Training Notes – 27.02.2015

IMG_20150214_121842This week’s session was a lot of fun – many thanks to all who attended! It was wonderful to welcome so many new people all at once and awesome to have two more experienced members return after we’d missed them for a few weeks. We really got that particular kind of atmosphere this week that you can only get when you get more in than expected.

I hope you all have a great weekend and see you next time!

For those who are new to us, when I write these I often link to associated important concepts either on Wikipedia, other websites or our own small wiki that I’m working on for our specific concepts.

Threat Awareness is worth a look, as well as Threat Evaluation and Threat Avoidance. Communicative Strategies will come into play next time when we look at distraction and pre-emptive striking, and the Force Continuum is extremely important to bear in mind.

Of course, if anyone has any questions then feel free to get in touch!

This week, we looked at:

  • Footwork, posture and positioning: the importance of good posture can’t be overstated enough. As the squats, slams and burpees will have shown you in particular, good posture is everything.
  • Use of ‘The Fence’ to manage distance proactively (Without looking aggressive!) when someone’s squaring off and invading your personal space.
    • Fear and how it can lead us towards mis-management of that space. Backing off continually isn’t always the best option.
    • Keep your hands neutral and relaxed, but ready. They’re there if you need them, that’s all.
  • Footwork and relaxed movement when pushed around a bit.
    • (Progression: the same when punched.)
    • Keeping control: proximity and ‘sticking’ to the aggressor to limit their options. Again, it’s all about positioning and posture.
  • Striking from the Fence:
    • Hammer Fist
      • Relaxed arm drill: just feeling the weight of your arm.
    • Palm Strike
      • Relaxed striking: still feeling the weight of your arm, encouraging a whiplike acceleration.

When I’m asked what our methods are based on, I often discuss things like Systema, Wing Chun, Krav Maga, Jujutsu, etc. However, when it comes down to it, it’s all just physics, biology and psychology/sociology.

The most important thing to remember in striking: simple physics.


Through our relaxed movement, we accelerate as fast as we can in any given space because we don’t have unnecessary tension working against that movement.

Through posture and refined (trained) movement, we get as much of our body mass behind that strike as we can.

The above helps us generate as much force as we possibly can. We further refine this with beneficial positioning and striking methods to apply that force as efficiently as we can: to get maximum effect from minimum required effort. This is what we call economy of motion.

We also looked at:

  • Dealing with someone striking us with a stick: working with a useful movement we developed last week (and the week before).
    • Once you decide you need to deploy force, and you find the right moment in which to do so, you must act immediately, efficiently and decisively.
    • Close distance and use your elbows to your advantage
    • Get control and make sure it’s a strong grip you have. Anything less than your strongest is not good enough.
      • An easy way to test this grip is have your partner violently shake their arm to see if they can wrench it free with brute force. Gripping with just your hands likely won’t be enough but keeping it close and against you, gripping efficiently and using positioning and posture to your advantage (and their disadvantage) will.

All in all, we’ve worked on a lot of things here. Something that’s worth bearing in mind was expressed well by Sonny Puzikas in a great video we recently shared on Facebook: these punches, kicks and swinging weapons are just movements. They only become a strike when they make contact with their intended target. Until then, they’re just movements.

Don’t fear a movement: train to work with it. Train intelligently and you work efficiently.

Once again, many thanks to all who came and see you next week! It was a pleasure and a privilege to train with such truly excellent people.

All the details of this class are on the Public Classes page up at the top. Your first session is FREE and all are welcome to come along and take part. Every session is beginner-friendly.

10 Questions with Douglas Graham (50/50 Fitness)

doug 50 50 logo1) Tell us a bit about yourself and 50/50 Fitness – what’s 50/50 Fitness all about and how did it come to be?

50/50 came with my evolution in teaching. It’s the old saying that ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. I can help you but you need to meet me half way. Otherwise you will always falter in your journey. Without that mentality, it is tough to commit to the way. With that said, I like to think I can show anybody that the mentality is there at their core. People are just bogged down by, or hide behind, the modern way of life.

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

I mentioned the way in my last answer. People can call me cryptic or old fashioned if they like but the fact is that everyone is searching for it. Self-protection, Self-defence, martial arts – call it what you like – it fits perfectly into what I do as the art of learning these disciplines can and should be a journey of self-discovery. Much as health & fitness has become in the modern age. Indeed, I found my way to being a Personal Trainer through my study and teaching of Martial Art. And lets be clear, there is only Martial Art for me when it comes to Self-Protection. This led to a love for understanding body mechanics. Naturally this led to a deeper study of the human body and ways to improve performance. Initially in certain areas and movements, but that gave way to a deeper understanding and approach as time marched.

3) 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?

First off. I am rarely in this magical mood I hear of that people seem to be in. I motivate myself every time. It’s about balance. It’s not about going to the gym/dojo/hall and ‘smashing it’. Not for the average person. Too much emphasis is placed on the kick-ass mentality or the killer workout. Its tough for people to continually motivate themselves for something they just don’t want to do. My self-defence class is not one that seeks out new folks to train; I have never really been that way inclined unless it could do with another body or two to help with training. But if somebody seeks out the class, well then you pretty much have that 50 I am looking for. Motivation is often relative to the task at hand and comes in different forms. Do you motivate yourself to go to a job you hate every day? You may have more than you already know ;-)

4) What would you say is your greatest skill or attribute as a teacher?

Probably best to ask someone that trains with me to be honest. I am sure it varies from person to person.

5) What would you say is the most important aspect of your training, skill you develop or attribute you cultivate in 50/50 Fitness?

Tough question for me. I have a very blurred line between these two. People define it but I still can’t, not really. In general though, I stick my hand up for attributes. Because I don’t specifically define, I won’t say more than this.

6) What is your favourite exercise, training method or drill?

In exercise HIT style workouts have been without doubt my favourite for years now. It’s a style that can fit you at any level or age. The name ‘High Intensity Training’ tends to scare many. That is unless you brand it ;-) Interval Training is an umbrella term but fits fine for me in this case. For my SD training it is also without doubt, free-form multiple attacker drills in full gear. They can be very serious and testing like nothing else. Also very fun and amusing. You very quickly learn where you make potentially fatal errors. It shows up differences between say, perceived speed and real speed, power, accuracy etc, etc.

7) What do you like to do aside from 50/50 Fitness? What interests you?

Outside of MA and Fitness I enjoy growing herbs and spices. I like reading although in the past couple of years I have read only research. It’s something I need to address and enjoy reading for reading again.

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

Be wary of YouTube. Seek out good teachers, they can be anywhere.

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

Be wary of YouTube. But in a different way. Be thankful for good students, they are your greatest teachers.

10) What is your ultimate goal with 50/50 Fitness? Where do you want it to lead?

Corny as it sounds, wherever it takes me. My goal is to help people improve themselves and understand that ‘perfect’ is a saying, not a finish line. In my eyes there are not many out there on a big scale that are truly achieving this. If I can reach that type of scale, with my approach, it will be an accomplishment indeed. But even on the small scale I am happy if I can pass on knowledge to a few, that will pass through the individual and on to another few. Money is a burden we all share. I like to bear it as simply as possible. The goals and philosophy of 50/50 are an embodiment of myself and the legacy I leave for my children. If it reaches only them, I die a very happy man.

You can get in touch with Douglas Graham about 50/50 Fitness on his Facebook page here or you can email him at by clicking here.

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 and you can email Fraser at

A Couple of Updates

Hi all,

Just thought I’d keep you all up to date on a couple of updates CSPS is experiencing at the moment. Following a minor revision of the syllabus recently, I thought the website and general online presence could do with a little bit of an update. I’ve consolidated the Links page into Resources, and will be adding a lot more stuff there soon, including a lot of videos. I have also created an Articles page and I intend to add to this a lot myself. If you have any articles that you would like reproduced here, or just linked, for free then get in touch! Also, if you have a class of your own and you would like to be featured on this site, then get in touch and I’ll put you on the Classes page. I will be shooting some videos (hopefully) soon, once I finish up some work for my degree, and they will be going up on the new and improved CSPS YouTube Channel. Here’s a little guide to those who are unfamiliar with YouTube’s new layout:


Expect to see a lot of new content over the next few weeks!

All the best,

FCIns. Josh Nixon

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

Update: March 2011

Hey all,

First off, let me send out a huge thank you to everyone who’s been showing interest in CSPS over this start-up period. We’ve been having steady views here at CSPS Online, and have been pleased with all of the questions we’ve been receiving. By all means keep them coming! To address some of the more repetitive questions, I’ve just updated the FAQ section to accommodate the ones we keep getting again and again, so if I refer you to that section I’m not being rude and ignoring you; I just don’t have the time to type out the same answer over and over again. Also thanks to everyone who’s following us on Twitter, our likers on Facebook and our subscribers on YouTube too. We really appreciate all of the support and interest.

Thanks to the select few (and you know who you are, my friends) who’ve been contributing to the redrafting process of the Syllabus and Guide, many hours of discussion and training later we’ve finally published version 1.0; the final draft and the first official release version! There has also been a general redraft of some of this site’s information as a result, because a lot of the information is also found in the introductory pages of the booklet.

Syllabi will be available in class for just £1 – I’m really sorry to have to charge, but it’s literally just to cover the printing costs. It’s a 23-page concise booklet, so I’m not ripping you off with it; you’re getting a meaty wad of paper for your quid. It’ll be invaluable in your training to have a copy of everything you’ll need to hand, but while it’s recommended it is of course optional, and you can share with a friend or anything. You’re also not obliged to buy a new copy with each update; we’ll tell you what the changes are if and when updates happen (CSPS evolves, as you all know) and you can annotate your copies instead of buying a whole new book.

The Syllabus also now explains our revolutionary, unique ‘CSPS Ranges Notation System’, which I created myself, in the Beginners’ section, just so you have a reference for that as well as everything else. If anyone has any suggestions, criticism or spots and mistakes (even niggly English mistakes – they’re important to us!) then just chuck us an email at

See you all in May at the launch of CSPS Endon – full details on the Classes page.

Thanks again,
FCIns. Josh Nixon

A Quick Update

Hey all,

Just thought I’d push around a quick update on our progress in these early days, if nothing else to reassure you all that we are actually doing something! At the moment we’re just waiting for final confirmation from our venue. The application process has been started with the BCA so we’re just waiting for that to continue really.

The Syllabus and Guide has been updated a little, and final beta versions have been issued to Sifu Paul Horrobin of PHDefence along with some of my very good friends and training partners for them to scrutinise and scribble all over. Once they’ve all got back to me I’ll properly write up version 4.0, which will be the first release candidate.

Meanwhile, I’ve been training some of the obscure stuff that I haven’t done for a while in case it comes up in class (though I’m pretty sure it won’t for a while) and making sure I’m in shape for it. I always say that as an Instructor you should try to be better, harder, stronger, faster, more accurate, more adaptable, keep going for longer and ultimately be more knowledgeable than your students. Otherwise people won’t respect your authority on the subject because, to be frank, what authority do you have over them? Practically speaking, you have to be able to show them how you want them to do something, not just describe it. Otherwise training becomes just a chat.

While I’m here, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who’s been visiting! Just so you know, I really do appreciate your interest. If anyone has any questions, or anything you’d like me to write about in the future, or ideas for instructional videos (or other videos) that you’d like to see on our YouTube channel when we start churning out videos and things. We monitor all the comms channels, so whether you send us a message or mention us on Twitter, send us a message or comment on YouTube or email us we’ll get it.

Keep coming back for more updates, thoughts on training, etc from CSPS – soon we’ll be announcing our first class, which will be the beginning of the end for combative ignorance!

All the very best,

Josh Nixon
Founding Chief Instructor, CSPS


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,846 other followers

%d bloggers like this: