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For two weeks we are offering a rebate on DVDs with free UK P&P.  This is our only sale for 2012.

Price changes are not advertised on the site but we will refund your paypal account with the rebate as soon as we have logged your order.  In practice, this may take up to 12 hours depending on what time of day the order comes in.

For shipping internationally we charge a flat £2 per DVD during the sale. E.g. if you order Sparring Fundamentals and you live in Australia, you will pay £22 after rebate. Within the UK you would pay £20.

Please allow 7-10 days for shipping, or more for international orders. If you do not wish to use paypal, you will need to pay the sale price in pounds sterling by post. Contact us by e-mail to arrange this.

Offers end Sunday 2 September

Sparring Fundamentals                £30       rebate £10   sale price    £20                 

Knife Principles &Drills                 £30       rebate £10   sale price     £20  

Primal                                         £35       rebate £10   sale price     £25 

NHB 1                                         £25        rebate £10   sale price £15

NHB 1A                                       £25        rebate £10    sale price £15

Experimental Methods 2                 £20      rebate £5    sale price   £15

Experimental Methods                  £20      rebate £5     sale price  £15

Training Tips for Standup               £20       rebate £5    sale price  £15

Round Kick Clinic                          £20       rebate £5     sale price £15

Tactical Bag/Pad                            £20       rebate £5      sale price £15

Stick & Knife Drills (1998)                £20         rebate £5    sale price £15

Morris Method 2                               £20          rebate £5   sale price  £15

We regret that we cannot offer the larger multi-volume DVDs in the sale.

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New viewers

Just a note for newcomers to the website and You Tube channel.  If you're interested in what I do here are some ways you can access my information:

I'm on Facebook as and I post there regularly.

I'm on the Fighting Arts Alliance answering questions and sharing my research on a more or less daily basis.

I work regularly with professional MMA fighters and boxers. If you're interested in this, contact me directly on

I reach a recreational session one Saturday a month in Gloucester. Again: contact me if interested.

I do other courses by arrangement. These can cover all aspects of fighting standup to ground, fighting in a self-protection context, and knife. I do not do firearms work.

I take private lessons in my home near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. These cost £50 per hour minimum 2 hours and I can tailor the lesson to your experience and needs. You can record the lesson and keep it for future reference. Drop me an e-mail to book.

There is a large library of DVDs available on my website. These contain a great deal of information and we ship worldwide at no cost.

I have had several e-mails recently asking about London training. Unfortunately the London Fight Factory raised their hire fee well out of our reach. We are looking for another venue but for the moment Primal is suspended.

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Sparring and Futbol de Salao

I've been developing the ideas behind the new sparring DVD for some time, and although much of the DVD is constructed out of my work with guys in the gym, there are a number of outside factors that influenced the way I approached the subject.

The first one that I want to talk about is Futbol de Salao ('soccer in a hall') from Brazil.  This is an English adaptation of it.

Because of the smaller field and smaller and heavier ball with little bounce, the game allows for the development of technical skills through increased contact in terms of ball touches.  It's a very fast game and requires that skills be performed at a high tempo.  In addition to skill development, futbol enhances related areas of physical coordination, reaction time, anticipation, rapid decision-making, improvisation, adaptation, dynamic balance, visual flexibility, and so on. Used in training, the play is more about skill development than it is about the competitive outcome of the game. So Futbol de Salao can be used effectively as a support system for the actual soccer game.

When I was developing new sparring methods, I needed something that could perform similar functions in the gym for training fighters.  Futbol de Salao gave me a kind of rubric that I could use.

Most sparring is fight-based and therefore win-based, so people get hung up on outcomes and they don't work skills deliberately within the exchange. Instead, guys tend to spar on auto-pilot.  This removes the 'deliberate' from the practice.  One of the things I had to do was find ways to make the spar relatively safe, to remove the anxiety from the participants, but to keep the exchanges real enough to be accurate representations of the actual fight. It's fairly easy to do this on the ground where there are tap-out conventions, but for standup it was more of a challenge.  The skills had to be practiced under fire and not in a drill, much in the manner of Futbol de Salao where you have a reduced version of the game itself.

I knew also that tempo had to be high and that skills had to be performed within that tempo.  I kept in my mind the idea of the increased percentage of touches in Futbol de Salao and brought that concept to the sparring. This forces the recognition and response networks to process information quicker.  

The sparring we practice is a form of deliberate practice.  Because we have set out our objectives and created some limitations to the exchange, we not only make the situation safer but the fighter knows exactly what he is trying to achieve and when he makes a mistake, he has an opportunity to see it and to correct it.  

As in Futbol de Salao, we aren't changing the essential realities of the fight.  We're just reducing the size and time frame in which we are working so as to concentrate our efforts.  In that way, the fighter is constantly being stretched and forced to make mistakes and therefore to learn.

Of course, with fighting there are many more variables than in a game of football.  So we are working across a range of options in any given session, and the intensity and the agreed conditions and conventions will vary depending on the fighter's experience and the objectives they are working on at that particular time.  The professional fighters I work with will have different agreements with their sparring partners in terms of what is allowed than the newer, less experienced guy where safety is a consideration first and foremost.  But the essential principles are the same, and you can work them with young kids right the way through to professionals.
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Sparring Fundamentals DVD

We've just released a new DVD on the website, 'Sparring Fundamentals'.

This is the first film in our catalogue devoted wholly to sparring. It's intended to enable you to use sparring in your training safely and for maximum learning benefits. The methods I introduce here can be worked through the full range of the fight and include transitions between the various phases of the fight standup to ground.

This is the same material I've been using recently to work with Tony Moran, Adam Parkes, Khurram Hussain and other professionals and it's improving them as fighters.  Same for the recreational fighters and amateur fighters I teach.  Everything I show on the film can be varied in intensity and you'll see how you can work on specific skills in fight context according to your needs.

I'd like to thank Nick Forrer and Peter Vasylenko for their contribution to the film as fighters, and Murray Bruton for the use of his training facility in Gloucester.

There's a complete list of topics here.  I talk about the ideas behind the film in this clip.

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Video interview

Trish is doing a series of video interviews with me for You Tube.  She wants to do some entry level material for the website.  This will be a series of questions she has come up with to try to introduce the way I work in contrast to the way the martial arts are conventionally practiced.  Here are the first three clips.

Fundamental Movement Patterns
Role of a Trainer
Self-Reliance and Mindfulness
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Notebook Series: The Duplicity of Zen

I first encountered Zen when I was about seventeen, around 1960.  I came across Buddhism because of its associations with Japanese martial arts, and became intrigued with it when I was stationed in Nairobi in the early 1960s.  Zen was in the cultural atmosphere at the time and I became interested in the principles of self-realization, self-reliance, self-discipline that went with it.

Around this time I realised I didn’t want to be in the Army, but I couldn’t buy myself out because I was a restricted trade.  I got into the Chan and the Suzuki stuff, and for me the koans were a mental sweat.  There was a certain appeal in walking this tightrope; I relished the mental gymnastics and found them addictive.

The biggest thing that came out of Zen for me was the mindfulness practices.  The idea that you could actually watch yourself, observe your own consciousness in action, became a key factor in my development. Zen changed me.

There was an aspect to Zen where action is like a lightning bolt, impersonal and possibly devastating.  But at the time I was unaware that political agendas could be attached to what I thought was a purely spiritual practice. It turns out that Zen was used, like the martial arts were used, to support a political agenda in Japan at the time. 

Below are a collection of links and review quotes worth reading.

Zen at War by Brian Victoria. (Some reviews here and here)
This reviewer says:

‎"But Victoria told me that his forthcoming book Zen War Stories will demonstrate even more clearly that Zen teachings played a central role in instilling the military ethos and offering moral support to the military. ‘Japanese military leaders deliberately set out to inculcate a Zen-inspired attitude in Japanese troops as they raped and pillaged their way through Asia from 1931 to 1945, killing between 10 and 20 million men, women and children. This was done with the complete and unconditional support of all Japan's Zen leaders’

“For Brian Victoria a particular danger is the appeal of the warrior ethos. ‘The “natural” affinity of Zen and the martial arts has been so widely accepted in the West that practitioners of one see no contradiction in practising the other. Thus, the alleged “unity of Zen and the sword” is as alive in the West today as it always has been in Japan.’”

The same author has written Zen War Stories.  Have a look at this quote from a review:.

“To many Americans, Zen Buddhists primarily devote themselves to discovering inner serenity and social peace. But Zen has had strong ties to militarism —indeed so strong, that the leaders of one of the largest denominations in Japan have remorsefully compared their former religious fanaticism during Japan's brutal expansionism in the 1930's and 40's to today's murderously militant Islamists.

"Victoria contends that Zen's antinomianism and amoral attitude, since enlightenment transcends good and evil in the Zen tradition, allows it to develop nonattachment in an ethically indifferent manner. This hardness to life and death made Zen the preferred form of Buddhism for the medieval Samurai. Combat and war were not contradictory to enlightenment but could become avenues to it if done responsively without attachment, desire, or hatred. According to Victoria, this image of the ideal warrior—popularized by D.T. Suzuki and later many martial arts films—played into the military's program of ‘spiritual education' which cultivated a fanatical military spirit indifferent to the individual's fate. "

And another...

And on Omori Sogen "After showing in chapter 4 that Omori Sogen, praised for his prowess in swordsmanship and other arts, had a fascistic, "Mr. Hyde" side as manifested in the founding in 1932 of the Kinno Ishin Domei (League for Loyalty to the Emperor and the Restoration),"

‎Here is Omori Sogen as he is seen in the West. The duplicity of Zen.

This Amazon review of Zen at War  provides an interesting perspective on the matter: "I could not understand how my grandmother could be so poorly informed about the Japanese. "Japan is a Buddhist country," I assured myself. "Its culture has been heavily influenced by Zen itself. How could Grandma have acquired such bitterness about a people with whom she had had no real contact?  I read "The Rape of Nanking," Ienaga's "The Pacific War," "Unit 731," and several other books about the conduct of the Japanese military and government during the 1930's and 40's. The effect was shattering. Although I still did not share it, I now understood my Grandmother's visceral response to the mere mention of the Japanese. "Zen at War" is the saddest news of all. No Zen student can help but be devastated by learning that our childhood heroes -- Shaku Soen, D.T. Suzuki, Sawaki Kodo, Harada Daiun Sogaku, Yasutani Hakuun, Omori Sogen, Yamada Mumon, and many others -- were enthusiastic supporters of Japanese imperialism. Far from calling for peace, far even from serving as a moderating influence, Japanese Buddhist leaders vocally endorsed the killing of Chinese, Korean, American, or any other people who lacked the supposedly superior understanding of the Japanese people. The pseudo-dharma jibberish that these "enlightened masters" put in print to condone murder and cultural exploitation is agonizing to read.  Who were these men, really? What was in their heart of hearts? Was their enlightenment worth anything, if they could become advocates for genocide? If they dissembled in order to preserve the Buddhist establishment, what kind of choice was that?
    "What I found most disturbing about this book was not so much what Victoria had to reveal about the Zen culture of Imperial Japan, (don't get me wrong, that was pretty darn disturbing too)but rather the reaction that came from many, if not most, of North America's Zen masters. Almost to a one, they refused to even admit the core issue that the book arises: "If an _enlightened_ person can support an evil empire, what does it say about being enlightened?" No one doubts that Catholic Popes can committ evil acts (Dante fills Hell with them), but then the Catholic faith makes far lessor claims about the spiritual powers and insight of its clerics.
    "American Zen students have tended to hold these teachers in awe, to the point of regarding their every action as pure and selfless. This tendency to idealize the teacher comes in part from the students' inexperience, but is strongly encouraged by the Zen organization and the teacher himself”

Another one to read is The Zen Arts by Rupert Cox

For me the bottom line with regards to Japanese budo (like bushido) is that people will place any interpretation on it they want in order to support their political agendas, personal ambitions or beliefs. The older they make that interpretation appear to be, the more convincing they are to those who are invested in budo as well as those keen for any excuse to play samurai. Without running the risk of getting hurt, of course.

Budo is as budo does.

The following quote is from Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture which was published in 1938.

"The sword is generally associated with killing, and most of us wonder how it can come into connection with Zen, which is a school of Buddhism teaching the gospel of love and mercy. The fact is that the art of swordsmanship distinguishes between the sword that kills and the sword that gives life. The one that is used by a technician cannot go any further than killing, for he never appeals to the sword unless he intends to kill. The case is altogether different with the one who is compelled to lift the sword. For it is really not he but the sword itself that does the killing. He had no desire to do harm to anybody, but the enemy appears and makes himself a victim. It is as though the sword performs automatically its function of justice, which is the function of mercy... When the sword is expected to play this sort of role in human life, it is no more a weapon of self-defense or an instrument of killing, and the swordsman turns into an artist of the first grade, engaged in producing a work of genuine originality." D. T. Suzuki

This book was published one year after this and this

From a review of Zen at War we have this:

