It is hard to believe it has been four months since BMAC went into hibernation because of the Coronavirus lockdown. We ended our regular classes back on 17th March, which now feels like a very distant memory.
In that time, we have tried various methods to keep the spirit of the club alive. How we do that has very much evolved over time and as lockdown has progressed.
Initially the club black belts held video calls to plan what we would do once the lockdown was over and we could resume classes. It quickly became apparent that this was going to be a much longer interruption than we first thought.
We extended the video calls to the entire club, as a way of keeping in touch with everyone. This provided a forum for discussion and to ask questions but soon the energy dropped off.
The next stage was our black belts creating a series of instructional videos. This produced workouts that could be done indoors, in a confined space and using whatever we could use as a substitute opponent. To create a sense of routine, the videos were released on a Thursday and a Saturday with the relevant instructor describing it on a Tuesday night video call and taking questions.
This worked well but again, after a few weeks, the energy and enthusiasm started to drop. There are only so many times you can talk through similar routines without it becoming repetitive. Although everyone was encouraged to try the workouts, the Tuesday night sessions were not providing any exercise.
This inspired our Virtual Lockdown Knockdown for charity. This gave the club a focus for a few weeks as we prepared our 30 minutes of punching and held the actual event. For the first time since we started the video calls, everyone was physically involved and got a chance to work up a sweat. We might be onto something.
Like the VLK, currently we have two black belts leading a group workout on the weekly video calls. Again, working in a confined space has proved an interesting challenge but we have been able to manage a nice variety of practices, sweat a bit and get some movement. In addition, we have been recording the sessions so that members who cannot make the call (or have ropey internet connections) can watch them later.
In tandem with these sessions, as lockout restrictions have eased, we have had small groups meet outdoors (in line with guidance) to practise kata and movement. Socially distanced kata at that.
This week has seen restrictions eased again and, weather permitting, we will now be able to meet in groups from a total of five households. It will still be a socially distanced practice but is another step back to normality.
The last four months have very much been a learning process. How to adapt a martial arts club to an environment of training in isolation is a challenge. We are still a long way from normal service being resumed but as our practice has changed and evolved during lockdown, we have kept our members engaged, raised money for charity, had some fun and kept the spirit of BMAC alive and kicking.
Stay safe and let’s look forward to the day we can return to full practice.
With the end of June hurtling towards us, it should be time for the club to vote for the latest recipient of the Russell Trophy. This would mark the fourth time the trophy has been awarded since we introduced it in 2018, and would have been the third time that the winner would be decided by club votes. It is democracy in action.
The trophy was introduced to recognise our members for their contribution to the club. It was named as a thank you to Hugh and Jackie for all they have done for our members over the years and we had to emphasise to Hugh that it was most definitely a recognition and not a memorial.
Given the trophy’s name, we all agreed that Hugh should be the first recipient and when we presented him with it at our Christmas night out in 2018, it was my honour to share the many warm comments, as well as a few cheeky ones, that the club made about him. Hugh even admitted that I almost got to him. Almost. The lengthy round of applause for Hugh as he shook hands with everyone was a fitting tribute and the best possible launch for the trophy.
We decided that the trophy would be presented every six months and all members would have an equal vote. Everyone votes for three members, with first, second and third place awarded 5-3-1 points. This ensures we get a deserved winner that is consistently recognised across the club.
What are the criteria for winning the trophy? We split it into six high level categories although it is up to everyone how these are interpreted.
Like the stories we gathered for Hugh, members are encouraged to supply comments why they are voting for a person. This has already turned into one of the best traditions and a highlight of our club as the levels of warmth, affection and encouragement in the comments has been incredible. It is clear that people put a lot of thought, heart and soul into the comments and everyone seems genuinely touched by the views of their fellow members.
All voting and comments are anonymous, so we get the fun game of “guess the commenter”.
