Adapting Karate

by Les Bubka

Martial arts are often perceived as being a very athletic activity that is reserved for very fit and fully abled people, mostly men aged between 16 to 30 something.  This seems to be where most clubs are focussing in terms of their potential client base.  Within Karate there tends to be more of an emphasis on children and so the image of Karate has been distorted into being a martial art that is ineffective, but is a great pastime with awesome coordination and discipline building features.  This weak image is far from true and luckily there is a growing movement of pragmatic martial artists who are promoting the practical application of this great art, which I am happy to be a part of.  I am also a strong advocate of the benefits of Karate in improving not only physical health but also mental wellbeing and as such I organise seminars and classes for organisations helping people who suffer with ill mental health.  Being involved in this type of application of Karate has led me to focus on inclusion and developing Karate as an art that is accessible for all students, no matter what their physical ability, age or struggles may be.  Everyone is welcome in my dojo (place of training) and I can see that this approach is increasing in popularity as more and more dojos are incorporating changes to enable all students to participate. terms of their potential client base. reserved for very fit and fullyabled

If we think that there are over 11 million people with a disability in the UK, this is a considerable proportion of the population that could be excluded from enjoying the benefits of Karate.  In my club we have two types of groups:

  • Practical Karate where we train with contact; sparring and throwing is a usual part of a session.
  • Meditation Karate where we focus on a softer approach and enjoy the benefits of Karate forms.
Shinaido Karate

In both of these groups we place an emphasis on adapting the training programme to accommodate all kinds of students.  Most of the exercises within Karate can be appropriately modified.  It just takes some knowledge and imagination.  By doing this we can achieve astonishing results, empowering students and giving them the confidence to take part in activities from which they are usually excluded.  For example, when working with seniors I have modified our kata (forms) to take into consideration the fact that most of my clients experience problems with joint mobility, arthritis, balance and back pain.  My programme is designed to remove stances that are not so kind on joints and includes additional movements that help to improve balance. 

What is important is to focus on an individual’s abilities and make appropriate modifications as we teach.  A good example would be the kata, Naihanchi, where we have a movement that involves crossing our legs to step.  People with poor balance struggle to complete this move and so we have a few options on how to make this easier.  First, we can abandon the step altogether and instead put in place a side shuffle.  A second option is to place a chair in front of the person, which can be used as a support.  In this way we can allow them to keep exercising without being discouraged and in time they can build up their confidence to try the cross step.

Another simple modification is to exclude some parts of a workout or drill.  Just a few weeks ago we had two students who had acquired minor injuries to the ankle and calf.  As we were working on pad drills that involved punches and kicks they were struggling with the kicking element and from the perspective of a coach it was too risky to allow them to kick.  My responsibility as an instructor is to make sure that we can avoid obtaining injuries and do not worsen any existing ones and so the logical answer is to modify the drill to leave out kicks for those individuals.  Having watched many classes at different clubs I had come across the practice that pushes students to train through an injury with the mantra that “it will make you stronger”.  In my experience this does not make you stronger and in fact is more likely to result in you having to take a longer break from training to enable recovery.  At many clubs this mistake can be easily made, where a technique has been excluded for a particular individual, but the other students have not been made aware that the drill has been modified for that person and so the effected individual is pressurised by others to perform the whole drill.

An adaptation that I have found very useful is to modify sparring conditions to appropriately consider individuals.  Some of my students are hard of hearing whilst others have mild autism and so I have changed the way that they are pressure tested.  In consultation with the given student we come up with a plan for their involvement in sparring, from engaging in sparring but with no hitting to the head to doing forms on the side instead.  It is also important that my other students take into consideration their partners’ ability.  For instance, after a few years of training an autistic student decided that he would like to try full sparring with punches and kicks to the head (with protective headgear).  This was not a problem as all of the students were made aware that they need to control themselves and not punch 100%.  In this way everyone can enjoy the same activity whilst remaining safe.