"Chapters Four and Five focus on two of modern Zen Buddhism's most esteemed dignitaries, Masters Omori Sogen and Yasutani Haku'un, revealing both to have been fierce militarists and ultranationalists. The former, a Rinzai Zen master lauded by many in the west as the “greatest Zen master of modern times”, is revealed to have been a far-right activist with close ties to interwar ultranationalist don and terrorist sponsor Toyama Mitsuru, "

Toyama Mitsuru was the founder of the Black Ocean Society and the Black Dragon Society

The self-deception of a great many Western martial artists with regards to the combative effectiveness and spiritual values of Japanese budo and its Japanese masters is quite staggering, particularly with regards to their turning a blind eye to the wartime "activities" of those masters who during the post-war period were to be lauded in the west as the Grand Poobahs of all time. The masters who introduced budo to the West after the Asian Pacific War had been raised in a culture of deep hatred for the West and had been inculcated into belief in the superiority of the Japanese race and the Japanese way. Western martial artists seem either ignorant of this, or unable to face it.

Of course some of us know more about the wartime activities of the Grand Poohbahs than others. A couple of years ago I received a surprise telephone call from someone who is highly respected within the martial arts community and who had secure connections with several top Japanese sources. The information this guy passed on to me about the Grand Poobahs was to say the least extremely unpleasant and profoundly damning with regards to certain aspects of the Poobahs’ character. So much for the notion that budo builds character and is the way of peace. But I’d bet a million (if I had it) that the Aikido, Kendo, Iaido and Karate-do community would ignore such information if it were to be made public for the same reasons the followers of Omori Sogen did: simply because they have so much invested what they personally want to believe or need to persuade others to believe. It seems that once people have made a total commitment to someone or something and that someone turns out to have a Hyde side to their character, or that something turns out to be totally worthless, it’s often impossible for them to challenge their beliefs and instead they believe in that someone or something even more.
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Recent & upcoming training

Haven't posted much about the courses I've been doing lately so I thought I'd just note down a few things here for readers who aren't on Facebook where my regular updates go.

I've had a couple of good sessions with Tony Moran, Adam Parkes, Paul Taylor and some of the other guys from the Wolfslair gym.  I was scheduled to work with them a week or so ago but it didn't go off as planned because the day before they had a fire at the gym.  We ended up training at L4 Fight Club -- I'd like to thank Chris and John for helping out at the last minute. I'm six foot, but in the photo I'm the little guy in the middle.

Tony just won a fight this weekend at Olympus that he took at short notice.  This is a guy who works an eight-hour shift, jumps in the car, gets in the cage, does the business, and gets out. What can you say?

I've also been over at Murray Bruton's in Gloucester working regularly on standup and ground with his group.  At the LFF we've continued to run a small but intense monthly session.  Recently we've developed some innovations on our approach to sparring and I'm looking forward to getting some of that on DVD.  For anyone who lives in the London area interested in training, we are there one Sunday afternoon a month.  Drop me a line for more information.

I also did a course for members of the Rum Soaked Fist forum hosted by the LFF.  Their review and notes are here.  I was unsure at first how this would work out.  The forum is focused on Chinese martial arts and they've shown considerable interest in my work over the years, but I wasn't sure how they were going to react to being thrown in at the deep end.  But it worked.  It was a hard session--they did four hours, no breaks, and the whole session was concentrated on sparring.  Getting them to do the very thing they needed to do, in a safe way. 

For guys who have got a traditional background and are looking to get into the fighting side, I have ways of working you out which are safe and challenging.  I'm encouraged by the results of the course with the Rum Soaked Fist guys and I'd like to see more groups coming forward and taking the initiative to add that most essential element to your training: the fight.

I've had some good private lessons here at my home in Shropshire.  Feedback on those has been very positive, and I decided to let people stick a camera in the corner of the room so they can take home a record of what we covered.  I can get a lot of information into a couple of hours that way, and you can go away and unpack it at your leisure.  Let me know if you're interested in this.  No restrictions on who can train.

I've got a course coming up with Richard Cotterill of Balintawak UK in Nottingham on Sunday 27 November 2-5 pm.  Contact Richard if you're interested.  We'll be doing MMA standup/ground and some knife work.

Here's a clip of Peter Vasylenko's recent amateur rules fight, I believe his first MMA fight.  I post it because it illustrates very well the kind of standup game I've been encouraging my guys to adopt. 

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Notebook Series: Introduction to Budo

Over on Facebook I’ve got some long threads that took a lot of work to compile.  I’m going to put some of the material here on the blog as well.  Because it’s loosely constructed I’m calling it the Notebook Series.  (This is not the same as the Fighter’s Notebook, which are my training notes available to the Fighting Arts Alliance.)  

