Posts Tagged ‘Karate’


In recent months, I’ve begun writing for the Evening Echo on all things related to Cork Martial Arts. To date I’ve covered MMA, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Sambo and Pro Wrestling. As time goes on, I hope to get around to more disciplines as events occur.

So far, the response has been very positive. A lot of instructors have recognised the positive step forward for all Cork Martial Arts to have a regular consistent column on the most read newspaper in the County. I hope the positivity continues and to help it along, I’m setting out a short list of ground rules that I’ll be applying to the articles I submit. This should prevent any confusion about what I’m prepared to report on and the manner in which I’ll be reporting it. Please don’t ask me to submit anything that’s outside of this as I will just politely refuse.

If you disagree with any of the following or if you want to suggest other rules, please comment below.

  • Balanced Coverage

As weeks/months go by, some styles are more active than others. I’ll be making it priority to get coverage for as many different clubs/styles as I can. I don’t care what association or affiliation a group has. As long as it’s a Cork group, I’ll do my best to get coverage.

Naturally, the most active groups will get proportionally more exposure. For large scale events, I’ll push for extra pages or more photographs whenever I can.

  • Cork Events and Athletes take priority

Each week, there’s a limit to how much I can submit. If it’s the case I have to choose, Cork Events will take priority unless the event outside of Cork is of major significance for Cork Athletes.

  • Accurate information 

I’ll do my utmost to make sure I have accurate details for each article. For anybody sending me info, please include correct title names and organisation names. As you all know, there are many different associations and each have their World titles, championships, open tournaments etc. As a community, we lose credibility if we claim that everyone and anyone is the World Champion. By including the correct name of the title, we earn back our credibility and at the same time, we acknowledge other groups and their titles.

  • No supernatural claims

I WILL NOT print articles that include claims of super human ability. Claims like “This master can knock a man with the little finger on his right hand” or “these techniques can help defend an attack with a machine gun” etc make us all look silly and it makes a mockery of the athletes who train hard to achieve real results.

If there’s not a scientific proof that something works or if it hasn’t been tested in live competitive competition, then it’s theoretical. It may or may not work. So any claim to secret techniques makes the martial arts community seem unreasonable and therefore I won’t print it.

  • No negative comments/remarks to other styles or clubs

We’ve all got people that we don’t get along with and styles that we don’t agree with. However, when we bicker amongst each other publicly or try to talk down at other styles, the general public loses respect for us all and as a result we all suffer. In my opinion, we can all recognise each other achievements for what they are while staying focussed on our own goals. Live and let live and let people make up their own mind which style they want to follow.

I’m more than happy to submit articles that follow the above guidelines so please keep me in the loop with any events you’re organising or attending.

If you feel I’ve left something out in the list above, let me know.

Deborah O’Donnell and daughter Aine have shared a dojo floor for the passed 10 years in their pursuit of excellence in Shotokan karate. Last weekend, both members of Curam De Cara Academy of martial arts were promoted to the rank of 3rd Dan Black Belt by a panel consisting of Liam Griffin Snr (6th Dan), Pat Rockett (6th Dan) and Teresa Griffin (5th Dan). Although two 3rd Dans in one family is tough, be warned Nollaig and Rebecca – Deborah’s other two daughters are also Black Belts so if you’re looking for a house to break into, choose somewhere else. Also promoted to 3rd Dan on the day was William Browne and to 1st Dan were Aoife Hegarty and Aoife Burke.


The Curam de Cara squad is affiliated to WUKF International Karate Federation and other team members include Siofra Ryan, Rebecca O’Donnell, Victoria Kingston and Ciara Wyse. They are all training hard for the upcoming WUKF UKF International Invitational Tournament in Donegal on April 5th and then Szczecin, Poland in October for the WUKF World Championships.

Search for “CdC – Curam de Cara” on Facebook or contact Liam Snr at 085 860 9308 if you want to find out more about the squad, their training times and training progress.

Meanwhile another Cork man was undergoing testing for 5th Dan Black Belt in Dublin. Stephen Collins who runs “The Karate Dojo” in Donnybrook Commercial Center took part in a grade examination overseen by Scott Langley (6th Dan) and Richard Amos (6th Dan) of the WTKO (World Traditional Karate Organisation). I was actually present at Stephen’s last grade examination 10 years ago when he went for his 5th Dan so this promotion was well overdue. Speaking with Stephen, he recalled a grueling high-pressured examination in which 2 other Dublin based candidates were also taking part. They each fought the other two in a traditional freestyle sparring match which included kicks, punches, knees and elbows and by all accounts, no love was lost. Afterwards, Stephen performed “Chinte” and “Bassai Dai” for his kata examination and was interrogated with great detail on his understanding of the finer details of both. After a full hour, Stephen was awarded his new rank and without too much time to recover, he was summonsed to the adjacent community center to take part in a follow seminar under Richard Amos.


