Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Are we guilty of scaremongering?

Ok, so all you instructors out there, have you ever asked yourself “Am I guilty of scaremongering?” To a degree I think we all are, look at the majority of adverts for martial arts clubs and they will advertise the fact that they will teach you how to defend yourself. I think we can pretty much agree that the majority of the people start training in the martial arts to learn how to defend themselves, but how do we attract the student to our class? I have seen a number of adverts over the years, an example being: an attacker wearing a ski mask brandishing a knife and various similar scenarios. Are these just scaremongering tactics that prey on the fears of the general public?

Looking at scaremongering from  a different point of view, I am sitting here writing this the day after the horrific shooting of PC Ian Dibell; now because of this shooting we may well see an increase of people claiming to teach firearms defence but in the UK is this sort of training really necessary? If you train for reality then surely this is something you need to consider, but really, how prevalent is gun crime in your neighbourhood?

The Metropolitan Police class gun crime as, “Crime (Violence against the Person, Robbery, Burglary and Sexual Offences) in which guns are used. A gun is taken to be involved in an offence if it is fired, used as a blunt instrument to cause injury to a person, or used as a threat. Where the victim is convinced of the presence of a firearm, even if it is concealed, and there is evidence too of the suspect's intention to create this impression, then the incident counts. Both real, and fake firearms, and air weapons are counted within this category.”

A quick search of the Met Police website ( reports that in the 12 months to May 2012 there were 2277 reported gun crimes, approximately six a day over the course of a year, down on the reported 2591 from the previous 12 months and this in a city with a population of circa 7,825,200 (reported figures from 2010). If you want further information on gun crime figures you can check out this website,

Looking at these figures we could ask ourselves if teaching firearm defences to the general public are necessary then. Look around at many of the modern “reality based” system and you will see them highlighting the fact that they teach defences against various types of firearms - pistols, shotguns, machine guns etc. but, is it necessary? That is the question. Some may argue that we should offer our students the option and opportunity of training in this area, maybe arguing better to have the skill and not need it instead of possibly needing it and not having it. In a country or society that has a greater exposure to firearms, say the USA; is it a valid area of training? Possibly, who am I to say?  We also need to consider what our students do as a job - armed forces, law enforcement, close protection, all areas that may need some exposure to firearms training.  There is good reason for offering this type of training to people serving in these areas but what about Joe Bloggs who works in the supermarket?

In closing, please do not interpret what I have said here as a pop at systems that teach firearms defences etc. I have merely used it as an example to highlight the original question of, ”Are we guilty of scaremongering?” Personally, I do not teach firearms defences, I have no knowledge or exposure to this area and so avoid teaching it. However, as with anything, if someone is skilled in this area and has a good level of knowledge and understanding then I do not see why they cannot teach it. 

As with most of the blogs and articles I write, I do try and get the reader to at least go away and think about their approach to the martial arts and get them to reflect and question the what, why and how of what they are doing. Sometimes this means being the devil’s advocate, but in the long run I understand that this can be beneficial as long as I open my mind to all points of view.

Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog here on
As usual I welcome any comments, feedback or questions and you can contact me via my website

Until next time, stay safe, train hard and have fun.

To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at:

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Is this art good for self-defence?

Well, It has been a couple of months since my last blog for which I apologise, I have had a fair amount going on including getting my coursework submitted for university, exams as well as preparing my demonstrations and workshops which I did at this year’s Martial Arts Show Live in Birmingham and also redoing my website which you can find at

So, let us get on with the months blog, Ever since I started training in the martial arts, my focus has always been self-defence.  Competition has never been an area that has interested me. So naturally as an instructor it is the self-defence orientated arts that have always drawn my attention over the years.

Before getting in to the guts of this article, I would like to point out that unless I am being specific about something, when I talk about self-defence I am including self-protection, and personal safety within that equation, remember though this is only for the purpose of this article. So with that cleared up, let’s move on.
A question I am commonly asked is, “is this art (insert an art here) good for self-defence”. I know I am not the only instructor out there to be asked this. You just need to check out a martial arts forum or similar to see the question bounded around everywhere. Now in my opinion, answers people give are often poorly informed.

