Goju blogger turns Wado blogger

A bright light flashes across my vision. That was weird…and again. There it goes, like a golden swoosh of blizzard snow from left to right across my horizon.

I glance to my hand and my fingers are all glowing gold. Shafts of light start to shoot out from my finger tips. I open my mouth and more golden light keeps coming out. I can feel change coming…it is happening…

This can mean only one thing.

I am regenerating.

Good bye Goju Blogger.

Hello Wado Blogger…

[TARDIS zooms into and out of shot]

[My assistant gazes on at me in horror and disbelief that I am going]

[Cue Dr. Who music]

[Fade to black]

Living without karate for 5 months

Hello – yes, I am alive. And still in Malta.

You have probably guessed by the title of this post that my karate training has been, errm, a bit circumspect to say the least. In fact it has been exclusively at home and not in any dojo.

Oh dear. So what went wrong?

It’s been a tough old ride these last few months and will continue to be. The bottom line is I haven’t done any dojo training since my first exploratory efforts when I arrived in Malta.

Allow me to explain.

Firstly, I accepted the challenge of living and working in Malta back in January. And it certainly has lived up to the challenge. Work has been tough, compounded by living in a foreign country with a ten month old baby who is going through some rough growing pains. Combine that with the stress of living in an apartment where a screaming baby is really not the neighbours idea of fun (nor ours!), and you have quite a pressurised situation.

At the end of the day something had to give. Karate was that something.

It has been my choice though? Right?

Yes. That is right.

I decided that the combination of pressure at work and a need to support my family left no room for karate.

None. Nil. Nout.

It was a really tough decision but one I would make again given the same circumstances.

But I really miss karate. I miss the work out, I miss learning new stuff…I even miss getting thumped and getting bruised. I miss that feeling of being stretched physically and emotionally.

But I am happy too.

Happy that I have managed to devote enough time to work and family. Happy that I have a wonderful wife and daughter. And happy in the knowledge that I will be returning to Goju Ryu in July.

I have come to the conclusion that life is full of these ups and downs and that things will work out in as long as I stay aware of what is important.

I look forward to posting again in July with my return to a way of living that fulfils me in ways I hadn’t fully appreciated before coming to Malta.

Ciao for now!

Finding Shotokan in Malta

Living in a different country is always a fun adventure. New ways of doing things, new language, new food, new climate.

My first impressions of Malta in three words:

1. Brilliant
2. Complex
3. Crazy

Brilliant because they’ve managed to cram 400,000 people onto an island a little bigger than the Isle of Wight. Complex because they have cultural influences from all over the Mediterranean, North Africa and the UK. Crazy because…well, just take a drive on the roads at rush hour and you’ll see what I mean :)

I love it. It’s fantastic. The island has all the passion of southern Spain, mixed with the politeness of English, and the argumentative passion of the Arabs. What’s not to like?

Rabbit stew. Bleugh.

Ok, that is one minor point, but I’m willing to forgive them the Rabbit for the fabulous weather. Anyway, who am I to criticise rabbit meat? This UK horse meat scandal has the Maltese scratching their heads. Why complain when horse meat in the shops here costs 5EURO per kg, versus beef that costs 2.50EURO per kg?!?

Ok, so less talking about Malta, and more about karate.

Well, this is another ‘new’ thing for me. There is not a Goju Ryu dojo on the island, so I’ve opted for Shotokan. It will at the very least keep my eye in over the next 6 months, and at the very best do my kicking and long stances some good.

So I am three weeks in to my 6 month stint in Malta. Two dojos later, I have now sampled Shotokan for the first time. Albeit, a tiny amount.

I have settled on joining a Japanese Karate Association dojo, run by Sensei Dario Chircop. This dojo is right on my doorstep…I mean literally, right on my doorstep. A 30 second walk from my apartment.

Now I’ve just got to balance work, family and karate. So far I’ve been quite unsuccessful. Next week will be better.

Onwards…

Goodbye UK!

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A new month, a new job.

Well, kind of – it is a secondment to be specific. Yep, six months somewhere new…somewhere abroad…somewhere like….

MALTA!!!

I fly on Monday. Gulp!

But what’s not to like? Warm winter, sunniest place in Europe, English-speaking country, tons of cool things to see and do. And there is a job to be done, lest I forget.

But there is one snag.

No Goju Ryu on the island.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Not good. I’ve searched and searched but no luck. It is mainly Shotokan. So I have no choice but to try a new style.

That in itself is quite exciting. New techniques, new kata, and a new dojo.

And after all, it is only for 6 months.

So my next posts will be all about my time in Malta and learning a different style of karate. Hey, if it doesn’t kill you it only makes you stronger.

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A special thanks to Sensei Andre for supporting me over the last two years.

You have been awesome.

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Onwards and upwards

What’s all the fuss about pressure points?

They hurt. Damn it. They hurt one hell of a lot!

That’s certainly what all my fuss is about.

Pressure points, or kyūsho (to give them their Japanese name), are vital points on the body that when put under pressure generally make you want to run away, baulk uncontrollably or fall into a whimpering mess on the floor. Or sometimes, all three simultaneously.

Trust me. It happens.

As is often the day after a karate class I have some aches and pains. None have been so weird as this morning’s pains: namely in my groin. Sensei put pressure on my Yako pressure point. Effectively, he slapped and grabbed at the inner fleshy part of the groin that runs from your crotch to down your inner thigh. When grabbed it smarts like a you’ve just been dipped in a toaster-filled bathtub, with the toaster switched on and the bath is full of water.

Ouch.

“Grab the groin!” by Master Ken no longer seems quite the comedic sketch after all.

But I digress.

So what is a pressure point anyway?

Pressure points can be anywhere on the body. Basically it a place or point on the body to which if you apply only gentle pressure can have a big impact. Pain! Pressure points can be nerve clusters (lips, genitals, ears, sole of feet), soft tissue (groin, under arm, genitals), areas of high blood flow / arteries (neck, under arm, ear lobes, gentials), structurally weak areas (collumela or bit between the nostrils of the nose, wind pipe…and you guessed it, genitals).

Here’s a gruesome fact: the Ottoman war machine circa 14th-16th Century was most fond of torturing prisoners with via pressure pionts. One of the most feared death sentences was being “bastinadoed to death”. Foot whipping, to me and you – particularly painful because the soles of the feet are a cluster of nerve endings, small bones and tendons. Whipped on the soles of the feet until death. Hmmmm, quite gruesome indeed.

Another theory on why pressure points hurt so, is that when pressure is applied this disrupts the energy flow around the body. Meridians – qi – flow of energy. This has given rise to the somewhat tenuous theory of Dim mak – the death touch. See Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill sketch to see Dim Mak in glorious technicolour.

Ok, so enough of the technical – here’s my favourite pressure point techniques.

My top 5 pressure points techniques

5. Grab the wind pipe – results in gagging, shortness of breath

4. Grab the bingo wing – makes the opponent rise on their tip toes. If combined with point 5 – awesome!

3. Stamp the foot – right in between the meta tarsal bones – excellent. Combine with points 4 and 5 and you have one of the Gekisai Dai Ni bunkai.

2. Uraken the nose – eye-wateringly painful.

1. And if those doesn’t work, bash the genitals.

Here’s proof (like you need it):

Happy pressure pointing!

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I witnessed domestic violence: did I do the right thing?

This post is about a rather unsavoury experience I had a few weeks ago. I witnessed a man beating up a woman on a cold, wet night in Newcastle Upon Tyne. I was with a group of colleagues on a night out, having just left a restaurant. We intervened.

But the question I keep on asking myself is, “did I do the right thing?”

We all walked away unharmed, no punches were thrown, nobody was injured (except the female victim). Was that the right result? Could it / should it have been different?

On the one hand, I am disappointed in myself because I didn’t whack the guy who was kicking his ‘girlfriend’ in the back after he had thrown her on the floor.

On the other hand I am glad that I did not antagonise the situation by reacting to verbal taunts, no matter how tempted I was to call the guy’s bluff, “…I will knock your £%&$!”* lights out!” (swear word redacted).

Here is the situation in full. I would appreciate your thoughts and comments. How would you have handled it? What would you have done differently?

Did I do the right thing?

The situation:

It was night out at a Spanish restaurant in the city centre a few weeks ago, drinking a few drinks and sampling some lovely tapas. By the time we finished the meal it was 11:30pm. There were 5 of us (3 men and 2 women), and we stepped out of the restaurant on to a cold and rainy cobbled street, agreeing to one last drink at a bar on the other side of the street – literally, 10 metres away.

It was then that we saw them.

A couple staggering up the street, linked closely together, arguing in hushed-shouting growling tones. My spider senses were on alert – something was wrong. I took my hands out of my jacket pockets and did not let my eyes off the couple.

I am guessing they were late teens, early 20′s. He was dressed in trousers and a t-shirt, about 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm), skinny. She was about 5 feet 7 inches (170 cm), dressed to the nines like girls in Newcastle like to do, in a pretty blue dress and high heels. She was crying. The guy was frog marching her up the road and she was struggling to get free.

As they passed us, the girl took off her stilettos and whacked her boyfriend with one of them. At this point we were about 5 metres from the couple. I kept watching.

The guy then reaches down and picks the woman up by her legs and body, slamming her on the floor. If that wasn’t enough he then takes a running kick at her back.

This is the point where we intervened, “Oiy, you, get off her!”

It all happened so quickly but we rushed towards the couple. My colleague shouting at him to stop (which he did) and one of my other colleagues called the police. My heart was in my mouth.

Then it gets strange.

Firstly the girl (the victim) on seeing several men approach, jumps up to protect her man (the aggressor). She turns from fragile victim to valiant protector in a split second. She declines all offer of help from us and starts pleading with her boyfriend to go home.

Secondly, another guy appears on the scene claiming to be the cousin of the aggressor. He was protecting the aggressor. It seemed like he was waiting in the distance and then all of sudden appears out of nowhere.

Now that the cousin was there, the guy who was beating his girlfriend starts to mouth off to us that he was “going to knock us all out”.

“…all of ya. Each and every one of yuz…” Picture very drunk Geordie with a bad hair cut, spewing actor-plasm each time he shouted. Lovely man.

By this time I had guessed he was not ever going to throw a punch. I know this because whilst he was shouting “I am going to knock you out…all of ya!”, he kept on jumping randomly ‘at’ us, arms flailing in the air, whilst conveniently placing himself behind his cousin.

And me?

Well I was stood front and centre next to my colleague who was doing most of the shouting talking. My colleague was trying to diffuse the situation through the cousin. I was stood right by his side ready to react to any punch or physical attack. I did not say a word the entire time. My chin was locked slightly down, my eyes were wide and my hands were open. All I was focussed on was any intention to strike. I was continuously looking at the aggressors and my colleagues. I was super ready. It was like I was waiting for a bunkai attack. Just like we do in the dojo. Defense, then attack. Defense then attack.

But then his since up to now mild-mannered cousin starts getting aggressive, too. He was quite short in stature but claimed to be a bouncer, and starts to pick on one of my male colleagues for no reason.

Looking back I think he saw an opportunity to deflect our attention away from the girl and guy by causing a mini fracas. He picked on my colleague because he was an easy target – he had his hands in his jacket pockets and kept them in his pockets even when being screamed at nose-to-nose.

Personally I would advise taking your hands out of your pockets if there is the slightest hint of danger.

The boyfriend (aggressor, whatever you want to call him) wanders off with his girlfriend whilst his cousin carries on with his ‘hot air’ distraction by threatening our colleague. Lots of chest sticking out from him and hands by his sides, chin out. I’ve never understood that aggressive approach – it seems totally pointless and vulnerable. Wim talks about it in his blog – explaining how that reaction is hard-wired into us, but very stupid nonetheless. Anyway, whilst my hands-in-his-pockets colleague was taking an ear bashing, the couple we intervened in the first place had disappeared.

Then it all died down. The cousin calmed down and calls for back up. That’s our cue to leave.

We went to the bar and cooled down with a couple of drinks.

…and whilst the adrenaline seeps slowly away, the thinking begins.

On reflection:

I’ve thought a lot about this incident and what I could have / should have done. Here are my questions:

  • Why did the girl protect her oppressor? From friends I’ve spoken to this is classic behaviour from someone who is the victim of domestic violence. Is that right?

I have now educated myself through some excellent blogs on domestic violence, the best of which is Prego and the Loon. Thank you for your blog! I realise now that the girl probably loved the guy: in that instant, she was protecting the one she loved, regardless of the fact she had just taken a beating from him.

  • The cousin was just deflecting our attention: that was clear. Do you think he was in the background the whole time, checking on his cousin? Was he complicit in the girlfriend-beating? Is that common?
  • Neither of the two guys were ever going to throw a punch. But should I have thrown one? I so, so wanted to. It is my deepest regret, that the guy who dished out the beating didn’t get a taste of his own medicine. What would you have done?

There are so many what ifs. What if the guy or his cousin had a weapon? What if I had thrown a punch and injured one of the guys? What if their back-up had turned up?

I had had a few drinks that night. What if my judgement was impaired? What if I had made the wrong call?

With great power comes great responsibility – but I am struggling to define the terms of my responsibility in this situation.

Your thoughts and comments on this blog post would be extraordinarily welcome.

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