Watch “End of year summary 2015”

End of year summary for 2015!

Have a great festive season and see you raring to go in 2016!





It has been a while since I have written a blog entry but as with many things in life it is not always about quantity – which leads nicely into one of our current training themes for the year.

At the end of 2014 I outlined three objectives for the year to come –

1) Train in knife defence
2) Train in operating from the floor
3) Less is more

With regard to number 3 I have made sure that in each session I have a clear focus on what I want people to get out of the lesson. Each month I have a linked series of classes where we look at either knife defence, floor work and more common/fundamental material which helps underpin the first two. This keeps reinforcing key themes and principles and helps the students develop.

Has this strategy been effective? So far I have observed a growing level of confidence and skill in those attending regularly. I have a core of half a dozen or so students who have been showing real progress these past 6 months. As the Bujinkan is such a vast art in its scope there is the temptation to try to cover EVERYTHING. You can’t – not in the scope of one lesson or within a couple of months, or even over a handful of years – not to the point where a student will have anything use able or effective in real life at least.

Keeping a clear focus is really important. It’s helping the students and it is helping me develop too. As the study of martial arts is a life long endeavour then trying to rush through a ton of material to up skill your students is not an effective means to promote their abilities and foster growth.

See you at training.


On beginning

At this time of year and over the next few weeks I start to get more enquiries from prospective students. New Year resolutions and the desire to get in shape or learn a new skill drive people forward to contact me.

If thinking about getting involved with our training firstly be clear with yourself about your objectives and reasons for starting. Martial arts training is not a distraction or a thing you pick up and put down. It involves hours of practice in the classroom and out of it to get any where. Our training is not driven by achievement of belts or status, trophies or other trappings. If interested in these things – don’t get in touch. Look elsewhere.

Secondly, recognise that you will find it hard. You won’t be able to do much in the short term. You will see some progress obviously – even if it’s learning how to fall safely you will learn something every lesson, but you won’t be able to do everything easily first time. That’s why we train – to acquire the skills.

Thirdly – you will get hit and thrown about. It’s martial arts training. Not the brownies. Clearly you won’t be beaten up and pulverised as a beginner – you will be handled with an understanding that you are new to this but over time the pressure being applied will increase as your skills begin to develop. For some this is not for them – even people who have done martial arts before they may have done non contact training. No one really likes getting hit but without an element of this stimulus you are not learning martial arts. Join a boxer-cise class or take up some other way of keeping in shape if that’s your goal.

Lastly, if you do make contact either by email or phone this first interaction is important. You get judged on how you present yourself and in effect it’s an interview. I don’t need loads of students nor necessarily want them. I have a core group of people who train and keep everything ticking over. New people are welcome and it’s great if someone starts who is keen and interested plus shows commitment. Training is a privilege and not a universal entitlement. If I feel your presence will not be beneficial for the group or the training then you will not be welcome.

Having stated all of the above if you feel you have the qualities and commitment to get involved in our classes please get in contact. We will be running a beginners course in the New Year so hopefully we will see you then.

See you at training.



The more I train and research it seems apparent that the key to develop your skills as someone looking to improve their odds in a real life encounter is honesty.

The truth can be a bitter pill to swallow – many people in martial arts and in the Bujinkan do not train for the grim reality violence presents. I used to work with people who presented behavioural issues and could be unpredictable and violent at times. One of the reasons I restarted training in martial arts was the expectation that in my career I would have to deal with people trying to hurt me. From what I see many people don’t train for this reality in mind.

Of late in my own training I have really pushed the practical skills element in our classes. We test everything we can to see if we can utilise what we know under pressure. ‘Training is training and fighting is fighting’ is a term I have heard before, and it seems to legitimise a lack of reality in class work. It is important to recognise that training is going to be different from real life fighting but it doesn’t mean to my mind removing or completely distancing oneself from the reality of ‘Jissen’ or real life fighting within your skill development. You fight how you train so you need to maximise what you do in your classes to build up abilities which you will instinctively deploy when faced with real life violence. I need to know that if I am faced by someone jumping me in an underpass whilst out running I can protect myself. I am not interested in the ‘art’ of training – more the martial.

This is where honesty comes in – do you think what you are doing in your training will really work? Are you deluding yourself? Do you test out your limits and skills? Do you scenario train to develop decision making and instinctive reaction/anticipation skills whilst under pressure?

My process is still developing but I think I am on the right track as I am trying to develop an honesty in what I am doing.

See you at some honest training.


Sparring – should we do it?

The above link leads to a video fragment of a class earlier this week. It shows me working with one of my class members utilising pressure training where I am having to respond to rapid attacks including non typical ‘Bujinkan’ punches and kicks. I see a great deal of good material on YouTube showing Bujinkan training but pretty much all of it is done with a scripted attack and when not scripted there is little pace or pressure being applied.

Real fights happen quickly. They are violent and horrible events and can traumatise people physically and mentally. The attacker won’t follow a script nor will they allow you to do what you intend (unless it’s a trap on their part of course).

In our training at Bujinkan Reading we are using a form of ‘sparring’ or pressure training to help those attending realise that whatever they do it must be able to be applied within this higher paced context. In the video clip I am simply aiming to use my posture, simple planing and receiving movements plus counter striking to prevent the opponent over whelming me. I have to assert myself and control the interceding space. These are fundamental ideas and skills in my mind and require drilling, ‘testing’ and refinement within a pressurised context. This aids skill development and promotes my ability to respond in an appropriate manner if faced with a real attacker.

I am not a fan of sport type sparring where the goals of the two protagonists are to score points on one another when used in a martial arts class for self defence. I have done Judo in the past and feel that any serious martial artist needs to experience the adrenal response and pressure competition brings as it builds a sense of realism and builds character. However, as a vehicle to train self defence I prefer scenario based or drill orientated mechanisms. For instance, avoid being hit and counter strike in a way where they cannot follow up or another example is to work from a confined position and deal with whatever is presented by the aggressor. Protective equipment is used in these drills to prevent the attacker being injured.

We couple this with practicing fundamental skills and techniques without protection at slower speeds to help teach principles that are then explored within the pressure drills. As explained in previous posts the amount of pressure applied depends upon the skill level of the receiver but people need to be pushed to where things start to not work and then problem solving can occur.

I have found this regime has enabled me to become more confident at dealing with random attacks, at speed and under pressure. The 18 or so months we have invested in this has aided those coming to training regularly  and I believe that this is making our students more capable of dealing with real life encounters.

See you at training.