I will not apologise for the content of this article; I am positive it will raise a few hackles but if it can create some debate all is well and good. What I am going to do is attempt to look at the broader picture and for this article will take it that the person I am trying to advise is just your average member of public, someone who may only have 3-4 hours maximum a week to train.

Before one can give an informed answer there are a few criteria that need to be taken into consideration: first of all and the most obvious - what is the art that one is actually asking about? Then, other criteria include the person’s long term and short term goals as well the time they have available to train.

One art that is commonly recommended for self-defence is western boxing. When I see or hear that I really need to ask myself why? As an art and combat sport it is superb but as a self-defence system it has some serious limitations. First and foremost as a sport it is governed by rules; by their very nature these rules put massive restrictions on oneself if self-defence is your aim.

Other negatives that boxing as an art has with regards to self-defence include: boxers wear gloves / wrap hands, only punch, grappling not allowed (to a degree), train against one style or type of attack (punches) - not grabs, kicks attacks from the rear etc. No threats or verbal aggression, no weapons, no ground fighting, single attacker not multiples. Naturally there are some positives that one would gain from training in boxing and this includes punching power, foot work, fitness and ability to take a shot amongst others. But before giving out advice, especially on faceless mediums such as forums, then one really needs to know more about the back ground of the person asking the question.

In closing, I do not have anything against the sweet science and art of boxing, I have just used it as an example for the point I am trying to make. As usual, I hope this has given you something to consider and welcome any questions and feedback.

Until next time, train hard, stay safe and have fun.


To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at:

Monday, 30 January 2012

Reflective practice

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I am currently attending university to further my experience within complementary therapies (check out November’s blog on the healing arts for more information on this); anyway, an important tool we use as therapists is reflection.

Reflective practice is about developing the “capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning”. It can be an important tool in developing knowledge and awareness about “the self” through experience rather than from formal teaching or knowledge transfer. There have been a number of models developed by various professionals based on reflective practice, some are pretty simple others not so much but I can recommend you take a few minutes doing a Google search of these. However, in my experience the Kolb learning cycle is one of the simplest out there.

Reflective practice can be a useful tool for the martial arts student and instructor alike. Looking at it from a student’s perspective first of all. As a student you could be asking yourself if you’re getting exactly what you want from your training, is the art you are training in tailored for your specific requirements? For instance, does your class train predominately for competition when your intention was to learn self-defence? If this is the case ask yourself why are you still training at the club. Is it because of cost, convenience or for the social side? There is nothing wrong with training at your club for any of these reasons, but if you’re really serious about your training you may want to reflect on this and look elsewhere.

As an Instructor, regardless of whether you do it on a professional basis or once a week, you should be reflecting after teaching each and every lesson you take. Did the lesson go as you planned?  If not, why not? If it did, what could you have done better? Did you get across the information you wanted to and are your students progressing as you would like, what can you do to improve on this?

Also look back at the training and type of instruction you received whilst working your way up through the ranks. Sometimes we are so busy trying to develop new and exciting training methods and drills we forget about some of the really good drills and methods that we were taught. Reflect back on your years as a student and see if you can bring any of this in to your classes.

Thanks again for checking the blog out, slightly off topic from developing self-defence skills but hopefully this may have got you thinking about how you can develop as an instructor. As always I welcome any comments or questions via email.

Till next time, train hard, train safe and have fun.

To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit: You can e-mail Stuart at:

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Realistic training & some tips!

One of my main influences and instructors, Dave Turton, teaches a very valid training concept which he calls “The Sandwich Theory” when it comes to training your self-defence realistically. The point he is trying to get across with this, is that all situations have a start, middle or finish (thinking about a sandwich first slice of bread, filling, second slice, now I am getting hungry, mmm, ham, cheese and pickle, lovely) Sorry, got distracted there.

Getting back to the point, most martial arts systems teach how to defend against attacks, usually in the manner of “the attacker grabs you, you do this defence”, “when the attacker punches, you do this”. Now if we relate this to a sandwich all we are getting here is the filling.

Now this can be beneficial when we are trying to introduce, teach and learn a new technique but eventually you will have to put it into application in a more realistic scenario (and if you’re not doing scenario training, why not?).

