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.

Training Log–January 2013

As you all know by now, the CSPS is an evolutionary concept and I pretty much apply that philosophy to everything I do, including my writing. At least, that’s the excuse I’m going to use for my complete and utter laziness of late with these training logs. As the year has become busier and busier with training, teaching and research (alongside everything else in life), I’ve found myself writing training logs later and later after the sessions themselves, and sometimes just not finding the time. As a result, I’m going to do them as a kind of newsletter format where I aggregate all the training news from the CSPS into one monthly little post like this. Any questions on CSPS training are, as always, more than welcome any time as this is primarily for you, the reader, to see what it is that we get up to!

January’s been a great month this year for change and progress, especially at PHDefence in Stockton Brook. With their newly-stabilised payment structure, there’s guaranteed training for their students every week regardless of numbers attending, which has pushed forward a period of great progress in this stability for their students. They’ve even got a new student who’s making great progress, and a couple of students who should be ready to grade soon so it’s a very exciting time for them!

At PHDefence, the higher grades have been focussing on their weapons techniques a lot, particularly the use of the long stick (Jō staff and Bō staff for the more traditionally-minded). So far it’s been mostly stick acclimatisation drills and basic striking as this weapon’s new to them, but soon they’ll be progressing to more in-depth stick usage. They’ve also been doing some aerial coordination drills as a preliminary to their spinning and aerial kicks.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll just say it again here, especially with talk of the spinning and aerial kicking:

I’ll just take a moment to explain what PHDefence is and what my relationship with it is. PHDefence is a local martial arts class, based in Stockton Brook at the moment though it’s been all over the place through the years. It’s owned and was founded by Shifu Paul Horrobin, who created a hybridised martial art mostly based on concepts from Wing Chun (yǒngchūn ~ 咏春 ~ ‘Spring Chant’), Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (zhènfān jiéquándào ~ 振藩截拳道 ~ ‘Jun Fan’s “Way of the Intercepting Fist”’) and Shaolin Kung Fu (shàolín gōng fū ~ 少林功夫 ~ ‘Young Forest Kung Fu’) among others. The basic premise of what they do there is the attempt to take traditional martial arts concepts and make them practical while retaining their martial-arts focus. I just want to make clear here that they are not a self-defence or self-protection class, and that while I am a self-protection instructor while I’m teaching there I’m also a martial arts instructor. I alternate between teaching and training there every other week, with Paul teaching every other lesson. While on occasion I mix in odd concepts and training ideas from the CSPS, this is not a CSPS class. The reason I take such steps to make this clear is that I would hate for someone to read a PHDefence training log and think I was equating the martial arts training described to practical self-protection training, which it is not. Worse, I would hate for someone to read it and think that the training described was self-protective in nature.

Now that the perfunctory disclaimer’s over, I can get on with the actual point of the post! I won’t do that every time, don’t worry – I’ll just point people here if there’s confusion. I only make the point as it’s so important (to me) that martial arts and self-protection are never confused, and I realise that text on a screen can easily be written badly and misunderstood.

The snow’s been a constant source of amusement and difficulties, but as my friend (and excellent Systema instructor) Rob Poyton mentioned in a recent YouTube video, these difficulties only present opportunities if you approach your training with an indomitable warrior mindset. Whereas for PHDefence the problem was merely students getting to the session and needing to dry their feet, for CSPS students the opportunities for development were more apparent as we were training primarily outside!

Chris returned to his long-term training recently, and so we got straight to the point with a lot of drills involving use of the shoulder, elbow striking, hammer fists, knee striking and I don’t even know how many other striking methods. Taking an initial contact as a reference point, we used a set framework of movements to efficiently train the different muscle groups of the body to work together efficiently to present a functional combative response.

(What that means is, the pad got bashed hard, fast and lots!)

For Chris, the focus has been on brushing off the rust of Christmas and sharpening up the basic concepts of the CSPS with a slew of new approaches to the same things to further increase the adaptability of their application.

For Matt, the focus has been on initial training of the basic concepts, and I really must say how proud I am of both students with their continued effort and skyrocketing progress week on week.

Other students preferred not to be named, unless you count my brother Jake, with whom I just fight, and that’s pretty much his training most of the time! We just fight. That’s what brothers are for, right?

February’s been an amazing month so far but I’ll elaborate more on that next time!

All the best,

FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

PHDefence Training Log–25.01.2013

IMAG0335Hopefully the last snowy one for a while! Friday’s session was split between me and Paul. Paul did some partner work involving dealing with strikes – specifically barrages of them – and I added in the importance of being proactive in your ‘defence’ rather than being merely reactive. If your partner is saying ‘I thought I was supposed to be the one attacking!’ or similar then you’re doing well!

If they’re too preoccupied to say anything then you’re doing better!

What came out in this drill was that when you’re proactive by pushing into the partner and making it difficult for them to attack instead of merely dealing with their attacks reactively, you stand a much better chance of surviving. Also through this approach it can be possible to manoeuvre your partner around the room and put them in a position of disadvantage, such as in a corner. In reality of course, this would be you putting them in a position that gave you the opportunity to complete your objective in a combative situation – run off!

Then in my half we worked on ground mobility with some standard Russian drills, groundfighting with a focus on controlling elbows, controlling legs and use of the head when fighting on the ground. After that, we did a rather enjoyable leg-locking drill inspired by an excellent British Combat Association video (the review will be appearing here soon…).

To finish, we began work with the higher grades on the long stick and how to use it with some simple stick acclimatisation drills, partner work and solo work. It’s always fun when a group gets onto a new weapon! I can’t wait to get to work with this a little more.

See you all next week!

PHDefence Training Log–18.01.2013

The snow is always a trial for training that tests us all before we even start! Especially in a country that famously grinds to a halt every time the fluffy white stuff makes an appearance.

Last Friday, we got down to some padwork getting some awesome effort out of the students we had. Only three could make it, and one walked with her dad as she couldn’t get out in the car, which is dedication of the highest degree. Absolutely fantastic.

After the padwork module we split up into experience-based groups and worked on grab escapes of various kinds, using some nasty little tricks I learned from Systema, among other influences. As there were so few students we could really get a lot of work done on individual issues with ground mobility afterwards as well, and the session finished with a fun and interesting chat with a parent about ground mobility and biomechanics as we waited for another one who was stuck in the snow. Overall, a very enjoyable session, despite the cold!

PHDefence Training Log–04.01.2012

IMAG0206This is a belated post, I do apologise. PHDefence training logs likely will be often as training is 19:00-21:00, I always remain available for questions and general chat afterwards and the venue for them is a chapel so there’s a load of chairs to put back in rows afterwards in the hall they use. As a result, by the time I get home all I want to do is eat, sleep and watch Coronation Street! Yes, a self-protection instructor watches Coronation Street with his dinner. Shush!

In this first training log for PHDefence of 2013 (I still keep typing ‘2012’ first), I’ll just take a moment to explain what PHDefence is and what my relationship with it is. PHDefence is a local martial arts class, based in Stockton Brook at the moment though it’s been all over the place through the years. It’s owned and was founded by Shifu Paul Horrobin, who created a hybridised martial art mostly based on concepts from Wing Chun (yǒngchūn ~ 咏春 ~ ‘Spring Chant’), Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do (zhènfān jiéquándào ~ 振藩截拳道 ~ ‘Jun Fan’s “Way of the Intercepting Fist”’) and Shaolin Kung Fu (shàolín gōng fū ~ 少林功夫 ~ ‘Young Forest Kung Fu’) among others. The basic premise of what they do there is the attempt to take traditional martial arts concepts and make them practical while retaining their martial-arts focus. I just want to make clear here that they are not a self-defence or self-protection class, and that while I am a self-protection instructor while I’m teaching there I’m also a martial arts instructor. I alternate between teaching and training there every other week, with Paul teaching every other lesson. While on occasion I mix in odd concepts and training ideas from the CSPS, this is not a CSPS class. The reason I take such steps to make this clear is that I would hate for someone to read a PHDefence training log and think I was equating the martial arts training described to practical self-protection training, which it is not. Worse, I would hate for someone to read it and think that the training described was self-protective in nature.

Now that the perfunctory disclaimer’s over, I can get on with the actual point of the post! I won’t do that every time, don’t worry – I’ll just point people here if there’s confusion.

So on Friday night it was PHDefence’s first session back after Christmas, and they’re all working towards their next gradings. At the moment they have someone on the first grading (Red), two on the seventh grading (Brown) and one on the sixth (Blue) who are all now ready to work on the concepts for their next grading. It’s quite an exciting time for PHDefence at the moment!

