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.