Once you have mastered the basic defence you will need to introduce the first slice of bread, in a self-defence situation this is more often than not a verbal opening. Right now you are probably saying what about muggings or ambush attacks? They may not include any verbal and you’re correct but this is where your awareness training comes in to play. Train for these too, but please do not discount training the early stages of an altercation; by doing so you will be losing vital chances to train not only your fence, but also training how to verbally diffuse a situation amongst other things. Have your training partner verbally assault you, this introduces a good bit of pressure and raises your adrenaline levels. Have them push and shove you whilst you practise trying to talk your way out or set up a pre-emptive strike.

Remember we are trying to control the whole situation, not just the physical attack.

Also train how you will finish your defence. Remember, we are training for self-defence and our priority is to get home safely. We want to be able to escape from the situation as quickly as we can.

If we have controlled the altercation verbally, by using the fence and controlling the space and distance around and between us and the attacker, we may be able to escape without it going physical. That is great, job done. But also think about your physical response. How have you controlled your attacker? If you have used an impact technique you may well be able to escape with- out getting tied up and grappling, but if you have ended up grappling and have finished your defence with a lock, or submission hold for example how do you escape from that safely? Have you tied yourself up grappling with the attacker so much you cannot deal with another attacker suddenly coming in? Have you tied yourself up whilst trying to control your attacker so much that to release him would put yourself back into danger? These are all points that you need to consider.

I hope this has given you something to think about. Anyway, moving on at this time of year everyone likes to go out, have a few drinks but it is important that you always keep your safety in mind. I would like to close this blog by offering a few safety tips:

Plan your night out and journey to and from your destination, make sure you let people know where you are going to be and when you expect to get home.
Never accept a drink from anyone you do not completely trust.

Know your limits when it comes to how much alcohol you can handle, don’t be pressured in to drinking more if you feel you have had enough.

Think about how you are going to get home at the end of the night, pre-book your taxi with a reputable company. Better still, try to get one of your friends not to drink so they can drive and drop everyone home safely, or arrange a friend or a member of your family to pick you up. If you’re arranging a pre-booked taxi get the cab firm to text you the make of car and the registration number so you know you are getting in the correct cab. If you’re a lady, then request a female driver if possible.

Make sure you have a number of a couple of taxi firms on you, have them stored in your phone and also written down and stored in your purse / wallet in case you lose your phone or the battery runs out.

Ensure your phone is fully charged and you have credit if on a pre-pay phone.
Trust your instincts.

I do not want to make you paranoid but just a little awareness can make this party season a little safer and hopefully allow you to enjoy it to the full.
As usual, I welcome any comments and questions.

I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012.

Have fun and remember to stay safe.


 To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at:

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Healing Arts

Well I missed the last submission date for my blog due to having quite a large workload from University, but hopefully this won’t happen that often.
I have decided to make this blog tie in with what I am studying at Uni and my martial arts as I feel they are two sides of the same coin.
I am currently in my 2nd year studying Complementary Healthcare B.A. (Hons.) specialising in Aromatherapy. For those that do not know me, I am already trained in various holistic therapies including massage, reiki, reflexology and aromatherapy but as is my nature I have decided to pursue this to a higher level.

What’s this got to do with martial arts you may be asking, and that is a good question. As already mentioned I see my martial arts and complementary and alternative therapies as the two sides of the same coin.

Traditionally martial arts have always gone hand in hand. As an instructor who focuses on the self-defence / protection aspects of martial arts, I believe that self-defence starts with the “self” and not only includes developing your awareness and physical skills but should also include defending against poor health and the general aches and pains of growing older.

 If we briefly look at traditional arts then we know that Tai Chi and Chi Kung are popular arts that emphasise health; other arts also include healing methods as part of their system. Take Inosanto Kali, this art is divided in to 12 areas of training, with the 12th area including healing into the curriculum. I would just like to add that I have no personal experience of the healing methods taught in this area but have trained in the past within this art. When I was training in Kali, my Instructor at the time, Guro Ralph Jones, had as a requirement that any student who wanted to be an instructor had to gain a first aid certificate. This he felt was the minimum requirement and probably the closest most students in the west would have access to without having to spend years studying a healing art. Ju-Jitsu and Judo used to teach Kuatsu as part of the art and unfortunately these methods I feel are dying out and becoming a lost art within the martial arts.

Do I believe, everyone should look to learning these methods? Absolutely not. All I am trying to do is get people thinking and hopefully investigate how they can develop to become a more complete and holistic martial artist.