The WTKO is a relatively new organization to Ireland but now boasts a membership of over 1400 as former JKS GB & Ireland head instructor Scott Langley has transitioned across. Both Richard and Scott are in the exclusive club of non-Japanese instructors to have completed the infamous JKA Instructors Course in Japan.

For more information on Stephen Collins and his class times, search for “The Karate Dojo” on Facebook.


I’ve written articles about 5 different martial arts styles this week. Only a few years ago, the only martial artists I would have know were karate-ka. Two things that have opened my eyes to be able to appreciate what else is going on out there. Firstly, the explosion of MMA – which showed all styles that no one discipline is enough to be a complete fighter. Secondly, taking part in a demonstration event with CMAP – Cork Martial Arts Promotions in Ballincollig in July 2010 which gave my first introduction to many of the instructors from other disciplines I’ve come to be familiar with.

Now that I get the opportunity to write weekly for the Echo, I appreciate more than ever, that “Cork Martial Arts” as a unit is far greater than the sum of its parts. As individual clubs and styles, we go un-noticed and un-recognised but when you combine all achievements and efforts, not even the sports editor will deny that we deserve our spot alongside the pages of GAA, rugby, Soccer and Horse-racing.

If you’re a martial arts club/gym/instructor/athlete, get over to CMAP and like the page and then send me any and all info you have on events and achievements and I’ll do my very best to get you coverage.

Here’s an article I wrote in July 2010 when the concept of CMAP first became clear to me.

1 week out from a major show at Neptune stadium – the biggest fight venue in Cork City, I’m inspired by the scale of it all. Martin Horgan of Siam Warriors goes all in with every show that he promotes, investing time, money and his reputation to bring fighters from all over the world to our doorstep. This show is no different with big names like “Liam Harrison”, “Dane ‘Daddy Kool’ Beachamp”, “Anthony ‘Kabouter’ Kane” and “Craig Jose” all travelling to put their bodies on the line. For Muay Thai enthusiasts, these names are very familiar but for those of us involved in other martial arts, a quick youtube search will tell you that these guys are not coming here for a tickling orgy.

The international talent aside, what really makes this show, and the others that have gone before it, is the home-grown talent on the card. Cork people are proud; Proud of their rebellious reputation and their fighting Irish persona and we’ll crawl butt naked over thumbtacks to support our own warriors. On this card, Cork is represented by Aaron O’Callaghan, Sean Clancy, Dave O’Brien, Shane O’Neill, Johnny Sheehan, Elain McElligott, Derek Flynn, Wayne Sheehan, Eoin McCarthy, Barry O’Connor, Conor O’Keefe, Killian Bush, Mark O’Mahony, Steve O’Mahony, Gar Byrne, Andy Reck.

At K2C, we have 2 extra reasons to be in full voice at Neptune. A young Spartan Thai warrior we’ve been keeping an eye on since he was a junior is Dommie Kelly – mentored by Seamus Cogan and John Kelly out in Spartan Thai Ballincollig. The first time I ever tried a Muay Thai class was at the Spartan gym and Dommie was just between the junior and adult classes – age wise. Next week, he’ll been opening the show with a tough fight and I’m sure he’ll do his coaches proud. Of course, there will be an eruption when a certain Darren Cashman makes his way to the ring. His Muay Thai students at K2C will tear the roof off the venue and will be behind him for every jab, cross, hook, elbow and knee. Robert NG will have to be ready to fight an entire army of Cashamaniacs!

When you look at the card, you have to admire the strength of Cork Muay Thai. It seems like there’s a massive stable of top fighters, all in great shape and all challenging the very in best the world. But as you analyse it more, you begin to realise that this Cork team is assembled from a range of gyms. From Siam Warriors in Blarney Street, Cork Thai in MacCurtin Street, Spartan Thai in Ballincollig, Cobra Thai in Tramore Road and Midleton Thai. Of course there are a number of other great gyms who regularly take part in these shows including Brucie’s Gym in Bandon, Fight Factory in Fermoy and a whole load of others which I’m sure I’ve left out or haven’t gotten to know yet.

Coming from a karate background, I greatly admire the level of cooperation between the Muay Thai clubs and the scale of this upcoming show is a direct result of that patience, compromise and camaraderie. I’m sure the clubs have rivalries and at times don’t get along but the ability to rise above it all and pull together events like these means that each subsequent generation of fighters gets stronger, more skilled and more inspired as they get to witness the best of the best compete in their own backyard. All instructors involved from all the clubs listed above should be very proud of this.

I’ve witnessed and been part of a generation of karate clubs who bicker, belittle each other and refuse to work together. I’m ashamed of it and I hope in seeing the success of Cork Muay Thai, that my peers will join me and come to the realisation that by not coming together if only for local tournaments a few times per year, or for seminars, we are only destroying our own martial art. By operating in mutual isolation, we are missing out on the “iron sharpens iron” effect of local competition and we are not realising the “Strength in Numbers” which makes events such as next week’s.

In recent years, I’ve tended towards BJJ, MMA and kickboxing. While not as bad as karate (cooperation wise), it’s not as good as Muay Thai. Across the board, I think we all have a lot to learn and I hope to play my part from here on to help foster cooperation between all the clubs in all the martial arts we host at K2C.

A man who may well be years ahead of me, is Leonard Coughlan from who will, no doubt, be at the show in Neptune next week. CMAP is a voluntary undertaking of Leonard’s aimed to promote all martial arts in Cork. Like Martin Horgan, he has invested considerable time and effort into this project and deserves support and respect for the service he is doing his fellow martial artists.

For any martial arts instructors of any discipline out there who might be reading this, I urge you to make contact with Leonard and avail of his directory of Cork based martial arts clubs. He’s one of the good guys and is genuinely not looking for anything off of you. That may seem odd, but it’s true! And that’s coming from me (a karate guy) about Leonard (a taekwondo guy) and as everyone know, we’re supposed to hate each other ;-)

I’m off to think about how I can do my bit to practice what I preach. First on the list is an open invitation BJJ rolling session. If you’re into BJJ, let me know if you’re interested in getting involved in a one day open sparring session?

Till next time folks – “Take care and take care of each other” – Jerry Springer

It’s been just over 2 years since we first opened K2C. As a lifetime martial artist with a fast developing passion for MMA, I had a goal to help create a space where martial arts styles could not only co-exist but also cross train in a facility customised to their needs. Having lived in Florida and seeing the martial arts ‘schools’ there, I couldn’t return to training in an old run down community hall without mats, toilets, changing rooms or heating, thus the concept of K2C was born. From concept to reality has been a long road but here we are.

On the journey, my personal martial arts career has taken a number of turns I wouldn’t have predicted. For one, I’ve become a kickboxing coach. Initially, this was a bit outside my comfort zone but I’m well in the groove now. I’ve also made a fairly significant shift from a traditional martial artist to a full contact martial artist. My own training schedule is mostly dominated by kickboxing, BJJ and MMA and in terms of how I train; it’s a far cry from what I had become accustomed to as a pure karate-ka.

I now find myself in a position where I’m coaching a new generation of both traditional and full contact martial artists and my experience of both sides of the tracks has shaped a number of conclusions I have about coaching. The following blog is a rant about what I feel the world of traditional can learn from full contact. Before possibly insulting fellow traditional martial arts instructors, I must stress that this rant is very generalised. You may already have adapted to include some of my suggestions in your training and if so, fair play. I’m merely highlighting the limitations from my experiences.

So here it goes:

Traditional Martial Arts, by their very nature, are technical and intricate. It takes patience and focus to be able to spend hours, weeks and years perfecting technique, to achieve grades and competition success. However, one thing that is rarely tested in my experience is physical fitness. Although fitness in inherently improved whilst practicing technique and sparring, there’s a whole different level of physical strength & endurance out there. Elements such as core strength, speed & agility, cardio vascular endurance and anaerobic thresholds are never fully pressed in a typical traditional class.

Take boxing for example. Apart from sparring, bag work and pad work, boxers must also practice skipping to build up cardio vascular endurance. Fighters will skip for twice as long as they’re expected to fight in one fight and vary the speed of skipping to mimic the intensity variations of a real fight. This practice is part of warm up and is a daily, grinding routine for boxers.

Another example is Strength & Conditioning for MMA. This is a completely separate practice session for MMA fighters where they test their bodies to absolute limits, pushing, pulling, lifting and jumping. Every single session is about finding the outer limits of your ability and going beyond. This session is normally completed 2 or 3 times weekly for 1 hour.

Now you might argue that traditional martial arts doesn’t require the same level of fitness and strength or perhaps that the technical nature of the art transcends brute force. While it is true that all things being equal, technique wins, to rest on your laurels with average physical fitness is backward thinking and naive.

I often like to compare group photographs of traditional karate clubs (as is my background) versus full contact clubs following a seminar or class. Have you ever noticed the differences in age demographic or the body shapes of those training? Make it easier; Count what percentage of each group has a 6 pack of abs or how many would fit in to a photograph of an Olympic boxing/taekwondo squad.

Now I know that last paragraph will insight anger and insult but let’s ask a few more questions first. As a traditional martial arts instructor, which age group would you like to see more of in your class? Which age group could you really get stuck into (technically and competitively), to push the boundaries of your art. Which age group would fly the flag for your discipline, would be heroes for young kids and a blank canvass for experienced black belts to influence? I’m talking about the age demographic 16-30 or what I will from here on refer to as ‘the athlete’. Would you agree that this age bracket is where most traditional martial arts students drift away? I think you’ll definitely agree it’s not the age range of the largest percentage of members in a group.

Why is that?

Can it be that exams and socializing tempt them to the dark side? Could it be work and family life gets in the way? No, it can’t. If that were the case, you would see the same dip in numbers across all sports/martial arts but you don’t. Go back to the group photographs and look at them again. I’m suggesting you’ll find all those prime ‘athletes’ are involved with disciplines that press their limits such as rugby, soccer, Muay Thai, MMA, running, weight-lifting, triathlon, skiing etc. Almost every soccer/gaa/rugby club in the country has an adult team (if not 2 or more). Each team takes approx. 15 adults in the prime of life. Yet most traditional martial arts groups wouldn’t have half of that membership for the same age bracket.

Is it because it’s a niche market? Again… no. Look at the volume of kids’ classes within martial arts. Karate or Taekwondo has been experienced my most Irish children at one point in their childhood and class sizes for kids classes by and large are very healthy and would rival any other sport. So what is it? Why is traditional not seen as a viable option for ‘the athlete’?

One word… “Fitness”

It’s what ‘the athlete’ cares about most. To cater for ‘the athlete’, you must first understand what he/she wants. If I’m 20 years old, I’m relatively injury free. I’m strong, fast and athletic. I feel invincible and I want to prove I can beat any challenge. I have 2 options Karate or MMA? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which one I’m going to enjoy more. Unfortunately traditional martial arts are known as the poorer cousins (fitness wise) to boxing, muay thai, bjj, mma etc. It’s a perception painted on all of us traditional instructors by years of neglecting the needs of a whole age demographic and now it’s back to bite us in the ass. Sure, we can have healthy numbers of kids taking classes. We can wear black belts and take pride in the knowledge and experience we have accumulated. The one thing we can’t expect to have though is the respect of ‘the athlete’. Why not? – Because traditional karate does not give you abs! It’s too slow moving and doesn’t challenge the physical fitness of ladies/gents in the prime of life – at least not to the same extent as the other disciplines. It’s no longer seen as a viable alternative for getting in the shape of your life during the prime of your life.

And furthermore, as a result, we’re missing the head stone of our pyramid, the icing on our cake, the jewel our crown. We don’t have nearly enough prime ‘athletes’ competing with fitness levels that shock spectators, inspire young teens and mobilise crowds of fans for our art. Imagine 100m sprinting as a sport without a solid age bracket 16 – 30. Why would anyone bother with running in a straight line without seeing how Usain Bolt smashes World records? Why would anyone take up boxing without having the opportunity to see the likes of Katie Taylor beat up the rest of the world? Who have we got in traditional karate? Chuck Norris? Karate Kid? Come on guys… let’s get real here.

Now there’s a vicious circle of causality that we’ve got to overcome if we want to reverse the typecasting associated with traditional martial arts. There are things like the organization of regular open tournaments, cooperation between associations, Olympic status, finding inspirational athletes to compete, getting more education of what we do etc. There’s no doubt that the lack of a proper stage for our current athletes falls short of inspiration for a new generation and that has a huge influence on attracting ‘the athlete’ also. However, fixing that and the other problems listed above are huge tasks and mostly out of our control for now. There is one thing that we can control and that’s how we run our classes. Here’s a list of things I think will contribute to traditional martial arts regaining its respect. It won’t change the world over night but the longest journey starts with but a single step.

1. Up the tempo

We’ve got to make the training more appealing to ‘the athlete’. This means more high tempo class planning. Put technical aspects into circuit training mode so that students can improve while building physical fitness. It takes time but over a few months, this will help get ‘the athlete’ to train with you.

2. Banish lecturing

Technical training needs to be done with the minimum of words. If ‘the athlete’ stops moving for any more than 30-60 seconds at a time during a training session, you’re going to lose them.

3. Encourage cross training

Incorporate cross training. Bring in a boxing coach for example, or strength & conditioning coach. Make your team fitter and stronger. Give them abs that ‘the athlete’ will be jealous of.

