Sunday, 14 August 2011

From Nothing to Something

Ivory towers and soap boxes, the two worst problems in my opinion in the martial arts world today; or to put it another way: politics.

No matter what we do as humans in this life somewhere along the way our daily lives will have been influenced by politics and opinions of others. Everybody is entitled to an opinion and their beliefs and I respect that. However it becomes a problem for me, like so many others I am sure, when opinions and beliefs start to get rammed down ones throat in the hope of swaying our beliefs and opinions - can’t do this, can’t do that, don’t train with this guy etc etc etc.

Respect also seems to be another value that’s missing lately, not just from the martial arts but from all areas of society and what is even worse than this is those that demand respect, they seem to forget respect has to be earned. Of course it could be that I’ve been having a lot of bad experiences lately.

Those who know me well enough will tell you I walk my own path and will make my own mind up what is best for me, especially in the martial arts. I have learned that life is short, very short so to waste it is just plain foolish. Those same people will also tell you that although I love the martial arts, ancient, old and modern I don’t worship the black belt. I respect the belt but it does not define me as a person and I don’t need it to stand out in the crowd.

Many people seem to have forgotten that the Dan grade is the start of a journey, think of it as learning the alphabet, now it’s time to put the letters together to make words. If truth be known I am not even a particularly good martial artist or fighter; in the whole grand scheme of things I am just your average Joe. I do what I do because I enjoy it, not to be looked up to or feared by others etc. If a person decides to train with me then great, if you don’t then fine, thanks for coming along and having a go and the best of luck in your future endeavors.

Just for once, just once mind you, I thought I might get up on the soap box or climb the ivory tower to see what the view is like and maybe express my opinion for a change, hopefully in a positive and respectful way. Now some might say I am being a hypocrite for doing this, but they also say if you can’t beat them then join them.

Well I am getting on my soap box just this once to help me write this blog. I don’t need to beat anyone and I don’t need to join them either. So here goes:


Yes you read it right folks; every single thing on this ball of rock, universe or galaxy is made up. But for the sake of keeping our feet on the ground let’s stick to the subject of martial arts, eh?

At some point in history no matter what fighting style one chooses to participate in it all began with an idea or actions that forced the need for its development. Now whether these forces were born out necessity such as war or not is another subject altogether. Old or modern it makes no difference, warriors may have moved from the battlefield to the streets or the ring but it is steadfast commitment to pursuing and preserving fighting styles that ensure that they are passed on for the next generation.

The creators of all arts old, ancient or modern should be respected not deified and worshiped. At the end of the day they were men, men with ideas and influence but men nonetheless; as the saying goes all men are created equal, if only this were true.

In modern times man finds ever more weird and destructive ways to kill or maim his fellow man, usually down to beliefs and opinions that weak minded men follow to be part of a group or belong to something. Ancient armies evolved their weapons and fighting styles not just to kill but also protect themselves just as modern warriors and armies of today do.

Whether your art, system or way is ancient or modern it had a starting point, with a fist, foot, a stick, a bow or a tank. As most of us know, some fighting styles date back thousands of years to human’s earliest known cultures, whereas others are relatively new in comparison. It is true that the ancient arts have had an impact on modern styles somewhere along the line, but I am still at a loss as to why we can’t just respect each other’s beliefs and opinions in our chosen arts, old, ancient or modern. There are millions of us on this planet of all colours, races, religions and beliefs. We’re not all going to like each other or all get along but a bit of leeway might go along way every now and then.

I do what I do and I train in what I train in, it’s as simple as that. I am not trying to stand out in front of the crowd or take over the martial arts world for fame and notoriety. I simply enjoy what I do and I don’t want to ram my way of thinking and beliefs down anyone’s throat. For those of you in the martial arts world that do I would like to ask you a question:

If you are not happy as an instructor or with other instructors, students or styles in the martial arts or the way you have been treated, who judges you and how do you treat others?

