I love training outdoors. When CARISMA started we were just training on grass in various parks and greens in Cambridge city centre. It was lovely but we knew it could not last too long… this in England after all. However we try to keep the tradition by (aiming at) training outdoors during all Sunday training in July and August. I remember having summers when we manage to spend all Sundays outside, others when just one or two happened but we keep at it. Yesterday was the first of hopefully many Sunday outdoors training and we started with a bang: a record number of 12 people attended which is a great number for a Sunday outdoor training. It was a busy and fun lesson with members ranging from total beginners to advanced and instructors. The temperature was just perfect in the low twenties, with a nice breeze. Way better than training in a gym on such a lovely day, it was very enjoyable; I am already looking forward to the following ones.
Eighteen years is a long time, longer than some of our youngest members have been alive and long enough to have seen tens of other clubs in Cambridge opening and closing down. I am very proud about the longevity and health of the club which year after year keeps attracting new members, teach them quality martial arts and train them to improve the technique, fitness and skills.
As usual it was great seeing at the BBQ a mix of people of all ages and levels of seniority within the club. We had people who joined us during the latest beginners’ course last month all the way to senior members and instructors. We even had several people that moved on and no longer train at CARISMA but still come back to Cambridge to join our parties.
Starting at 3pm the party went on till the early hours of Sunday morning, 3:20am to be precise. Special thanks to Liz, Andrea, Anna and a few others that kindly helped with setup, cooking and catering. This BBQ managed to beat most records to date, which are all worth mentioning:
- Largest number of attendees with 46 people
- Longest lasting party, over 12 hours
- Largest amount of food eaten, with about 24Kg of meat, fish and halloumi, several Kg of bread, veggies, dips and whatever else, including 3 large party chocolate cakes and a couple of tubs of double cream
- Largest amount of drinks consumed with about 60 litres of various beers and lagers, 15 bottles of wines and about 2 litres of palinka
- unspecified amounts of soft drinks, juices and water were also consumed
I am already looking forward to the 19th anniversary next year 🙂
Another busy and successful grading session on Sunday 4 June. Two Black belt second Dan, 1 Blue, 1 Green Second, 1 Green, 1 Orange Second, 3 Orange and 4 Yellow belts awarded to members of CARISMA, ARUKBC and CUKBS. Congratulations to everybody who did very well, in particular to Duncan and Jarek who are the first instructors becoming second Dan since our club started 18 years ago; hard work and commitment does pay off. A particular thank you to Georgios who has offered his help to grade while being on a long break from teaching/training and Heley who also helped with grading while visiting us during her holidays.
While I am listening to feedback and suggestions about how I teach martial arts I have been keeping the core of my style and approach unchanged for years. By teaching martial arts and fighting techniques I am empowering my students to defend themselves and to become better people but, with power, come responsibility which I take very serious.
Here are a few key points which are the pillars on which I base my teaching:
Learning martial arts takes time and dedication
If you had the illusion of becoming proficient in martial arts within a few weeks or months you took up the wrong activity. Nowadays most people train martial arts as an alternative to other sports or hobbies and they want fast results. Learning martial arts should however be seen as a medium to long time project, where some results can be seen within months but decent proficiency comes after a few years of regular and frequent attendance (e.g. 2+ 60-120 minutes lessons per week). My responsibility in this case is about creating an environment which fosters dedicated training and cooperation among all members of the club and continuously challenges everybody’s skills and performance, including mine.
Learning martial arts helps you to rationalise the irrational
In its most essential form fighting is about survival; when our ancestors got involved in a fight it was about defending their homes and families from invaders or from fierce animals or perhaps about invading other people’s territories; it was no game and it was about life and death. Most people react irrationally to a fighting situation because when adrenaline is released, even in a controlled environment like a martial arts gym, it causes some people to lose control. Training martial arts helps to cope with this irrational feeling and channel the energy toward better physical and mental performance. My responsibility in this case is about encouraging everybody to challenge themselves and understand where their threshold and comfort zone are and push them further.
Tough training helps to cope with tough situations
Whether you are training for sports fights or for self-defence it’s essential to test yourself toward a range of tough situations. In a sports fight your opponents will try their best to beat you within the rules of the fight, sometimes trying to bend such rules for their advantage. If you find yourself on the street and need to use your self-defence skills you better be used to tough attacks, the most unpredictable ones; your street opponents will probably have no rules about fighting and potentially go for the nastiest attacks. Here is where my responsibility is about reminding people about their limits and potential pitfalls in their skills and techniques. I am trying to help them to train in a way that pushes their skills beyond their current limits and make them better fighters.
Martial arts can be for everyone but they are not
Training martial arts is in my opinion one of the most satisfying and complete form of exercise for body and mind. Many people start and nearly as many give up with days, weeks or months. Many novices cannot cope with the learning, complexity of movements, fitness requirements and so on. It takes time, consistency and dedication which most people simply don’t have. I encourage most people to try and, depending on a number of factors, I might push them more or less toward a tougher training, sooner or later. In my experience of practicing martial arts for nearly 40 years and teaching for the good part of 30 years I met super talented people giving up at their first hurdle, which they never expected to happen. I have also seen many not talented people becoming great martial artist and champions. My responsibility in this case is about managing their expectations and feedback, in the most constructive and objective way, how they can improve and what they should do.
One of the many students who joined a few months ago received a nice job offer for a post in East Asia and she just left Cambridge and the club. It was a great pleasure for me, on the day she told me she was leaving, to receive a little card from her with some nice words about what she learnt and achieved. Many people are praising the club and what we do at CARISMA; very few of them go out of their way to put it in writing. Thank you, all the best and hopefully we’ll see you again.