4. Make weight management a priority

Introduce weight classes to your training. Although weight classes are not in all associations and styles, it’s no excuse to relax and just eat regular food. Assume everybody who’s competing needs to be as lean as they can be and make that a priority – diet wise and cardio wise (skipping or running). Remember, ‘the athlete’ who turns up to try out your class will run a mile if everyone else training with you is out of shape.

Rafael Aghavyev – the role model I’ve chosen for my karate students

5. Find and promote a role model

Seek out and find ‘the athlete role model’ that you want your students to become. If there isn’t one within your art, choose someone from a different art. Once chosen, celebrate them. Hang a picture of them in your training space and encourage your students to watch videos of them. Learn about how they train. If you can have more than one, that’s even better.

6. (Although controversial) Forget the spiritual aspect

Within traditional karate (again, this is my background), there is a pseudo spiritual vein running through it. As instructors, we have been taught to preach the practice of a Zen-like disposition and “Seeking perfection of character” etc. Guess what ‘the athlete’ aged 16-30 thinks of this? It’s rubbish! If they want spiritual guidance, they’ll do Yoga or join the church of scientology. Let’s stick to what we’re qualified to do and teach them how to kick and punch like ninjas.

You may not agree with some or all of my suggestions. Again, these are opinions I’ve formed based on my experience and this is the mind-set with which I’m approaching my task of coaching the current generation of a traditional students.

What do you think? Are you ‘an athlete’ that has been turned off traditional martial arts for any of the reasons above? Are you an instructor who feels likewise? Do you think I’m going against the grain of tradition in my thinking? Have I gone too far? As ever, please comment below and get involved in the conversation. Ideas and conversations help us improve.

The world of Mixed Martial Arts striking is dominated by Boxers, Kickboxers and Muay Thai Fighters. The traditional arts such as Karate, Tae-Kwon-do and Kung Fu, to be truthful, don’t bring the correct level of experience to a fighter stepping into the cage. The modern sport forms are based on semi contact point sparring, which just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to MMA whereas some of the traditional forms claim to be too deadly to be used in the real world.

Just for the record, I am not among the camp claiming that traditional martial arts are too deadly for the real world. For me, anyone who claims what they know is too deadly for the real world, is just hiding behind a convenient opt-out fantasy and is too conceited to acknowledge the fact that any human has to ability to kill another or that there is nothing special or mysterious about any martial art – neither modern nor traditional. A kick is a kick, a punch is a punch and the human body has vulnerable target areas, that when hit, can lead to death or serious injury.

While I’m off subject here, I was chatting to a guy recently who asked me about MMA and what I thought of it. He was a traditional martial artist (from the same shotokan background as I). He succeeded in making me quite angry by claiming that any of the Japanese Black Belts in the upper echelons of Shotokan Karate would simply walk through any MMA fighter – that they’re power & speed would just be unstoppable. His evidence?… The only justification that he could offer was that he himself was unable to offer sufficient defence against attacks from the Japanese Black Belts he encountered. As I looked this middle aged, overweight man up and down, I thought to myself “It’s no wonder full contact martial artists don’t respect traditional martial arts”… If he had said “I’d like to see how a top level Shotokan Fighter would do in the cage” or “If one of the elite black belts of Shotokan did some grappling training, he might do well”, then that would be reasonable. Instead, he gauged their brilliance on his own amateur, weekend warrior, club athlete, 2 night per week standard and made the monumentally insane deduction that if someone could be beat him, that they would stomp all over professional MMA fighters.

But, sadly, the snobbish, pig-headed attitude that is passed down from some insecure traditional masters had already taken hold of him… he couldn’t be saved… I just had to bite my tongue and bid him farewell.

I am a traditional martial artist. I have trained in Shotokan Karate since I was 7 years old. I have trained with Japanese Black Belt Masters and Top Shotokan fighters from different parts of the world. I’ve been punched by them, kicked by them and I’ve witnessed the power and speed that can be generated first hand. I am happy to report that there are some truly spectacular strikers out there (some are Japanese Black Belts, other were Europeans or Latin Americans and not necessarily Black Belts). Karate, as a striking art, truly does has a lot to offer Mixed Martial Arts as long as you keep your head out of the clouds and be realistic.

I would like to plead with any traditional martial artists out there to get up to speed with the 21st century, to stop making stupid unfounded claims about how deadly the traditional martial arts are and accept that that every style of fighting (be it karate, shin-kicking or hand-bag swinging) can be deadly or useless. It simply depends on the individual fighter, their physical size, skill and their intelligence.

Ok, that’s my rant over with. Now back to the subject at hand!

A lot of the top fighters in MMA have a traditional background. Just to pick on the ones that did karate at some point in their career, you have Georges St. Pierre, Frank Mir, Anderson Silva, Seth Petruzelli, Chuck Liddell, Bas Rutten, Yuki Kondo, Ryo Chonan, Takanori Gomi, Jeff Newton, Neil  ‘the Goliath’ Grove, Ausserio Silva, Vitor Belfort and a few more obscure ones. A more comprehensive list can be found on Sherdog here.

To be fair, almost all of these fighters have transitioned on to specialise in other striking arts and only show flashes of their karate background once in a blue moon. However, one fighter has kept his traditional style (Shotokan Karate) and adapted it to achieve phenomenal success inside the cage. Of course, the man I’m talking about is Lyoto ‘the Dragon’ Machida.

For many years, his opponents struggled to figure out his footwork and timing. He’s been described as being illusive, hard to catch and lightning fast. When he won the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, Joe Rogan screamed “Welcome to the Machida Era”, such was the mystique surrounding his fighting style. However, Karate-trained MMA fans worldwide recognised exactly what he was doing. The light footwork, the quickness at which he closed distances, the chin up – hands down stance and the hand-foot combinations. That, my friend, is Karate as practiced by millions around the globe. There is no secret and it’s not exactly rocket science either but because Karate is a traditional art, it has long been brushed aside as a viable foundation for the MMA fighting arsenal – until now!

So how does it work? What are the unique characteristics of the karate style which can benefit MMA fighters? Why do karate fighters stand in that stance? How do karate fighters cover distance quickly allowing them to hover just outside reach? How do Karate fighters seem to move out of the way so quickly? Well, if it was just a matter of a few paragraphs of text, it wouldn’t be worth learning, would it?

I don’t claim to be as slick as Machida or to be a great MMA fighter. However, I do know the answers to all the questions above and I am preparing a seminar to show and teach them to anyone interested in seeing how karate can be applied to MMA striking.

Check out the Striking Seminar at K2C Martial Arts & Fitness Centre on August 15th 2010 from 11am to 4pm where we’ll be show-casing 3 striking arts – Karate, Muay Thai and Boxing.

So now it’s your turn. Are you a traditional martial artist who feels that your art is unfairly discounted as a viable foundation for MMA? Are you offended by my earlier rant? Do you think that Lyoto Machida’s style is boring? Do you think that traditional Arts are old fashioned and out-dated? Do you think that real martial artists don’t need to prove themselves inside the cage?

I’d love to hear your opinions!?

A Rising Tide lifts all boats equally – an old adage often applied to the economics of entire countries but on this occasion used by a Muay Thai instructor to describe the benefit of the “Cork Martial Arts Promotions” Marquee at the Cork Mid Summer Show in Ballincollig this year.

Imagine a technology exhibition where different mobile phone companies set their stalls less than 10 feet from each other – Nokia beside Samsung, Alcatel beside Blackberry and LG beside Motorola. You can almost see the distain and disgust on the rival sales teams’ faces as they peer across at each other, pinching prospective clients from one another and sabotaging their neighbour’s promotional material.

How impressed would you be if one of the team leaders was able to stand back with the epiphany that as a collective group, the exhibitors were promoting the one product – the mobile phone. By joining forces, they could promote a friendlier environment, a more professional display, a more diverse demonstration of mobile technology and above all, provide an opportunity for prospective consumers to celebrate their individualism and differing tastes in design & requirements. Would you be impressed or shocked if that team leader were to say “A Rising Tide lifts all boats equally”?

It was Seamus Cogan of Spartan Muay Thai who quoted that adage to me as we shook hands on the morning of Saturday 19th June. I had trained with Seamus before and knew he was an open minded professional instructor so I almost expected that attitude from him but as he said it, I looked around to see that under the guidance of Leonard Coughlan and Cork Martial Arts Promotions, no less than 6 martial arts clubs/instructors were joining forces to show a united front in the presentation of the fighting arts. Each instructor took time to speak with the other, congratulate them on their students’ performances and ask about their individual experiences. Apart from the excitement of high impact and high energy demonstrations given on the half hour, the atmosphere of mutual respect between all martial artists played no small part in drawing crowds of awe-struck spectators.

I was the ‘karate guy’ (as I seem to be know in some online forums) and along with Joe-Tom Hayes, Aine O’Donnel and William ‘Wilverine’ Browne, we performed our demonstration in the time it took morning to become noon. We were followed by the Tae Kwon Do team lead by Mark Buckley, Pat Barry and Leonard Coughlan. Next up was the West Cork Kickboxing team led by Ian Kingston followed by the Kendo team organised by Vincent Long. Later in the afternoon, Spartan Muay Thai under the guidance of Seamus Cogan and John Kelly took to the ring and then closing the show was Greg and his team from the Shao Lin Centre in Ballyphehane with a Kung Fu performance. Music was expertly provided by DJ Ralph!

The marquee was very professionally presented. Leonard had the CMAP promo display towering proudly over the boxing ring, which provided the raised platform for the various performers to shine. Each martial art also had a display stand promoting its history and the club representing it. Weapons and trophies were posing like priceless museum pieces. 50” Plasma screens presented video clips from tournaments and seminars around the world and Instructors were on hand all day long to answer any questions onlookers may have had. As a participant, I was impressed but for those being introduced to the world of martial arts, I expect they were dazzled with expert displays of deadliness,  beguiled by the discipline, control and dedication of the performers and truly warmed by the welcoming atmosphere fostered and promoted by Cork Martial Arts Promotions.

I would like, on behalf of all of the instructors and performers involved to express respect and gratitude to Leonard and his team for bringing the whole event together. No doubt, months of planning and buckets of energy went into the preparations. Money was obviously invested in terms of display material and above all else, abundantly wise foresight predicted that a group effort promoting many different martial arts would be the most appropriate format for the event at hand. Given the same opportunity, many clubs/instructors would have made the day all about themselves and their arts. As I understand it, Leonard even asked his colleagues from another TaeKwonDo club to hold that torch – Coz that’s just the kinda guy he is! Fair play my man!

For more information on Cork Martial Arts Promotions, you can visit their website at There, you will find links to all the participants listed above.

My instructor can kick your instructor’s ass!

Sound familiar? How many times have you heard somebody argue that karate is better than TaeKwonDo because sweeps are allowed in karate. Or TaeKwonDo is better than Karate because in TaeKwonDo kicks can be full contact to the head. Have you ever felt the need to defend your martial art in an argument with somebody training in a different style? Have you ever looked at another style and thought my way is better? I have to admit that I have been that soldier and I’m sure if all of you guys are 100% honest, you’ll no doubt have ridiculed (albeit in the privacy of your inner thoughts) another style as impractical, unrealistic or weak. If you can, hand-on-heart, deny ever looking down on another style, well then you my friend are ahead of your time and I strive to be more like you. But for the vast majority of us, we tend to get sucked in to thinking of our style like an exclusive club being threatened by another exclusive club across the road. Why do we do that? How is it that a large group of people who all share an interest in personal improvement through fighting skills can sub divide into groups that look down their noses at each other. In the immortal words of Homer J Simpson: “Why can’t we all just get along?” or in the words of a famous golfer “When I’m asked what race is Tiger Woods, I reply ‘the human race!” We’re all martial artists so what’s the problem?

Of course, like all political environments, it’s not quite as simple as that. And yes, I did say ‘political’! There are many organisations out there attempting to tackle the problem of inter-club, inter-country or inter-style rivalry by saying that they are ‘non-political’. The sentiment is good but unfortunately, the idea is flawed. If you’ve got more than 1 member, then you are a political organisation since politics is simply the art of ‘getting along’ and co-existing with others in a common space. Amongst your political tools are emotional intelligence, patience, acceptance and tolerance. For some martial arts style… you need more tolerance than others! Is that me slipping into Rivalry mode again?

Before going any further, I must clarify that by rivalry, I mean the bitter type; the type that can get personal and affect friendships; the type that can cause the next generation on either side to never become friends in the first place. Competitive rivalry between clubs or styles from a tournament point of view is a positive catalyst and can help improve standards on both sides; as long as it does not turn into “Your club can’t fight because you’ve all got one leg shorter than the other!” (or something like that!???)

Here are some of the reasons I have seen that cause rivalry:

1.       Ego (too many chiefs and not enough Indians)

Some people are leaders and some are followers. Although, all of us can follow a strong leader who knows what they’re talking about, disagreement between strong personalities festering over long periods of time can lead to fall outs and disputes. Often, this results in two clubs or styles forming in close proximity to each other each looking to develop their membership and thus hissing at each other – probably still smouldering from years of arguments.

Such a dispute is one of the main reasons for the fractured state of Shotokan karate nowadays. In the 1960 and up the late 80’s the JKA (Japan Karate Association) under the leadership of Nakayama Sensei was united and the one main association that every club worldwide aspired to be affiliated with. Following the death of Nakayama, the next generation of instructors were all chiefs and no one strong leader stepped up to hold them all together. As a result, different factions formed. Two factions had a decade long court case to decide which one could keep the name JKA and other factions just started afresh with new worldwide campaigns.

Note: Here’s more detailed history of the JKA split. Scroll to the end of the page.

Nowadays, you can have your pick of a dozen Worldwide associations, none of which really recognises the other and most of which don’t talk to each other. And all that within just one of the many styles of karate.

Here’s a sample of the ones I’m aware of:

JKA, JKS, SKIF, WSKF, ITKF, WTKA, WKF, WUKO, ISKF, IKA, FSKA, WSKA, ASK, JKF, WBF… I could go on and on. These are all Shotokan Karate Associations. Same style, same art, same insane contempt for one another! Each has its own National, Continental and World Championships every year. How can that be good for Shotokan karate?

2.       Territory & negative campaigning

Martial arts students choose to do martial arts. Often, they could have chosen a range of other hobbies or sports. In some communities, they can choose from a range of different martial arts clubs. Therefore, just like any shop or gym, a club has a limited catchment area. For example, if a club is situated in an area with 10,000 people living within 2 miles, then perhaps they can achieve a membership of 100 students. If 2 clubs are set up in the same community, that’s 50 each or 80/20 if one club has a better reputation. If you’re involved in a club, of course, you’ll talk your club up. If you’re feeling nasty, you’ll probably talk the other club down also. There’s a fine line between taking pride in your club and unfairly influencing the reputation of a neighbouring club. Most of us live right on the edge. Some can’t even see the line anymore!

Note: Here’s an example of a bit of territorial argument in Cork that happened recently online. You’ll need to read through a few post but the majority of the action is on page 2 & 3 You’ll have to make you own mind if this is negative campaigning or not! But there’s no denying it’s territorial!

3.       Insecurity about one’s own abilities

Unfortunately, this is still happening. An instructor (who’s secretly ashamed of his/her standard and that of his/her students) might forbid students from cross training with neighbouring clubs or styles for fear that they will be found out. To discourage students straying to the ‘dark side’, they may talk down at other clubs or styles.

4.       Outrageous claims

Just like any sport, martial arts have been documented and highlighted in various marketing campaigns down through the years. In some cases, especially with the Eastern Fighting styles, like this one that you can use your voice to disable an opponent. As a martial artist from a traditional background, I cringe when I see stuff like this. I just think of a boxer watching it and thinking “huh! Those karate fellas think they can knock me out with grammar!” Even though, it’s not karate, to someone from another martial art, the lines or separation are blurred and we’re all tarred with one brush. If you make outrageous claims like these and can’t back them up, you’re just asking for ridicule and yes, I’m aware, I am ridiculing a particular style here but come on! Give me a break! Knocking someone out with your voice? Even it he said he could knock someone out with his bad breath, that would have been more plausible!

5.       Second Generation Rivalry

This is perhaps the most prolific and unfortunate of the rivalries – the next generation of students coming through following their instructor’s lead. For example, as a teenager, I trained with a club in Blackrock in Cork. The instructor there had a falling out with another instructor who set up another dojo less than a mile away. I felt myself despising the members of the other club even though I had never met them or even seen them! Same style, same village and not an ounce of cooperation or camaraderie; In fact, we didn’t even meet in tournaments because we were part of different National Associations. Ridiculous or what!?

We are living in an exciting time in History. Internet and Social networking is bringing knowledge and information to audiences faster and in more places than ever before. We can all quickly learn from those who can demonstrate and argue their points on Youtube videos or web blog’s. We can decide for ourselves which style of martial arts best suit us before ever entering a local dojo and we can all decide for ourselves who our friends are.

There should be no reason for negative rivalry between clubs, styles or associations. However, there’s a long history of disputes, arguments & differences. We can’t solve them all but you can help in your own small way by opening your mind and not becoming part of the problem.

That’s my own personal goal with this blog. I hope to bridge as many gaps as I can and bring various styles together. I hope to become an ambassador for my style – Shotokan Karate and earn respect for it amongst boxers, Judo players, TaeKwonDo students, MMA fighters and any other style that welcomes me to their gym or dojo.

In the last 12 months, I’ve sweated and trained in martial artists classes such as Karate, Judo, MMA, Kickboxing, Boxing, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitsu, BJJ, Escrima, Tai Chi and Koryo Uchinadi. Incidentally, I was asked to leave 1 gym and I’m still trying to find out why but that’s another blog post! In the next 12 months, I want to try more of all of those, along with Capoeira, Taekwondo, Krav Maga and maybe some Kung Fu. In an extension to all of that, I’d like to continue blogging about my experiences to raise awareness about the various good instructors that are out there. And finally, I promise not to look down on or ridicule a martial art… unless you tell me you can knock me out with your voice or that your skills have magic in them – in that case, your ass is mine!

I’d like to hear your story. What rivalries have you encountered? Would you admit to looking down on another martial art style? What style would you like to try but have felt intimidated to walk into the local club? What steps are you taking to make sure you don’t become part of the rivalry? Are some rivalries warranted?

Add your voice and be part of the discussion. Use the comment section below.