Thursday 24/09/15

Spring is here, which means people will begin to emerge from their winter hibernation and return to their outdoor activities. Don’t be fooled by the warm sunny days, spring is the time of year you are most likely to be caught out by a sudden change in the weather. At this time of year, it isn’t uncommon for a warm sunny morning to turn into a cold wet afternoon. If you’re heading out for the day in a t-shirt and pair of shorts, don’t forget to at least take a jumper with you (and your wet weather gear, if you’re going somewhere that isn’t sheltered).

Last Tuesday was the perfect example for tonight’s blog. At 0800hrs, the weather was warm and sunny with a clear blue sky; the perfect spring morning. A little after 1200hrs, thick black clouds spread across the sky and unleashed a deluge of hail that lasted for well over ten minutes. The hail quickly gave way to twenty-five minutes of torrential rain. As the rain eased, a strong cold wind blew away what was left of the storm, leaving us with unsettled skies and chilly winds for the remainder of the afternoon.

Remember last year when I advised you to carry a few basic supplies in an overnight bag in your car? Since that time, have you checked on these supplies to make sure they are still in date and free from damage? Even bottled water needs to be replaced regularly. If you haven’t needed them, I’d be willing to bet you haven’t given your supplies a second thought since packing them into the boot of your car. That’s ok; you can put that on your to-do list for this weekend. Also, you can make sure the jumper you packed still fits you. If not, replace it.

If your job requires you to wear shoes that are only suitable for an office environment, you should pack a spare pair of sneakers into your car too. If your car breaks down and you have to walk to get help, your feet will thank you if you have a pair of sneakers to change into. Don’t pack a pair of stinky, worn-out sneakers you were going to throw in the bin. You know they’re useless.

If you regularly carry a backpack, you might want to include a space blanket in your gear. The one I carry is in a 9cm x 17cm x 1cm flat-pack and weighs virtually nothing (it folds out to 127cm x 200cm). For something that only cost $5.00, it is a very versatile piece of equipment. Its uses include:

  • Blanket
  • Rain poncho, (or anything else on this list)
  • Shelter from the sun
  • Highly reflective surface (to attract the attention of a nearby search party)
  • Sling (for first-aid)
  • Ground sheet (if you have to sleep outside)

There are many other possibilities, but I’ll leave those up to your imagination.

Now that you’ve finished reading tonight’s blog, go out and check on your supplies and make any necessary adjustments. Stay safe and warm, and don’t forget to check-in next week.

If you found tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.

Thursday 17/09/15

Over the years I have studied a variety of martial arts; Tae Kwon Do, Ninjutsu, Karate, Western Boxing, and Muay Thai. I have also dabbled in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a few other styles. You might think this a rather eclectic mix of styles, but my intention was never to master one particular style. I wanted to have a broad knowledge base of techniques to draw from in times of difficulty. I also had to learn techniques that would suit my height, build, speed, strength and level of flexibility. The only way to gain this unique blend of skills and knowledge was to learn from a series of different instructors.

Over the years I have had the privilege of studying under some very knowledgeable and gifted men. Along the way, I have also met a few charlatans. Unfortunately, the charlatans were short-changing their students by teaching techniques and telling stories that had no genuine purpose or value.

Many years ago, I trained at a dojo where we were expected to spar with light contact. I understood these rules, and began to spar. I slipped under my training partner’s guard and delivered a right backfist and a left hook to his cheek. He looked shocked and the referee stopped the round. I immediately apologised, thinking I must have hit my opponent too hard. The referee said that I’d barely touched him, but that wasn’t the problem. He said he’d stopped the match because the backfist I used wasn’t taught or recognised by their particular style. It wasn’t part of their tradition.

This immediately rang a warning bell in my head. What good is a style that pretends certain strikes don’t exist? The first time an experienced student faces a new strike shouldn’t be during a physical altercation. This is setting the student up for failure. Since that time I have paid particular attention to what instructors said, and how they said it. Especially when their explanation for using or excluding a particular technique is “It’s tradition”.

This led me to question the value of some of the things I was taught. A good example is the Horse-riding Stance. It looks impressive when you see a whole dojo of students performing this leg-trembling stance. It is traditional, but what is its practical application? Sure, it was used by mounted warriors to fight from horseback in ancient times, but do you really believe you will ever be called on to do so? If so, you should seek out an instructor who can teach you to fight with swords, and use bows and arrows while you ride.

I’m not saying this out of disrespect, but to draw attention to the amount of time and effort students are expected to dedicate to techniques that have no place in the modern world. If a technique is purely for show, the instructor should inform their students of this fact and let them decide how much of their valuable time they wish to dedicate to learning it.

Kata is another mainstay of modern martial arts that is of limited value to students. Many instructors place a heavy emphasis on students perfecting these long and needlessly complicated imaginary fight sequences. Yes, they allow the instructor to observe each student’s technique, but when practising kata takes up half of the evening’s lesson, you should ask yourself why more of the lesson isn’t being devoted to more practical matters.

Some martial arts styles are more art than martial. Pretty katas that are designed to win competitions are no substitute for practising proper techniques that may actually save your life. You must decide for yourself the value of your training. If your knowledge is weak in one or more areas, you must be willing to recognise this weakness and seek additional training from reliable sources. Only an insecure and jealous sensei would begrudge their students learning new information from other instructors.

I don’t write tonight’s blog with the intent of being disrespectful to traditional martial arts. I owe a great deal to my early training. I hope tonight’s blog will encourage instructors and senior students to openly discuss the real value of what is in the curriculum of their particular style and how it is taught to their students.

Thursday 10/09/15

Some people are born leaders, others learn the traits required. Regardless; the role of a leader, a real leader, is to protect, lead and care for the people who look to them for guidance. Some people seek leadership because they believe it should provide them with power and privilege. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In everyday situations, we are surrounded by people in leadership roles; from supervisors through to managers and CEOs. Some of these leaders do a great job; and others..... not so much. Looking beyond the business world, sturdy leadership is required in everyday life too. Outside of family life, the most important leadership situation is during an emergency. In a worst case scenario, people’s lives may be in danger.

In an emergency situation, the person most suited to take charge isn’t a business leader, or community representative. It is the person who remains calm and can quickly come up with a solution to the problem; the person who can guide others to safety.

It is entirely possible that people may turn to you for guidance in times of trouble. You don’t think so? If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, and making use of the information, you will have accumulated a lot of safety and survival tips. If so, it would be safe to assume you have shared your new-found knowledge with those around you. It is also safe to assume these same people will be keeping track of your increased knowledge and self-confidence, and will turn to you during a crisis.

This idea might seem daunting to you, but it makes sense. In times of crisis, people will turn to someone who knows more than they do. You have already displayed a willingness to learn, and to make use of knowledge they don’t have. If others turn to you in a crisis, don’t shy away. These people need you; have the courage to meet the challenge and to do your best.