“They say, people will like you or hate you. Rate you, help build you or break you and sometimes try to shake you. How strong you make your stand is what makes you.” (source unknown)

With respect,


To find out more about Evasive Self-Defence Combat System visit or e-mail John Barrass at:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Simplicity Under Pressure

As one of hundreds if not thousands of instructors teaching some sort of self-defence or combat method I am continually asking myself the same question. Are we really preparing our students for a real confrontation in the street? Are the safe training environments of the club or dojo giving a false sense of security to the students and how many students are now training to deal with multiple aggressors?
Government records show that of all the violent crime that took place in the UK last year more than half of the attacks were carried out by multiple assailants. Some of these cases report two or more people attacking one person (including the use of deadly weapons). The more traditional methods of learning any given art or system as most people know is the one to one approach.
Each student takes it in turns to practise the given set of techniques or combative drill. But what happens if you take them out of the comfort zone and add one or more aggressors to deal with? 

My own experience little as it may be has taught me a great deal, the biggest issues I have had to address were the reaction times and effective response to the threat. Many techniques that I have practised for years became difficult and ineffective under pressure against multiple attackers leaving me vulnerable and in danger of ending up on the ground where it becomes even harder to deal with opponents.

I have been taught a great deal by some great instructors about response times and the fight or flight situations that occur in the first instances of violence. But all that aside I keep coming back to what I believe to be the most important lesson you can learn in any self-defence or combative training system and that is one of simplicity.
Now please don't get me wrong, I'm not preaching to anyone on how or indeed you should teach or train in any given style. I am simply saying that the simpler the response the more effective it may be. Many actions such as distance, timing and foot work can very quickly be forgotten or less effective in the street or under the threat of real violence.
The one action or if you like "emotion" that I feel is missing during a student’s regular training programme is FEAR. Now I am not talking about the fear of getting injured or injuring a fellow student or indeed the fear of getting the techniques wrong during practise or grading, but real in your face fear is hard to show and teach in the club, after all no serious instructor really wants to hurt a student in the same manner an attacker would. So how do we go about preparing a student? For me this is a journey that I am still exploring with my students.
The one exercise our style practise is what we call E.V.P.A extreme - verbal - physical - assault. To put it simply students shout and scream at the tops of their voices all manner of verbal insults at each other from the start of the attack or during the attack to demean and disorientate the defender. These exercises range from the basic stand up argument to the sudden spontaneous attack. Again these attacks are done against one or more attackers to take the student out of their comfort zone.
Pain and fear can be huge shock to most people during violence, both at the start and continued throughout the act of violence. It can be very difficult to deal with both under pressure.
Below I have written the advice I was given many years ago by someone whom has experienced violence on a regular basis. But I would like you the reader to understand one thing, Reading the advice and using it when it matter most are two different things.
Pain and Fear
Pain is a function of the body’s nervous system – nothing more. It lets us know when our bodies are being hurt. In a fight we expect our bodies to be injured. Though it is possible to win without injury, it unwise however to assume that to be the case. Use your pain to drive your ferocity during the fight. If you sustain serious injury, do everything you can to concentrate on the fight. This is difficult but not impossible. Do not focus on your injuries. Think about surviving the fight. There will be plenty of time to heal later.
Just as pain is merely a function of the nerves, fear is simply an emotion. It can be harnessed, controlled and directed to your advantage. Never consider the attacker as bigger, stronger or better than you. This is self – defeating. You will lose the fight. Think of him as a target then systematically evaluate and destroy until the threat is finished.
Fear, in a fight fear is a big factor only if you let it be. Take firm control of your emotions and force yourself to act. As with pain use your fear to fuel your response towards violence. It is irrelevant that you might be afraid; the attacker is counting on it to make you the victim. There is nothing wrong with fear. Just don’t let it get in the way. It’s a natural emotion for all humans.

To find out more about Evasive Self-Defence Combat System visit or e-mail John Barrass at: