I started practicing martial arts in my early teens much before I ever took up running, when I quite fortuitously stumbled upon a Taekwondo demo. I’m not sure if it was the idea of power, the cool outfits, physical fitness, or simply the fact that it was such a unique things for me to witness that instantly made me wish to be a part of it. Of course, back then I never gave much thought to the philosophical or the martial aspects of the arts. I continued on to practice with that dojo for a number of years after which academic pressure forced me to take, what turned out to be, a long hiatus. But little did I realize that by then martial arts already had an indelible hold on me and despite the erratic nature of my training since then, I’ve always considered martial arts as a way of life and strived to keep it so.
Listed below are the dojos that I have had the pleasure and privilege to train in during the most recent past few years:
Koryu Karate and Jujitsu are both invaluable in teaching ground combat techniques along with grappling, otoshi, strangles, kyoshu etc., essential to being a competent martial artist. Of course, along the same lines, western boxing and bag work has also proved to be invaluable for building strength and resilience. A couple of select dojos listed below have singularly re-discovered various bunkai for karate katas and other combat applications that have diluted over time, and show that the physics and principles behind the numerous technical applications is conserved between the various martial arts.
- Iain Abernethy
- Kissaki Kai – Vince Morris
- Dillman Karate International
- Geoff Thompson – Martial Artist
- Koryu Uchinadi – Patrick McCarthy
- Ao Denkou Kai International – Rick Clark
Being on the dojo mats or out running is when I feel best, but due to one too many injuries, and with still a couple of years left on this planet, I’ve decided to abandon some of the more disruptive forms of the arts in favor of Kendo. Although, nothing can replace actual mat time, I’ve tried to keep the momentum going by training with the Oxford City Kendo Club. Kendo is by no means any less challenging than my previous pursuits; it is however, a bit easier on my knees while allowing me to work on my five invaluable principles – distance, center, timing, speed and balance. Oxford University Kendo Club’s Kendo for Beginners guide and this booklet entitled Kendo equipment manual written by Yasuji Ishiwata is an invaluable reference for beginners in Kendo. Beginning Kendo has been a humbling experience for me and brought home the adage that one is only as good as the sport they practice. The competitive element gives one a taste of confronting opponents of all sizes, while the heavy armor forces one to fight more conservatively and efficiently. Kendo as a budo aims to foster a “Zen” like spiritual development by challenging and expanding one’s physical limits where the goal s is not necessarily to become a proficient swordsman. It would be almost necessary to supplement one’s Kendo training with Kenjutsu, western fencing and perhaps other styles in order to test and improve one’s swordsmanship. Furthermore, the meditative and spiritual aspects of Kendo and other such budo arts tend to emphasize the power of mind over body and techniques and that alone can take a lifetime to acquire.
The British Kendo Association has put together a few very nice guides and articles about Kendo: Articles 1; Article 2, which aim to summarize the attitude one fosters during Kendo training. Also try this resource for further reading material about Kendo and about Bushido in general!
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
– Calvin Coolidge, 1932
Go to my Posts if you feel so inspired to read about my personal views on Martial arts.