Tag Archives: self development

Warrior mindset

Getting to black belt or achieving anything of value takes patience and hard work. It is an admiral quality that people display when they just keep turning up to the dojang and taking another small step towards their goal. This is one mindset that is important to making progress. We can call this a ‘yin’ mindset, something that keeps you chipping away at a goal and knowing that you will get there eventually.

However, we also have to train our ‘yang’ mindset, that of facing a challenge in the present. One that cannot be chipped away over time, but has to be dealt with in its entirety immediately

Years ago I was in a class and we were doing pad work, the instructor introduced the technique to be practiced, which happened to be spinning turning kick. This produced a collective groan from a group, mainly from the higher grades within the class. Granted spinning turning kick is not the easiest of techniques but it is hardly tough enough to have people groaning about it. At that point, I feel, all the people who expressed their dislike of the technique had already lost.

For sure they had exposed a weakness in their technique, the fact that they didn’t enjoy practicing the technique. Also they exposed weakness in their mindset, they had almost already admitted defeat just because it was a tough technique. In that session, no one that expressed their displeasure put in 100% effort. Maybe just going through the motions until the instructor moved to a different technique.

Ok, so it was only a pad drill, but what happens if we carry that mindset into other parts of the art. If we have to spar a tough opponent or even defend ourselves physically. We can’t get used to admitting defeat when we are presented with a challenge. We need to develop a strong mindset that doesn’t let us shy away from challenges

We do this simply by facing up to challenges, in class we hear there is a difficult technique, we have to spar the club champion, we have to spar 2 on 1 , or 3 on 1 or even 5 on 1. No matter what the challenge we should meet it with no complaining and pretty much no comment at all.

At the beginning of this article I referred to the 2 different mindset as yin and yang. Both have to be present in your training. Whereas turning up for training everyday but never meeting a challenge will not help you progress, turning up for training once a month will mean that the basic will always be a challenge for you. If we balance the two, turning up and also constantly accepting challenges that we are presented with they we will make strong progress in our training.

Next time in training, when you are presented with a challenging situation, watch how you react


My Journey – Part one

A little while ago I received a notification from WordPress that I have been blogging for 5 years, this coincidences with my 50th post. To mark this milestone I am going to write about my own personal journey in the martial arts.

To make it a little easier to read I have divided it into two parts

As I said in the ‘about’ section, I started TKD when I was 16 as a very unfit teenager who could run the length of the hall without turning purple and collapsing. over the years i got better physically but I was never much of a competitor despite winning a few medals over the years. I was always more interested in the application of the movements found in the patterns. I think it is that interest that has led me to study different martial arts.

I am also lucky that I travel with my work quite a lot which has exposed me to a lot of different cultures and teachers.

So here it is… my journey part one


Chinese styles

After achieving black belt in TKD and training in Scotland, Italy and Russia I moved to China. Originally for a year but ended up staying for 15 years. While in China I had the opportunity to train in a number of arts. At first I studied the Chinese internal martial arts, initially under Professor Liu Yuzeng who taught Taiji, Xingyi, and Bagua. It was under him that I discovered how different training in the Chinese martial arts were. Training was done early in the morning and consisted of practicing the movements and forms over and over, we would start with the short explosive movements of Xingyi, then move on to the circular walking of Bagua and then finish with the softer movements of Taiji before closing with qigong. Although I enjoyed the training I think I was too young and inexperienced to really make the most out of it. I had gone from the pad work and sparring of Taekwondo to just movement practice, I often felt frustrated with not fully understanding what the aim of the training was.

Training under Professor Liu gave me a keen interest in Baguazhang, which eventually caused me to move to what could be regarded as the birth place of Bagua, Beijing. It was in Beijing that I met Zhu Baozhen, who I regard as my main teacher of the Chinese styles. Similar to professor Liu, Zhu Laoshi (teacher Zhu) taught all three of the internal arts, however he mainly concentrated on Baguazhang from the Yin Fu lineage. Similar to Professor Liu his practice also consisted of single movements repeated many times and the circle walking forms, but he also included a lot of standing qi gong. In fact for my first class under Zhu Laoshi, all he taught me was the standing practice and walking method specific to his line of Bagua.

Although both Professor Liu and Zhu Laoshi were both highly skilled in their arts and very capable teachers, I feel I was in a better place to learn from Zhu Laoshi. This was both in my understanding of the Chinese arts and also my Chinese language ability.

I spent about 4 years with Zhu Laoshi, then due to circumstance I stopped training under him regularly. Sadly Zhu Laoshi passed away in 2014


While training in Bagua I also took up Aikido, this was mainly to get some more partner practice. I had read that Bagua and Aikido were somewhat linked so it seemed logical to try Aikido to supplement my training.

In the beginning I got a lot out of training in Aikido. Our teacher, the only female teacher I have had, was highly technical and appeared to really love the art. Through the Beijing dojo I also had the pleasure of training with Horii Shihan from Japan on a number of occasions

Everyone in the dojo started out really enjoying the training, however over the years our teacher seemed to get progressively more frustrated with her situation. I don’t know if she wasn’t getting the recognition she wanted, wasn’t developing herself as much as she wanted, or if the issue was purely financial. Whatever the reason it started to show in the classes. There was a distinct lack of patience with new students coming in to the dojo and even some of the classes were trained with an atmosphere of displeasure.

In time the dojo was to close, it reopened months later and all the students went back for a while but as the frustration continued the students, including myself, started to fall away. Aikido still leaves me with a sense of unfinished business. One day I still plan to return to the art.

Continued in part two……


The martial arts can offer lots of benefits beyond physically skills. These are often listed in adverts for martial arts school, building confidence is often touted as one of the main advantages


However, in many of the gyms I have trained at often the confidence that people build stays only in the gym. In the dojang or other training place they are maybe a black belt and get respect from all the people around them. They feel safe and secure, and why shouldn’t’ they? The hard training that they have been through has developed them in many ways. The people they are training beside have seen them pushed to their limit and beyond maybe. It is part of the bond that keeps people together in a class


This is assuming that the Training they are doing is tough and not just a group of people hanging out in uniforms talking about mystical qi energy and living out their violent fantasies under the guise of self defence. Training at its core needs to be realistic and hard, you need to be challenged and challenge yourself every time you step on to the mats.


We also have to take things with us after training. I have seen many a hard trainer that when they step out of the class they are a completely different person, they don’t bring any of what they learn about themselves in the dojang with them to the outside world. They are still too scared to take control of many things in their life jobs, relationships, even controlling themselves. In this case their dobok has become armour and the dojang a fortress in which they sit. Often people will spend all their free time in the dojang just because they feel safer or more powerful there than anywhere else.


In this case we are not taking the lessons from martial arts and pushing them on to really life, we are only hiding in the dojang.


The cure for this is not to quit martial arts, nor is it to bury yourself deeper. Training should be a strengthening experience both inside and out but just like training unless we focus on our weaknesses they will always be with us. We need to consciously approach life the same way we approach our training.

This may involve some tough conversations with yourself and possibly others, but after that there is a feeling of strength and empowerment equal if not greater than that you have experience in the gym.

In my opinion you can only regard yourself as a martial artist if you are applying the lessons you have learn to your own personal life. Facing demons and taking control