The first topic I’ll be addressing at length is budo.  I’ve written about this before on The Scorpion’s Tale, so some of this material will be familiar to my long-term readers.  But probably not all of it.

Let’s start with some recommended reading.  Here’s a link that will help you to spot the difference between the old Koryu systems and the new Gendai systems which sometimes pretend to be old.  Read through the links within the piece as well.

I also recommend reading one of the online sources  I used when I wrote the Scorpion’s Tale. 

"In 1914 a Japanese police official named Hiromichi Nishikubo published a series of articles arguing that the Japanese martial arts should be called budo ("martial ways") rather than bujutsu ("martial techniques"), and used primarily to teach schoolchildren to be willing to sacrifice their lives for the Emperor. In 1919, Nishibuko became head of a major martial art college (Bujutsu Senmon Gakko) and immediately ordered its name changed to Budo Senmon Gakko, and subsequently Dai Nippon Butokukai publications began talking about budo, kendo, judo, and kyudo rather than bujutsu, gekken, jujutsu, and kyujutsu. The Ministry of Education followed suit in 1926, and in 1931 the word budo began to refer to compulsory ideological instruction in the Japanese public schools." (there is a problem with this link on Wikipedia.  You can get it through but you have to keep clicking through on Statism in Showa Japan on the page that comes up)

In case the implication of this is lost on you here are some links to put this ideological instruction into context:

The shin /gendai systems were used to instill the military virtues of self sacrifice, blind obedience and loyalty in those who practiced them.

The repetitive drilling to barked-out military commands, daily beatings, humiliating punishments, chants of allegiance to the Emperor, slogans of hatred for the enemy and the memorization of military codes of behaviour of the military modified gendai practices of the Showa era had nothing to do with the creation of Zen warriors versed in martial arts skills. But it had everything to do with the creation of men who were blindly obedient to their superiors, men who were willing to sacrifice themselves on the battlefields of Asia out of the shame and humiliation that failure in their duty to the Emperor would bring on their families. Without personal responsibility for their actions, these men would commit some of the most henious crimes ever witnessed in war. They had been trained to do so on the command of their superiors.

It was these same militarized methods of practicing shin or gendai budo for indoctrinational purposes during the Showa era that were practiced within the schools, colleges and universities of post-war Japan.  These methods were introduced to the West by masters who were either complicit in this form of indoctrination or had undergone indoctrination into these Emperor, militaristic and fascistic ideologies during their military service or whilst at school, college or university.

"The basis of the modern form of kokutai and hakko ichiu were to develop after 1868 and would take the following form: Japan is the center of the world, with its ruler, the Tenno (Emperor), a divine being, who derives his divinity from ancestral descent from the great Amaterasu-Omikami, the Goddess of the Sun herself.  The Kami (Japan's gods and goddesses) have Japan under their special protection. Thus, the people and soil of Dai Nippon and all its institutions are superior to all others.All of these attributes are fundamental to the Kodoshugisha (Imperial Way) and give Japan a divine mission to bring all nations under one roof, so that all humanity can share the advantage of being ruled by the Tenno."......

At the end of the Asian Pacific War many Japanese leaders (including the emperor and members of the Imperial family) who had sought to bring all the nations of the world under the rule of the emperor were saved from being hung as war criminals and were instead used by the Allied forces to fight the spread of communism within Japan and throughout Asia.

That’s why criminals such as Kodama Yoshio, Sasakawa Ryoichi and Nobusuke Kishi got away with it (read pages 63 to 67)

And that’s why Sasakawa financially supported many martial arts masters and their organizations: because he could rely on them in his numerous anti-communist activities.  He could also rely on them to demonstrate to the world through the practice of the martial arts the superiority of the Japanese way.

A lot of people in the West swallowed hook, line and sinker not only the combative superiority of the Gendai and Shin Budo systems over all other martial arts, but also many other aspects of Japanese culture as seen in the Wikipedia quote, above.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing swallowed by Westerners was the belief that these systems could be used as religious- aesthetic practices complete with moral and ethical values by which to attain spiritual enlightenment.

Many practitioners believe that as a result of practicing a modern non-contact budo system such as karate, not only can you drop a man with a mere touch but also become a better person and spiritually enlightened besides. 

I’ll be addressing the duplicity of Zen in the next segment.