We all associate Karate with strict discipline, lines of students and a loud “Osu!” (acknowledgement).  This is a reflection of Japanese Karate.   Okinawans have a more family oriented approach that is much more relaxed and I was always drawn to this sort of club.  Many instructors have disagreed with my approach whereby students can drink during a session and ask questions freely. However, having stuck to my beliefs and run my club in this relaxed way for a few years I can happily say that it has been beneficial to my students.  They care about the club and each other and the process of learning is much faster, especially for the more age-advanced students.  Put simply, without stress we can enjoy training and as we all know it is much easier to learn a subject if it is enjoyable.

A fundamental element when teaching anything is communication.  If there is no communication then it is very hard to learn anything.  That is why it is very important to establish a sufficient and individual connection with students, in order to communicate clearly.  What do I mean by this?  If we have a group of students with different abilities we have to consider how we can effectively communicate with each of them without losing detailed instructions.  For example, in our club we have a student that is deaf and in order to know what I am saying she has to be able to see my face (for lip reading), so I make sure that she can see my face whenever I explain something.  In addition to ensuring that students can ‘hear’ you, it is also important to appropriately adjust the language that we use to enable us to be understood.  People with learning difficulties or non-native English speakers might struggle to understand certain words or phrases and so we need to adjust our speech so as to be clear.  For instance, people with autism might take our metaphors literally and so misinterpret what has been said leading to misunderstandings and potential injuries.

The examples that I have discussed here represent only a small subset of the adaptations that we can use to make the sharing of Karate with others successful.  We need a personal approach that considers the needs of each student in order to provide the best possible instruction in a safe and friendly environment.  If these changes can be more widely incorporated into teaching methods then we will hopefully see more people from all walks of life taking up and enjoying Karate in the future.  In our dojo we have a saying that “strong and caring people are the pillars of society and Karate helps to cultivate them”.  If people are strong both mentally and physically they are much more willing to support others and so the practice of Karate does not just help the individual that trains, but also the whole community within which that individual is a part of.

“About the author: Les Bubka is an experienced martial artist, personal trainer and therapist who specialises in posture, mobility and Karate. Les works with a wide variety of clients including martial artists and athletes as well as those suffering with postural dysfunction or those who wish to improve their fitness and wellbeing”


Keenan Cornelius & His Comment on Gym Loyalty

A Skirt on the Mat

I’m sure most, if not all of you have seen the video clip that Flograppling put online with Keenan Cornelius discussion loyalty to certain bjj academies, how the idea of being a creonte isn’t really a thing, that this is America and that if you are uncomfortable at a gym you have every right to leave.

I think there is a good deal of validity to his statement, to be sure, but there’s just something that keeps me from wholly agreeing with his statement. I think you absolutely have a right to leave an academy if you feel uncomfortable in an academy due to an unhealthy culture. I saw a clip of this interview on social media, but turns out it’s a whole 20 minute interview where he also talks about the dangers of hero worshipping your instructor or higher ranked individuals, which I also agree with. Blind loyalty does…

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My General Travel Tips for Visiting Wudang Shan

1. When travelling, be sure to keep an eye on your belongings whether you take the train, bus or plane. Keep your passport, money, and other valuables on your person at all times.

2. Make sure that you keep your point of contact at StudyMartialArts.Org updated on your travel plans in case of changes. Normally we will add you to a group on Wechat so communication with both the school and us is clear and you always have someone supporting you. This will also ensure that someone is waiting at the train station or airport to pick you up, if you’ve requested it. It would not be the first time that schools have forgot to do this or there has been delays or miscommunications. Article on the Best Travel Apps for China.

3. Be aware of the Great Firewall of China. Some social media sites, like Facebook and YouTube, are blocked. Also if you use Gmail this will also be a problem to access. If you wish to setup a VPN, it is best to do so prior to your travel. And here is an article on the best ones. I highly recommend ExpressVPN.

4. Travel according to the seasons. While cloths can be bought in Wudang, larger size shoes can be more difficult to find. Make sure you come prepared with proper footwear and clothing.​ If you can I always recommend you bring a good all season sleeping bag as it will add some extra comfort and keep you warmer during cold winters.

5. Overall, have a good plan that is well communicated with the your point of contact at StudyMartialArts.Org. We have experience coordinating students from countries all over the world! We won’t let you down!

Zheng Manqing and the “Sick Man of Asia”: Strengthening the Nation through Martial Arts — Kung Fu Tea

Introduction: Zheng Manqing Accepts a Challenge While doing some preliminary historical research on Zheng Manqing, the well-known painter, physician and Taijiquan master, I came across a fascinating account of a challenge match that he was involved with during World War Two. This story, as published by Douglas Wile in his volume Zheng Manqing’s […]

Zheng Manqing and the “Sick Man of Asia”: Strengthening the Nation through Martial Arts — Kung Fu Tea

DODGING HARDNESS — Brennan Translation

– 躲剛拳 DODGING HARDNESS BOXING SET 黃漢勛 by Huang Hanxun [Wong Honfan] [1954] [translation by Paul Brennan, April, 2019] – 黃漢勛編 By Huang Hanxun: 躱剛拳 Dodging Hardness Boxing Set 韋觀常敬題 – calligraphy by Wei Guanchang – 躱剛拳剞劂告成志慶 Some congratulations for completing this book: 湔盡人呼是病夫 君鍛筋膚 我鍛筋膚 迎頭追上復與書 黃魂重甦 國魂重甦 深悟剛柔氣不麄 認我真吾 返象真吾 不教華胄作庸奴 拳不含糊 陽不含糊 Let us wash away […]

DODGING HARDNESS — Brennan Translation

Shock and awe (in Tai Chi) — The Tai Chi Notebook

Tai Chi Chuan has the 13 postures as its basis, which consist of the 8 powers and 5 directions. The first 4 powers are well known – peng, lu, ji and an – while the second 4 tend to not be so well known. Li (split), Tsai (Pull down/shock), Zhou (elbow) and Kou (shoulder). These […]

Shock and awe (in Tai Chi) — The Tai Chi Notebook

The Broken Bow

by Phillip Starr

ZEN-IN-ARCHERY_indso_post“The bow is shattered, arrows are all gone.
At this critical moment, cast aside all doubts.
Shoot, without the slightest delay.”

These lines were penned by Zen master Bukko Kokushi during the Kamakura era (1226-1286) in Japan. Typical of Zen-inspired poetry, it’s a bit puzzling. How do you shoot if your bow is broken and your arrows are all gone? For an answer, we must turn to kyudo…most of you have never practiced it and fewer than that will ever engage in it but the answer it provides can be applied to any martial Way.

Kyudo is the Japanese Way of the archery. It’s one of the less popular martial disciplines, especially outside of Japan (where high-level teachers are pretty much non-existant). Equipment is terribly expensive; a good yumi (the bow, which is handmade with laminations of bamboo and various woods) can cost as much as $4,500.00, although you can get modern ones of considerable less quality for as little as $500. Then, too, the precise dictates of the art seem to have more in common with the tea ceremony than with a bloody fighting art. A kyudo neophyte will spend months learning the intricacies of kyu-ha, the etiquette and rituals of the art.

The details involved are intimidating and all of them must be committed to memory until the practitioner has integrated them on a level that is virtually instinctive. For instance, there are a certain number of steps taken to approach the shooting stand, the angle at which the bow is held when the arrow is nocked must be just right. All of the various facets of the mechanics and movements of drawing and shooting are precisely set into forms that have been formalized for many, many years. And they must all be learned exactly. There is even a set of certain movements used for approaching the target, leaning the bow against it, and removing arrows from the target! Kyudo is a bit long on outer movements, to say the least.

Many of you will think that kyudo focuses an awful lot on seemingly petty details, but consider that a beginning karate or gong-fu student likely thought he could throw a pretty decent punch…until he started training. His chin must be held just so, his shoulders have to be adjusted here, his hips have to move exactly this way, and so on. I’ve been known to spend as much as two hours going over the details of a simple reverse punch and I could easily have gone on for another two or three. I’ve seen novices become so overwhelmed by the details of their art that they actually freeze. Their eyes betray their minds, which are frantically trying to recall all of the details…and they become as statues!

Many uninformed people present considerable criticism about this approach to what is allegedly a “fighting art.” They often make very ignorant commentaries, claiming that the practitioner who trains in this way will be so concerned with ensuring that all of the tiny details are just right that he’d be quickly pounded into dogmeat before he can mount an effective defense. This reasoning is based on the erroneous assumption that this stage of training (known as toteki, is the FINAL goal. Not hardly.

In time, the kyudo student (kyudoka) begins to integrate the details of the art into his performance. He doesn’t have to count his steps as he approaches the stand; they come out naturally. The arrow is corrrectly nocked without conscious effort. This is the beginning of what is called zaiteki; the bow and archer are becoming one. Practitioners of other martial Ways may use other terms to describe the same thing; they often speak of mushin (無心 wuxin in Chinese), which is a term often heard in the practice of Zen. Mu (Wu) means “nothing” or “without”, while shin (xin) refers to the mind or consciousness. Thus, the term is often translated as “without consciousness” (also, “no mind”). Rather than inferring that one is unconscious, this term indicates that the practitioner no longer has to consciously “think” about what to do.

The practitioner moves naturally; he has passed beyond the level of training that required him to concentrate on the details of his technique. His movements are spontaneous and correct. The technique has become “no-technique.” If you can drive a car, play the piano, or even tie your shoes, you already are familiar with this concept. But there was a time when you stared at the piano keys and tried to get your fingers to move to the right spots. With lots of practice, you eventually reached a stage wherein you no longer had to think about it; your fingers “knew” where to go.

If you’re a skilled typist and you’ve been at it a while, you’d likely be stumped now if someone asked you about the layout of the keys/keyboard. Like, which keys are on either side of the letter “J?” You may be able to type 80 words a minute, but that question confounds you. That’s because you’ve achieved a certain mushin in your ability to type. Now, there’s a considerable difference between the “no-technique” of the highly skilled martial artist and the “non-technique” of the novice. Neither the expert nor the beginner can probably tell you what adjoins the “J” key but that doesn’t mean they’re at the same level in terms of their understanding and ability to type. One must strive to achieve the stage of “no-technique” and there’s no short-cut, no way to bypass technique altogether. It’s going to take time. Lots of it.

The bow, the arrows…as the Zen master’s poem reminds us, these are external details. Drive yourself past them through severe, unceasing training and effort and press in to the core of the art. When you art is fully integrated in body, mind, and spirit, the bows and arrows, the details of the punch, kick, or throw are unimportant. At the critical moment, as Bukko advised, you must penetrate the target without the slightest delay.

Learn Muay Thai and Teach English

If you’ve ever dreamt about learning Muay Thai in Thailand? Or maybe you’re already in Thailand at a Muay Thai Camp and you want to be able to extend your stay? Alternatively, if you’re looking to finance your martial arts training in Thailand then maybe this StudyMartialArts.Org Guide to Learning Muay Thai in Thailand and Teaching English will be of help to you.

In this guide you’ll learn about:

  • Teaching English in Thailand
  • What you’ll need to teach English?
  • About the various certifications often required
  • What visas you’ll need?
  • How to find the right school?
  • And how to open a bank account

Check out the full article on the main www.StudyMartialArts.Org/blog – its one of the best resources for martial arts adventure travel.

Is CBD Oil Legal in all 50 states?

Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, hemp is legal in all fifty states. However, the legality of CBD is still confusing for many. We dug into the laws of each state and even hired a group of lawyers to help us understand the legal landscape.

Here’s what you need to know.

The legality depends on the source of the CBD.

While hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states, ‘marijuana’-derived CBD is not legal federally.

Both marijuana and hemp are members of the cannabis family making them similar in many ways. The government classifies hemp as any plant of the cannabis family that contains less than 0.3% THC. It classifies “marijuana” as any plant of the cannabis family that contains greater than 0.3% THC.

cbd vaping juice “Marijuana” cannabis plants have a low percentage of CBD than hemp plants. That’s why most CBD products use CBD from hemp not marijuana. Because marijuana has higher concentration of THC, it’s not an ideal choice for producing CBD products. Using marijuana plants would require extracting some of the THC to make CBD within the legal limits.

Hemp cannabis plant have a high amount of CBD and low THC, making them the most efficient plant for CBD processing.

So the bottom line here is, if your CBD comes from hemp, it is legal.1 CBD made from “marijuana” with high levels of THC, is only legal if your state legalized marijuana.

Where is CBD illegal?

Thanks to the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, zero THC CBD is not illegal in any state in the USA. That’s right; according to federal law, it is legal in all 50 states. That said, since the change in law is relatively new, some states might not fully embrace CBD. This should change with the new bill, however, it may take time. Below we outline four different jurisdictional categories based on pre-2018 Farm Bill practices.

States can be grouped into four jurisdictional categories.

Friendliest States.

These jurisdictions have explicit laws allowing retailers to sell industrial hemp-derived products.

These jurisdictions include: Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Friendly States.

In these jurisdictions industrial hemp grown in a Farm Bill-compliant agricultural pilot program is explicitly exempted from the definition of marijuana.

These jurisdictions include: the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

Gray Area States.

In these jurisdictions explicit prohibitions against the retail sale of industrial hemp-derived CBD products but that have exemptions in the law for the argument that hemp-derived CBD products are legal.

These jurisdictions include: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

States with Concern.

These jurisdictions have no explicit prohibitions against the sale of industrial hemp-derived CBD products. However, recent law enforcement actions or pronouncements raise the risk of the retail sale of industrial hemp-derived CBD products.

These jurisdictions include Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

What are the specific rules in your state?

Concluding Thoughts: Is CBD Legal in 2019?

Yes, it is legal to purchase and consume hemp-derived-CBD in all 50 states.

Marijuana derived CBD is not legal federally.

The government classifies hemp as any plant of the cannabis family that contains less than 0.3% THC.

It classifies “marijuana” as any plant of the cannabis family that contains greater than 0.3% THC.

You need to check your specific state for any restrictions

Federal law permissions for activities involving industrial hemp are clear. However, the Farm Bill, and other federal laws on industrial hemp, do not pre-empt state law.

Just as there are hundreds of municipalities in the United States that prohibit alcohol sales nearly a century after Prohibition’s repeal, local and state laws may still restrict the sale of industrial hemp products even where federal law is clearly permissive.

Some states continue to view CBD that comes from marijuana as being no different than marijuana itself. The government classifies any plant of the cannabis family that contains more than 0.3% THC to be marijuana.

Bottom line, it is legal to purchase and consume hemp-derived-CBD in all 50 states.

Keep checking back in this space for updates as there is currently a bill going through Congress right now that could change the way the government views both hemp and marijuana.

The 2018 Farm Bill holds the promise to clear up many of the misconceptions and confusing elements surrounding CBD. If you’re interested in learning more about how we came to have these regulations of hemp read Chapter 2 of our CBD textbook on The History of CBD. We found a nice summary of this book at for anyone who wants to save time!

Kung fu School Reviews – Maling Shaolin Kung fu School

A few weeks ago I caught up with SMA student Miguel post training kung fu in China. Miguel booked his training through us, and studied martial arts in China for 3 months during 2018 to 2019. When we connect students to martial arts travel, and training experiences our job doesn’t just stop there. We do our best to prepare students pre-trip, assist them with their travel plans, and then once at the school make sure everything is as they expected. When their kung fu journey is over its my job to check in on them, and get feedback on their experience after they’ve had time to reflect. We do this with a view to keep our information on schools the most up to date and responsive to change. Additionally this offers us the chance to and also to see where we as a company can improve the services we provide for those who book their training through our StudyMartialArts.Org platform. So when Miguel ended his training at Maling Shaolin Kung fu Academy I decided to re-connect with him and get his feedback.

I helped Miguel seen in the picture to connect to Maling Shaolin Kung Fu Academy located in Xingyi City, Northern Jiangsu Province. The Headmaster of the school Bao Shifu founded the school in 2009. Master Bao is a 32nd generation Shaolin Warrior Monk and someone I knew from when he was a master teaching and Kunyu Shan Shaolin Kung fu Academy in Yantai Shandong. Now with his own school students can learn 7 different styles of Chinese martial arts. The main style is of course Shaolin Kung Fu, nevertheless you can also learn Baji Quan, Tai Chi, Xingyi, Qigong, Sanda (Chinese kickboxing), Wing Chun and Bagua.

Read the full review here.