As usual, I welcome any comments and questions.

Stay safe, stay healthy and have fun


To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
You can e-mail Stuart at:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

On the Soap Box!

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, this month I want to get something off my chest. There are a number of things that bug the hell out of me about the martial arts, or more specifically- certain groups of martial artists.

The first group is people who watch a clip on YouTube (or similar sites) and go on and tell you that an art or system is a load of rubbish and won’t work in the cage, on the street etc. How can you tell from a clip that can last for anything from 30 seconds up to 10 minutes? You just cannot do it. You can get an understanding of the person(s) skill level performing on the video but you cannot get an in depth knowledge of the art in that time.

Personally I have respect for ALL martial arts. What annoys me is when groups and individuals promote their art(s) as something they are not. For example, competitive arts that claim they are also the ultimate self defence system and then only teach ring based, rules restricted methods without teaching other aspects of self
defence/self protection such as verbal de-escalation, awareness, avoidance etc.

However, if the art is promoted in the context of what they are and what they can teach you, sport, traditional methods, self protection and so on, then they will get my respect. This does not mean that I will want to train for any length of time in that art but I may give it a try, just to see what they are about. When looking at other arts what I am looking for ultimately is the principles and concepts that they teach, rather than just the techniques. It is these principles that I will take away and see if I can integrate them in what I already know and understand.

This kind of leads me on to one of my other bug bears - people that insist that this does not work or that does not work. How many times have you heard people say, “Well you don’t see it being used in cage fighting so it can’t work.” Sorry but complete crap. Yeah this is a great testing ground but not the only one out there.

Quick example, not the best one but it will get the point across: Before UFC 129, if you had asked an MMA fighter if a jumping front kick would work in the cage, I reckon the majority would have answered no. But we saw Machida knock out Randy Couture with it. Let’s look at it from a different perspective, would a jumping front kick work in a street environment, who can say, perhaps, you may not be able to pull it off in a ram packed night club or if you’re wearing slightly restrictive clothing, high heels (you get the point) but you may be able to pull it off if you are just out of the gym, dojo, still slightly pumped from training, warmed up then yeah who can say it can’t be pulled off. These examples are a little extreme but hopefully it is getting my point across.

Ok, that’s me off my soap box. More next month, till then stay safe, train hard and have fun!

To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at:

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Thinking outside the box...

Ok, I hope your enjoying the blogs so far. This one will hopefully get you thinking a little bit and looking at your training slightly differently.
First of all, I have a question for you. Ultimately, how many ranges of fighting are there? Long range, medium Range and close range or do you break it down into, kicking, punching, trapping, vertical grappling and ground fighting? 
You can even add verbal range or if you want to think outside the box, long range weapons. But for the sake of this blog let's rein it in a little. So, what is your answer, 3, 4,5? Want to know the right answer, ONE, yes that is right, ONE. Ultimately there is ONE range of fighting. Why? Because at the end of the day you are either fighting or you're not, end of. All the other ranges, kicking, punching etc are just ranges to develop yourself as a martial artist, combat athlete; however you want to view yourself. Remember though, my focus is to give you the edge on the street and here we cannot stick to the rules. We need to think outside of the box.
Just to make it easier, let me give you a couple of examples. The first one is a little extreme but it gets the point across.
You are in a fight and your opponent throws a kick at you which you just happen to catch. Your response is to take a bite of their leg. So which range are you in, Kicking or grappling? are in fighting range. Another example, you are on your back and your attacker is in your guard, you need to get to your feet asap and start to kick him (back heel, you can picture it) in his kidneys. I ask you again, what range are you in, ground grappling or just fighting on the ground or just fighting. I hope you can see where I am now coming from. Try not to limit yourself and your perspective of fighting by being influenced by trends, arts and having a narrow mind. 
The different ranges of combat everyone talks about are there just as a way to develop oneself in whatever art they train. Breaking down the different weapons in ones arsenal into ranges allows it easier to train individual principles, techniques and tools. It is the integration of these that will make you a more complete martial artist.
I am going to leave it there for this month as I also want to make this the theme for next month's blog and expand on my thoughts some more. But as always I welcome any questions you may have.
Until then, stay safe, train safe and have fun.

To find out more about Rider Martial Arts visit:
 You can e-mail Stuart at: