied before as for me there is quite a lot of crossover. In terms of my Aikido I’m trying to increase the speed and fluidity of my techniques so they become more effective and rapid.

 

7) What do you like to do aside from training and teaching? What interests you?

Music and martial arts are big parts of my life. I’ve played the guitar and piano for a number of years and think it takes that same discipline to learn an instrument as a martial art. The hours you have to spend trying to nail the chord progression or riff to a song is the same hours you spend trying to nail the technique and so to me again there’s a great crossover with both!

 

8) What advice do you have for students out there reading this?

Enjoy your training! If you’re really into it you will be for the long run as in my experience, once someone gets the bug for martial arts, they have it for a very long time. Everyone has days where they feel like they don’t want to train but I’d encourage people to go anyway and once they’re there they’ll enjoy themselves. I’d also encourage people to learn from everyone and train in everything they can. Traditional guys can learn stuff from other styles and real self-defence such as Keysi by Justo, Defence Lab or Renegade Street Tactics and vice versa! Learn from everyone, train with everyone and try everything! Then, like Bruce Lee said, take what’s useful and discard what isn’t!

 

9) What advice do you have for instructors out there reading this?

I’m not really sure I can give advice as I’m sure there are a million instructors out there better than I am with more experience. I would say don’t let your own training suffer too much as a result of teaching. Your own development may take a bit of a hit when you first start instructing as your focus then turns to the students rather than 100% you, but you always need to make the time for you personally to develop and progress, working on more advanced things or recovering the basic elements of whatever art you do.

 

10) What is your ultimate goal with training and teaching? Where do you want it to lead?

The dream would be eventually to set up my own academy which teaches both traditional martial arts as well as pure self defence and fitness. That’s a long way in the future however and so for the time being I’m learning all I can, training with everyone I can and just trying to get as much experience in the martial arts as possible!

 

You can get in touch with Dan at http://themartialview.com/, join the Martial View Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/614340578652460/ or find him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/themartialview.

Review: Smak Sak

IMAG1693Review: Smak Sak:
by Josh Nixon, ESP

It’s not often that a new product comes out in the self-protection and martial arts industry that is genuinely innovative. While most products I’ve seen have been marketed as ‘innovative’ and as essential for training to be taken to some next level or other as imagined (conveniently) by the designer, almost without fail they have been near-pointless gimmicks that detract from training more than they add. I’ve always been of the opinion that, in general, simplicity is the key to good training. Good pads, a training knife and a stick will pretty much set you up for most of your training to my mind.

That said, every now and again somebody has an idea that genuinely is a good and innovative one. These are generally simple both in concept and execution. The Smak Sak is a good example of this.

The premise is simple:

‘In repetitious training, students can get lethargic with technique, even to the point of injury. Also, beginners throw punches inefficiently and ineffectively. A revolutionary new solution to these problems is the Smak Sak: a simple training tool that will help you clean up your punches and train at full speed without the risk of injury.’

‘Beginners often throw punches poorly. The Smak Sak forces the thrower to perform a proper straight punch.’

Here’s a short video introducing the Smak Sak and showing its usage:

‘The Smak Sak’, uploaded to YouTube by knightsun84010 on 01.05.2013.

 

Following my email discourse with Fraser Anderson of Krav Maga Scotland, he sent out two for me to test and review. The day after they arrived in the post, I took them along to a local martial arts class I teach at to test them out. The results were good! As I said, a good idea for a training tool is generally simple and these fit that parameter (it’s essentially a nice bean-bag on a cord with a wrist loop), but with a pleasing build quality that makes them truly worth considering for your training. They also look nice, which is a bonus!

IMAG1697What I found when using them was that they allowed beginners to throw faster, more direct punches by making it safe to do so. In addition, they were enjoyable and engaging to use for something that can at times be fairly repetitive. All in all, it was a most welcome change that everyone present at the class enjoyed! It helped some to ensure their ‘strike’ was biomechanically sound, with the shoulder, elbow and wrist aligned. As with all training tools, it isn’t absolutely perfect and you shouldn’t become dependent on it for your training but it is definitely an inexpensive and enjoyable way to mix things up a little, and the novelty of doing the same thing in a different way went down very well with beginners and children when we tried it out. I enjoyed using them myself with my brother, and the instructor of the class enjoyed using them too.

All the information can be found at http://www.smaksak.co.uk/ and you can email Fraser at enquiries@smaksak.co.uk.

PHDefence (17.12.2011) Feedback and Change Announcement

imageOk, after today’s stuff, I have some notes for everyone, but especially for G.C!

Condition White: Switched off. Asleep. Victim.
Condition Yellow: Switched on. Threat awareness. Looking around.
Condition Orange: Threat evaluation – passively avoiding a potential threat (e.g. crossing the street or turning back).
Condition Red: Threat avoidance / threat neutralisation. Acting – either running off or smashing someone. Or using verbal skills. Direct action to an imminent threat.

G.C. – if you can remember those then you can keep your super-dee-duper Christmas present!

It was awesome to have Charlie and Chris back again, so welcome back to them!

Now for an announcement.

PHDefence is moving its training time!

Sessions will, from the 6th of January 2012, be taking place on Friday nights, from 19:00-21:00. The price will remain unchanged, and it’s still in the same place. Full details, as always, are on our classes page.

There is a chance that, if there is enough interest, then PHDefence will be doubling their weekly training time, providing a weekly session on Fridays at 19:00-21:00, and another on Saturdays at 10:00-12:00. This is entirely down to how many students they can get though, so either send me an email, call me, Facebook me, Tweet me, whatever you want to do – let me know. If there’s a definite three or four people interested, then Paul’s willing to keep the Saturday one open and you can all have two classes a week. It depends entirely on how many students he can get.

Don’t forget to spread the word! They need more students to make any of this possible!

PHDefence is closed for Christmas and the New Year, and will resume on Friday, the 6th of January, 2012, at 19:00-21:00. That will be the new time, and hopefully they’ll be able to keep the Saturday as well. If you don’t get in touch though, it’s not going to happen.

Merry Christmas from PHDefence and me, and we hope you have an awesome New Year too.

All the best,
FCIns. Josh Nixon

Image courtesy of http://www.clipartheaven.com/clipart/holidays/christmas/santa_&_reindeer/santa_-_martial_arts.gif

PHDefence (19.11.2011) Feedback (and a general update on everything…)

Hi all,image

It’s been a while! PHDefence has still been going strong, but I’ve just not been posting. Busy, busy, busy. PHDefence was awesome this morning despite the low numbers again. Paul took them through some epic drills – really fun and unique too – I couldn’t help joining in; it was really enjoyable! I took a section on ground mobility with some rather awesome Systema-inspired drills, and then took the higher grades through some more advanced knee striking including how to get effective knee strikes off on the ground, and then we finished off, as always, with a short session of Russian combat massage which everyone seems to enjoy a lot!

I don’t blame you, it’s amazing. Also, PHDefence is the only place I’ve ever been to where I’ve seen it. Most martial arts places I’ve been to have been far too set in their ways for something like this, which is not a criticism; merely an observation. It is a reason why I think PHDefence is awesome though.

They need more students, however. Very badly. In fact, if they don’t get a more reliable flow of students in soon, they will have to look at different venues and times, and all sorts, which could end up seriously inconveniencing a couple of their students. If you’re in the Stoke-on-Trent area, please get in touch if you’re at all interested! I want to help them as much as I can because it’s a real shame to see such a brilliant club go through hard times. Always-up-to-date details are on the classes page.

On a lighter note, I have many plans. As soon as my ridiculous workload from university lessens a little, I have a few articles lined up for your enjoyment. The forum’s still going strong in terms of awesome material, but does need more members, so get yourself on there if you haven’t already! Also, once I clear a space in my schedule, I intend to start filming some videos for the CSPS YouTube channel so if you haven’t already, subscribe and you’ll get the uploads in your inbox the moment it happens! I’ve got some really useful material lined up, so keep yourself in the loop!

Exciting times!

Until next time,
FCIns. Josh Nixon

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0f/Knee_strike.jpg

How to Increase Your Child’s Ability to Cope with Bullying

Scenes like these should not be familiar.

Hi all,

I recently found this article thanks to a post from @Beatbullying on Twitter, and thought I would share it with everyone, as it is essential knowledge.

One of the major issues with bullying is, aside of course from the bullying itself, the fact that many parents can find it difficult to tell if their child is being bullied in the first place, as it is perhaps not discussed enough.

On the article, found at http://ronald-williams-garcia.suite101.com/increasing-your-childs-ability-to-cope-with-school-bullying-a392456, there is much advice on what kinds of symptoms to look out for if you suspect your child may be a victim at school or anywhere else for that matter. Rising above it all in my opinion is the following piece of advice for parents:

In addition to being observers, parents must develop good communication with their children. There should be daily time set aside to discuss the child’s experience in school or school related activities. These should be free talks more from a peer to peer dynamic. Parents should not present themselves as investigators but rather interested listeners to their children. When children discuss their feelings or concerns this is not a time to demean or criticize. It is a time to be empathetic and reflective on what the child is expressing. All of this requires, of course, that the parent learn to be ACTIVE LISTENERS!!!

This is not just advisable for parents to listen to however – the same applies for siblings, grandparents and friends – if you have a friend who shows signs of bullying, don’t feel awkward in asking if they’re ok! The only way bullying can be effectively combated is if people work together, and this has to happen across the world in every scale. Talk to the new kid; invite them to eat with you. Make an effort to be nice to people, and it’ll pay off. Beating bullying isn’t all about smashing attackers with hammer fists and elbow strikes, or about locking them up and throwing them to the floor – it’s about stopping it happening in the first place. Make the bullies the minority, and make sure everyone knows about it. As Mahatma Gandhi said:

‘You must be the change you want to see in the world.’

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Image courtesy of http://nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/images/bullying_child.jpg

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