“Just under two weeks ago I was awarded my FWC Black Sash.

To put this into context, they have been awarded so rarely in the past, that I had honestly decided that they were, in fact, the stuff of legend, and that I would probably never receive one.

So I was, as you can imagine, absolutely delighted (and, if I’m honest, a little thunderstruck) after 28 years of training to finally have the honour of Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo first tell me that I had earned it during lunch on Instructor Camp in Egypt, and then tie it around my waist in Sunday Class at Angel. Read More

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Training challenges

We haven’t had one of these for a while – a training challenge! Instructor Joshua Villar set one for himself – and without wishing to steal his thunder (whisper it) it’s a knuckle walk. Why would anyone want to do that (as Josh asked himself when he was half way through)? Well, the simple answer would be that walking on your knuckles toughens them up – it’s one way of doing it.  But maybe there was also an element of exploring pain thresholds and endurance. Either way, like that other famous endurance event, Le Tour de France, you can read about it rather than do it, and wince at the photos in the comfort of your own home.

“I will set the scene. A lone Kung Fu Instructor stands on top of a hill Read More

I have to own up here – my birthday has always been in the October half term break. So I have a great fondness for Autumn. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as Keats described it. But it’s so much more than that – the russet colours, the delight in sudden days of warmth and sunshine, the despair of early dark evenings (especially as the clocks always change to British Winter Time this week), reflections on Summer joys, anticipation of Christmas (what! already!!! – oh yes…). And so what are the delights and challenges of Autumn Training? Read More

Women in Sport Week – is that about me, asked our women students?  Many young girls are only too happy to be involved in sports, dance, and martial arts. Somehow their zest for movement diminishes as they grow up. The reasons are various – Read More

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

Convalescence¹ – an old-fashioned word that doesn’t seem to be used any more. We tend to use “recovery”² which is approximately the same, but “convalescence” has a more definite feeling of a process over time. You may have followed Dennis’ story of injury, illness and recovery in the previous two articles in this series.  If so you will know that Dennis has made remarkable come-backs from a serious car accident and from sepsis. But he went through a planned period of convalescence. This is the story of his convalescence from sepsis – life-threatening infection.

Fresh air, nutritious diet, plenty of rest. All sounds rather twee and Jane Austen doesn’t it? But whenever Dennis was frustrated at not being up to doing something (which happened quite often) he had to remember that we used to send people to Italy or Switzerland for months at a time to recover from serious illness and “build up their strength”. To Sanatoriums, Nursing Homes, Convalescent Homes – giving people time to get their strength back. Sure we have painkillers, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, but although they make you “better” they don’t make you who you used to be.

And maybe we don’t use that period of healing any more in the way that we could. Life is binary – Read More

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

After an operation to improve his nose airway, Chief Instructor Dennis Ngo, was struck down by an enemy he couldn’t see. But he could feel it. Running through his bloodstream, wreaking havoc, causing intense pain in an infected ankle (how did it get there from his nose?). Antibiotics could help – but would the spectre of antibiotic resistance rear its head?

April 2016 – Minor operation. Quick recovery.

Back on feet, feeling fine, teaching lessons. And then the pain starts. High pain threshold – keep going. Feeling worse, but the nose feels ok – wonder why the ankle hurts? Five days later in hospital on intravenous antibiotics. C-Reactive Protein 353. Diagnosis: Staphylococcus Aureus Bacteremia, Cellulitis, maybe Osteolmyelitis. Ten days later, back home with daily nursing visits to give the drugs through a PICC line. Go to class in a wheelchair. Six weeks later, intravenous antibiotics stop. Go to class with a walking stick. Read More

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs

“We are martial artists – we all live with pain. If you train hard and regularly, you will know what pain is.” Dennis Ngo explains to Emeka Onono from Raw TV Ltd.  Emeka had contacted Dennis to see if he would be involved in a social experiment documentary. Dr Chris Van Tulleken was planning to take a group of people who suffer with chronic conditions –  could lateral approaches let them stop taking their prescription drugs?

Emeka wanted to know whether Dennis would help Crystal, who had chronic severe back pain. “If Crystal wants to do it it then I can help.” The rest, as they say, makes great TV. [You can watch the trailer here:  “The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs“.]

But behind Dennis’ seemingly bluff comments on the pain of training, there is another story. Read More

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Training challenges

The World Eskimo Indian Olympics: Event – Kneel Jump. The current World Records are 67 inches for men and 55½ inches for women.  Equipment needed to attempt World Record at Eskimo Indian Kneel Jump – masking tape, tape measure. Three jumps each. How hard can it be?

World Eskimo Indian Olympics? Missed it on the BBC this summer?

There’s Olympics and then there’s the World Eskimo Indian Olympics. Whilst many of the summer Olympics events appear far removed from their origins, the Eskimo Indian Olympics hold true to the many hunting and survival skills needed and valued by their community.  There are many to try, but this one caught our eye – the Kneel Jump. Described as the “Ultimate Test of Core Strength” – we could not resist.

Kneel jump – how do I do it?

The athlete kneels behind the start line, with the tops of their feet flat on the floor.  From there they lift themselves up and forward as far as they can go, landing flat on their feet. The distance is measured to the back of the heel closest to the start line.

First up was Instructor Adam Prout. Well-known amongst you as resident daredevil and tryer of training challenges, Adam was ready to have a go at that World Record. I laid out three sparring mats to provide some knee protection, a tape measure and taped a starting line, marked the World Record and the 2016 winning jump.

Go on then, Adam, jump.

Read More

It feels like your chest will burst as a jet of joy shoots up through your body – you did it! And then the gremlin sneers “Pride comes before a fall”.  But if we do not take pride in our achievements how are we to know where to go next on the stepping stones of our life? This is a dichotomy at the heart of progress. If we do not feel any pride how do we know if we have made any progress? If we do feel pride in something that was not really a step forward then are we fooling ourselves? It’s a psychological minefield – whilst it’s not the same as losing a limb to a real landmine, it’s a real blockage to our self-realisation.

And so we come to poppies. Chief Instructor, Dennis Ngo, takes up the discussion. Read More