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Lessons learnt in my Martial arts journey

Next year I celebrate 50 years involved in training, competing and coaching in the Martial arts. I have done and seen much from the first time I stepped into a training hall in late 1974.

Over that time, I have been involved in many aspects of the Martial arts but practical application and self-defence had always been my chief interest.

Over the years I have tried to differentiate between Martial arts training, fighting and self- defence skills.

In this brief article I will give you my own personal take on them from my empirical knowledge.

Martial arts is a life time skill that devotes time to development of the mind and body. It trains for the unattainable, perfection. We strive to Master the skills and bring them to the highest level possible. The same as any other art form. As long as you stay fit and healthy you can train in Martial arts to a ripe old age.

A big percentage of Martial arts skills are not really applicable for self-defence. Many are to complex or flashy but are great fun to explore and practice for your development in whatever area you wish to excel and for belt promotion.


Fighting is  Combat sports i.e . Boxing ,Muay Thai ,MMA, Judo etc. All tough sports but all with rules. Fighting is for young men. There will be a window of opportunity when you can do this but as you grow older and the fire in your belly does not burn so bright fighting doesn’t look so appealing.

Even the world’s best fighters get old and fade away.

But their moment is captured in history forever.

At one time or the other we all were the ‘New boys.’

Knowing when you’re not any longer is a bitter pill to swallow but a smart one.

My battles these days are mainly internal ones.

Fighting requires ‘bottle’, heart ,tactics and strategy whether it be in the controlled arena or on the cobbles.

Although I have fought in MMA and submission grappling, trained in boxing and Muay Thai I have never classed myself as a fighter. It was something I choose to do to test myself and see if I had what it takes. I had indifferent results. Some good and some not so good but all learning.

At no time did I think my Martial arts would floor Mike Tyson, Lennie Maclean or Rickson Gracie in a ‘straightener.’

My practical training was all about being better than the average ‘Joe’ out there and giving myself a chance if un expectedly attacked.

I tried to keep things real .No death touch. No delusions of being some invincible Ninja turtle.

I have hid from nothing and faced down my fears. Won ,lost, stood my ground and ran when necessary.

Street fighting is not self - defence. Street fighting is of mutual agreement. No matter the circumstances fighting is a conscious decision even if forced on you.

There are some ‘Killers’ out there that have never put a foot in a dojo but do not underestimate them or think your magical skills will beat them.

As Mike Tyson once said. ‘Everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.’

Just because you can hit a few focus pads doesn’t make you a boxer.


Self-defence is 95% awareness and avoidance skills the other 5% is physical.

Self -defence is not about going toe to toe with another or having a mutual ‘roll.’

It is about you minding your own business when suddenly and violently  ambushed or have some lunatic trying to sucker punch or stab you

It is about being chased down by a gang baying for your blood or maybe becoming a target of a rapist or serial killer. Maybe a terrorist threat?

Your best self-defence skill is without doubt your awareness to be switched on and foresee and avoid these threats.

Also, not to let your ego be drawn into a pointless fight when you can walk away.

Only fight back when your life or your loved ones is on the line.

If you really can’t escape then go pre-emptive and hit hard and accurately before you are beat upon or smashed to the floor. Ground grappling multiple attackers is not a good tactic. Try at all costs to stay on your feet.

Most of the time you will be fighting back defensively from a flinch response and playing catch up unless you get that pre-emptive shot in .

Self-defence skills are usually gross motor ones and simple to execute.

Certain elements of the three areas discussed can sometimes spill over into each other but must never be confused.

They all have their merits and place just understand their differences.

Enjoy your training.

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