We started off with some simple combat-oriented fitness drills: 30-second rounds of simple wind sprints, then the same in pairs with student-chosen combinations at the end on focus mitts. After that we dropped the focus mitts and picked up some kickshields for the same again with kicking combinations at the ends of the sprints, again student-chosen. After those we went through some rounds of communally-chosen exercises where each student had a turn choosing an exercise to add to the session. This proactive approach allows the students to work out what works best and elect movements that flow concomitantly themselves, which adds greatly to the quality of their martial decision making.

Following from this initial section we went through some rounds of chisao (chīshǒu ~ 黐手 ~ ‘sticking hands’) for close-in sensitivity training, before widening out the range to a Systema-style slow spar. Then at random timings I handed one partner a stick which had the effect of both increasing and decreasing the range of the partner work at different times.

Afterwards, a section of choice modules was enjoyed where each student chose a drill for everyone to do. This ranged from kicking padwork drills to bouts of Jujutsu-style back-to-back groundfighting. Everyone’s choices came together very well to make a most enjoyable session.

At the end there was a module of basic aerial coordination drills for the higher grades as a preliminary to spinning and aerial kicks, and for the lower grades a few rounds of different padwork drills from sitting on a chair. To wrap up on a high note, a very enjoyable padwork drill using the shields for lower-body and then upper-body striking inspired by some videos I’ll be reviewing shortly from the British Combat Association – those reviews are going out every Tuesday morning so make sure to keep your eyes open!

It was awesome to see you all again.

Until next time,
FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

2012 in Review

image2012 has been an interesting year for the CSPS. We’ve seen a lot of growth and a lot of progress, on every level. New students have come up and older students are going from strength to strength. I am so proud of the students I have and the progress they’re making. Our syllabus has seen evolution too as new concepts have been learned, alongside new drills and training methods being implemented and developed.

This blog has been largely neglected of late due to me focussing on my own training and, more importantly, on teaching and the development of the CSPS itself. Looking at it, I’ve only done ten posts this year! Despite that, the blog’s had steady views every day and a lot of very positive feedback so far, which is greatly appreciated. I’ve also been approached by various people asking for specific topics to be explored in the future, which I’m working on right now.

imageAs a result of various discussions on- and offline, there is a lot of planned content for 2013 and so I’ll keep working on getting that out to you when I can. If anyone has a topic or question you want addressing, feel free to get in touch however you like and I’ll get on it! Reviews, training logs, factual articles, opinion articles, instructional articles… it’s all going to be here so make sure you keep your eye on us.

A local martial arts class that I teach at called PHDefence is also seeing a lot of change in the transition to 2013, and I’m excited to see where that goes. At the end of 2012, the students there made incredible strides forward with their training too, and I’m extremely proud of them. 2013 will be an exciting year for them too!

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and is having a fantastic New Year’s Eve. I wish you all an awesome 2013!

Until next time,
FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

FCIns. Josh Nixon of the CSPS is at Stoke College’s Disability Day–25th of April 2012

On Wednesday the 25th of April 2012 FCIns. Josh Nixon (that’s me) will be representing the Combative Self-Protection System at Stoke College’s ‘Disability Day’. From 10:00-14:00 you’ll have the opportunity to speak with me and I’ll answer any questions you have about the CSPS or training in general. Details are also on our events page.

The event will be held at Cauldon Campus on Stoke Road, Shelton, ST4 2DG, in the Sports Hall from 10:00-14:00 on Wednesday the 25th of April 2012.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service have said on their site:

The aim of the event is to raise disability awareness and provide information, advice and guidance to individuals within the college and the general public. There will be over 60 organisations on hand to provide the most up to date information on a range of disability issues to an eager audience and the celebrity guests will be ‘Race2Recovery’ who have recently been on the BBC’s Top Gear.

(From http://www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/2091.asp on 14.04.2012.)

It’s going to be a great opportunity to speak with a lot of interesting organisations and individuals so I heartily recommend coming and taking a look – everyone’s welcome! I’ll be on hand for the full four hours to answer all of your questions on training with or without disabilities for self-protection, health, fitness and personal security. I’ll also be representing local martial arts class PHDefence, which I am Co-Instructor of. There may be an offer available to people who attend this event…

See you there!

-FCIns. Josh Nixon, CSPS

P.S. There may also be sweets…

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