We have had two rounds of club voting so far, in June and December 2019 with Ross Walton winning in June and John Marley taking home the trophy in December. Both were hugely deserving winners and you can see photos of them being presented here.
Of course, it will not have escaped anyone’s notice that these are unusual times. Like the rest of the country, BMAC has been in lockdown since mid-March, with all training being virtual sessions. These have taken place every week, including our Virtual Lockdown Knockdown night, and we have had up to 25 members involved in these. Given the efforts by all to keep the spirit and camaraderie of the club alive during the lock down, it was agreed that the trophy would be symbolically presented to the whole club. Whilst not everyone will get to keep the trophy, it recognises that keeping us going has very much been a team effort and everyone has demonstrated the qualities that the trophy embodies.
Hopefully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel and by the end of the year, we will be able to crown the next deserving winner of the trophy.
Until then, everybody wins!
How do you train in martial arts during a Coronavirus pandemic? BMAC has been running classes in the area for over 30 years so when the lockdown began the club had to find alternative ways to practise.
After a few weeks of video conference lessons which saw the club practise different sequences of moves, BMAC’s Virtual Lockdown Knockdown was born. We challenged ourselves to do at least 50,000 punches in 30 minutes to raise money for charity.
We chose three charities. Firstly, NHS Charities Together for the staff who as in the frontline of the virus. Our second choice was the Trussell Trust which runs a network of foodbanks across the UK including East Dunbartonshire. Our final charity was the Star Project based in Paisley which has provided support during the lockdown such as delivering food and medicine and organising online get-togethers to combat loneliness.
In addition to supporting these worthwhile causes, both John and Morag observed that doing this kept the spirit of BMAC alive and kicking (or, more appropriately, punching) during these unusual and difficult times.
On Tuesday 26th May, we gathered on our regular video conference and broadcast to the world via Twitch. In total 27 adult members, 6 juniors and a few possibly reluctant parents, had volunteered to punch like mad for half an hour.
30 minutes of straight punching might have got monotonous, so a few of us came up with sequences of punches and combinations to keep things interesting. Each sequence would be two minutes, with 15 of these in total making up the duration of the challenge. Each two-minute block was led by a member of the club and, as you can see from the photo of our video conference, it looked slightly chaotic. I thought it might be difficult to follow but it worked surprisingly well. It turns out we have a few budding Joe Wicks in the club.
We’ve all been missing the club, and Jamie captured the mood by saying that event really lifted his spirits, having greatly missed not being able to see, train and have fun with our group of friends has had an impact.
Of course, when there is no club it does have an impact on people’s fitness. Willie wondered if he would be able to manage 30 minutes of punching. Not only was the answer an emphatic “yes” but he also set one of the highest totals.
Martin H had only joined the club a few weeks before we were locked down and really enjoyed the challenge whilst noting the great spirit shown by all for some worthy causes
Iain K spotted something that I have noticed many times over the years. He was having a work-life balance challenge and was missing the club as a way to de-stress. Without that release, the lockdown was proving difficult. Getting a training session, even a virtual one, and a focus has been a help.
I could not agree more with Iain. The last three months have been hard going for so many of us. The training sessions and video conferences have been a teasing glimpse of normality and a reminder that better times lie ahead. In the current climate, that has been invaluable.
More than one person commented that they are proud to be part of the club and Iain made an interesting observation that the club is such a diverse group yet we all come together in a strong supportive way, look out for club members and do our best to help others. I am sorry, I have got something in my eye…
So that was BMAC’s Virtual Lockdown Knockdown. At the end of the 30 minutes, there were plenty of smiles and surprisingly sweaty club members. It felt almost like a regular class! Even better, the 50,000 punch target was smashed. In the end, the club managed an incredible 130,142 punches and thus far has raised over £1700 for our charities. A massive BMAC thankyou to everyone that has supported us.
It was an absolute blast and just about as close as you could get to a regular club session whilst training in isolation. We keep our collective fingers crossed that we will be able to return to regular training sometime soon but in the meantime, we will keep the virtual sessions going. After all, virtual training is better than no training.
The last word goes to Hugh: “It was really good to get together as a group although only virtually. We have all missed each other’s company as BMAC is a particularly social group as well as keen martial artists. Being able to do this for a good cause made the occasion doubly special. We are all so happy glad that we were able to beat our punching and fundraising targets”
Here we are on Thursday 21st May, a few days away from BMAC’s Virtual Lockdown Knockdown and things are going well so far. At this point, we have raised over £500 for our chosen charities which is pretty awesome. A huge thank you to everyone that has sponsored us so far.
On Tuesday we had another training session to familiarise everyone with the format of the event and to practise the different punching sequences we have in mind. This went pretty smoothly and even allowed us all to work up a bit of a sweat. Note to self: have a fan in the room when I’m doing the actual challenge.
So far, we have 24 club members signed up for the event. It’s really cool to see the BMAC family coming together like this for such a good cause. We haven’t been able to train together since mid-March but the club bond is still strong.
The big event itself takes place on Tuesday 26th May and there’s still time to sponsor us. We are raising funds for NHS charities together, the Trussell Trust and the Star Project and you can support us by visiting https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/BMAC
How is everyone doing during lockdown?
Unsurprisingly for a martial arts club, we are missing our regular training and the physical and mental boost that comes with it. After a few weeks of video conference training sessions, Emma and I had a chat about whether the club could do a charity something to help organisations that might need some funds at this difficult time. How about we try and do 50,000 punches between everyone in the club? Great idea, let us see if the others are up for it.
Hugh was up for it, so the next challenge was to ask if the rest of the club were in too. After a few “yeahs” and “I guess so” responses, which is often what passes for enthusiasm in BMAC, we had a team.
We laid out our idea and suggested charities and then things went a bit awry as many other opinions were offered. As the old saying goes, a camel is a horse designed by committee and we were in danger of designing a horse with four humps, a trunk, and skis for feet. I will admit to getting very grumpy about it on one video call which I could try and put down to cabin fever but…. mumble mumble.
Anyway, after some more brain storming including a trip to a virtual pub (with real beer), BMAC’s Virtual Lockdown Knockdown was born. On 26th May, the club will get together online to do as many punches as possible in 30 minutes. That might not sound like long but when you start punching 30 minutes can seem like an eternity. We are going to do it in blocks of 10 minutes with each of our black belts leading a block with a sequence of punches. 15 blocks in total will give us our 30 minutes.
How many punches in that time? Well we still think 50,000 is a realistic target. One week out from the event and we have 23 club members participating so that averages out at 2174 punches each, or 72 punches per minute. We had a short trial run at this and in doing two-minute blocks managed between 150 and 200 punches. Easy. I think.
At the end of the day, it is a bit of fun to keep us active and engaged as a club whilst hopefully raising some money for good causes. We have picked three charities to support. The NHS Charities Together was chosen as the NHS is providing so much care to the country’s population at present and their staff are very much in the front line. The Trussell Trust supports foodbanks across the UK, including here in East Dunbartonshire and aims to end hunger poverty. Finally, the Star Project in Paisley ins close to Emma’s heart and they are helping people by doing food and medicine deliveries and organising digital get-togethers to combat loneliness.
We hope you will agree that these are very worthwhile causes during these unprecedented times. If you would like to support our Virtual Lockdown Knockdown, please visit our Virgin Money Giving page at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/BMAC
Tune in next time as we prepare for the big event. Keeeeep punching!
As the Coronavirus has tightened its grip on everyday life, BMAC ended classes in mid-March and a return date still feels like it is some way off.
Last time we mentioned that our black belts have been putting together a series of videos demonstrating ways to keep training and moving during the lockdown. After two weeks, these have already covered a variety of practices including balance, strikes, takedowns and ground movement, whilst keeping the focus on how to practise without a partner. These were posted on our Facebook members page but we wanted a more interactive way to discuss them.
So on Tuesday 7th April, in our regular training slot, we held our first video conference virtual lesson and 17 people attended. Pretty good going and relatively few technical hitches, other than the always comedic moments where someone forgets to mute their phone and starts a conversation with other people in their house.
For the first call Hugh, Emma and Ross spoke about their videos and what skills they were demonstrating before inviting questions from the group. Encouragingly there were plenty of questions that generated good conversation and ideas of how else we can practise during this period of self-isolation. We originally thought we might go about an hour but instead the call lasted almost two hours. Obviously, it doesn’t replace our normal training but just being able to practise some moves, talk martial arts and see the BMAC gang, feels like a small piece of normality in these abnormal times.
We’ll do another virtual lesson this coming week, with Martin and I providing the voiceovers for videos that we published over the weekend. It should be a good session. Smile for the camera, mute your phone and stay safe everyone.
This time the blog welcomes a guest writer. Iain achieved his brown belt at the national course in November 2019 and took the time to reflect on his martial arts journey so far...
Some of us are in the departure lounge for the care home. We won’t see 50 again and the attraction of the couch, TV sport and beer, particularly during the dark winter months, becomes progressively stronger. One Friday evening in November 2019 I drove to Largs to begin three days of intense Shoto Budo training. My planned companion was unable to come so the journey allowed for some reflection and contemplation, and more than a few phone calls from friends about the weekend ahead. “Why are you doing this?!?!” was the common refrain and I was able to devote some time during the journey to answer this oft repeated question.
At a previous national course the technical director of the Shoto Budo organisation challenged us to ask ourselves why we had attended and why we were continuing to pursue this martial art. Individual answers to the question were to be neither discussed nor publicised but he felt we would all benefit from a little introspection. Was it to avoid becoming a couch potato? He told us of a friend who every evening enjoyed sitting on the couch, drinking beer and watching television. In fact, so practised was his friend in this pursuit that he was becoming good at it and very soon he would need a larger couch!
My own superficial answer is that attending courses was to improve as a martial artist by learning from highly talented and skilled exponents of the art. The grading was important as a measure of the stage I had reached, but above all I wanted to learn and improve my knowledge and skills. There is, however, far more to it. . .
Friday evening introduced the course with the learning and application of the Meikyo kata. This was a new kata to some of us and my initial apprehension that was a little too advanced for me was soon dealt with by a reminder from one of the senior instructors that the learning is deliberately layered and progressive and there was no expectation that the kata would be fully mastered by the end of the evening’s practice. The learning involves repeated practice whereby a little more of the kata is picked up each time, such that by the end of the session even if the whole kata has not been mastered a significant number of the early moves and positions have been learned.
Saturday morning brought further kata practice and the application of Heian Nidan was taught intensively. The teaching method again used was to complete the kata and then move to its application before returning to the kata. Each phase of the practice was followed by a 10 to 15 second period of reflection to inwardly assess one’s performance and consider what could have been done better before moving on to the next stage. For me the lesson that “practice does not make perfect” but “perfect practice makes perfect” explained the constantly constructive tuition from the senior grades to improve techniques and application.
Saturday afternoon was an outdoor practice which allowed a fabulous opportunity to work on kata and its application in an outdoor setting. This brings its own challenges of adapting to difficult terrain and the presence of nature’s obstacles, while testing and developing the technique learned indoors. The experience of practising kata in a heavily wooded area brought an almost eerie element to the session.
Saturday evening’s practice brought a mindful and focused application of the kata with emphasis on detail and form. After a strenuous day the slightly reduced tempo was welcomed by all.
Sunday morning brought the formal grading. Whilst there is always some degree of nervousness before a grading, I had enjoyed the benefit of intense and committed one to one training from Hugh. I appreciate Hugh’s time, effort and patience and I reflected that I would not be put forward for grading unless he thought I was ready. I derived some comfort from the thought that the decision was one for him rather than me but there was far more to the weekend than the external validation of the grading.
The course closed late on the Sunday afternoon after a further session emphasising the importance of kata, and its application. On this occasion we worked in groups to apply a newly learned kata to situational reality and then demonstrate our application to the others. This was a thought-provoking exercise for me, particularly as the kata was advanced but with considerable help from the others in the group, I managed a reasonable application of the model.
I drove back from Largs late on the Sunday afternoon, tired but delighted to have satisfied the examiners to the standard of 1st kyu and reflected on why I had been there and whether I would attend again? One moment stuck in my mind. On Friday night, we finished the formal practice shortly before 10pm. Aspects of my kata needed serious attention before the grading and Hugh kindly agreed to give me some further help. Before long, four more BMAC members had joined and for the next 40 minutes my colleagues gave me the benefit of their expertise and encouragement. This short late evening session was of enormous assistance in giving me the necessary confidence to complete the grading. I felt both very humbled and very grateful that my clubmates would spend time late on a Friday evening to help me. It was well after 10pm when we finally finished.
So, the real answer to why I was spending my weekend in Largs is about being a part of something very special: membership of this club brings deep friendships and a lasting selfless commitment to helping others improve. Egos are non-existent whilst patience and good nature are omnipresent. As was said to me by a senior member of the organisation “these people are my brothers and sisters”.
I started practising Shoto Budo four years ago and one inspiration was a conversation with a work colleague. He had an encounter with another motorist who took exception to a manoeuvre, flashed his lights, used his horn and then walked towards my colleague in a display of rage. It seemed that the angry motorist might introduce a fist to the situation and then just as suddenly, he disappeared. The tension evaporated and my colleague continued his journey. When I asked why events had unfolded in this fashion, he told me that he had practised martial arts for many years and quite simply he was not phased by someone threatening to throw a punch in his direction. He was used to it and, after practising for many years, had every confidence that he would deal with the unfolding situation.
While the aspiration to have such confidence played a part in my original decision to join the club, my four years of practice have brought me to a deeper realisation: that it is for me to take responsibility for the protection of my body. I have learned to respond and not to react, that staying relaxed gives me speed, control and dexterity. I can respond instinctively without conscious thought, using applications learnt from kata. That learning has been entirely achieved with the dedicated tuition and guidance from my friends at the club.
If you still fancy being that couch potato, please don’t retain any of this as it will reduce valuable couch and beer time. If, however, you would like to be in the position of my work colleague you may find it beneficial to join a very special group of people and enhance a very special club.
Thanks Iain, some great insight into what inspired you to train and keeps you practising. And congratulations on the well deserved brown belt.
The last month has seen the world turned upside down by the Coronavirus, COVID-19, and BMAC has been no exception. March started with Martin joining the black belt ranks and ended with the club on-hold, much like the rest of the world.
For a group of people who enjoy training and physical activity, the suspension of club activities and guidance to stay home is starting to result in cabin fever. Just what can we do to keep us active, kept us sane and keep connected with the BMAC family?
Technology to the rescue! The black belt group got together on a video conference to discuss ides on what we could do whilst we can’t practise together.
We have been filming a series of short individual videos focusing on a number of different areas. So far these have included strikes, defending, bo work, kata and movement. These videos serve as a reference and a good opening for questions when you don’t have any training partners to work with. It also gets our grey matter working as we try to think how to demonstrate the skill, film and explain it.
It’s interesting to see what we all come up with, which has included a musical number (everybody was kung fu fighting…) and my attempts to simulate ground work with a chair. You just never know when you’ll need to defend yourself against furniture.
We’ve also used a survey to ask our members if there are any specific skills they would like to see demonstrated or questions they would like answered. It might not be ideal but if anyone has a burning question on our practise this is a good chance to get it answered (hopefully!).
These videos are available to all of our members. When you join BMAC you get access to a members section on this website and Facebook where we regularly upload videos on different practices.
All of this is to keep us moving whilst the Coronavirus impacts on everyday life. It’s not ideal but if everyone follows the advice from the NHS (https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19), we’ll hopefully be back practising together sooner rather than later.
Enjoy the videos, keep moving and stay safe everyone!
At the end of September, we headed to Dumbarton for a course, once again taken by Hugh. A healthy attendance of 30 martial artists, including 14 from BMAC, descended on the Concord Centre for a course built on the previous outing in Newcastle, utilising close-in kata as a means of staying safe and creating space from an opponent.
The course began with several runs through the kata Heian Yodan which formed the basis of the weekend’s practice. We had quite a wide array of grades at the course so for some this a chance to learn a new kata before getting to the grips of practical application.
Hugh guided us through the stages of the kata and how they can be used to create space in a close in situation, for example the opening two moves leading to a nice shoulder lock. As the course progressed and we trained with different people it was good to see where the kata helped against bigger and stronger opponents. Throughout the afternoon, we came back to the kata to reinforce the moves and think how they would be applied. It was a very warm day, the training was intense, but the three hours passed in a flash.
On Sunday, we trained in t-shirts rather than our gi jackets and worked through similar moves of the kata as the day before. The t-shirts change the practice, no longer do you have a handy jacket to grab in order to control an opponent. I had a particularly good session with Liam from Dumbarton Shoto Budo in trying to get control and move. Liam is a 4th dan black belt, very skilled and strong so this was a good test of where I am.
Sunday morning also saw a grading, with eight people taking to the mats. We had four members of BMAC sitting their first grading, with Willie and Julian achieving red belt whilst Angela and Rachel jumped to yellow belt. Very well deserved as it was a hard grading for our former white belts, and they all performed tremendously. Congratulations all round.
So, another great course, building on the skills we have been working on over the last few months. There was a really good vibe throughout the weekend and clearly everyone at the course enjoyed it. Thanks Hugh and to Liam and Jimmy from Dumbarton Shoto Budo for organising. Next up for courses is the Adult National in November.
The club hit the road in May for a course hosted by our friends from Newcastle Shoto Budo. Nine of us made the trip for what turned out to be a very fun weekend of socialising and training.
After dinner and drinks on Friday night, we had a leisurely start on Saturday with training starting at 1pm. Well, technically it started at 1:15pm due to some horrendous traffic between our hotel and the course venue, caused by a driver running out of fuel. I won’t repeat some of more descriptive phrases used about said driver.
Hugh was leading the course, using some of the techniques we have been working on for a while around movement and staying safe. He built up from some our pummelling drill practice, into moving an opponent and then into some strikes. This was a good practice, with some good learning for me. At one point I was training with Adam from Newcastle, who’s a lot bigger than I am but I found ways that I could still move him and retain control. It’s good to have a lightbulb moment.
Come Sunday and we started in a similar vein, only this time wearing shorts and t-shirts rather than the traditional gi. This is always interesting as the control points on your opponent can change when you don’t have a handy white karate suit to cling onto. We moved to 2-on-1, with one opponent grappling and the other holding a pad that you need to try and strike. It’s always an interesting practice, to find a balance point to deliver a strike without opening yourself to be moved. One thing I learned is not to always try to “win” and go for the pad if it doesn’t present itself
We then added in hip throws, and then a shrimping movement as a means of staying safe when you land. This was followed by adding a tripod sweep, and after a few weeks in the club plus the course, this simple but effective take-down is really starting to flow.
Finally, Hugh called pairs of us to demonstrate everything put together. I was paired up with Michael and after some grappling and movement, he took me down with an excellent single leg. Admittedly not what we had been doing over the weekend, but it was very good!
Sunday morning also saw a grading for three adults, Andy and Hannah from Newcastle both did well, and our very own Morag moved up to green belt. She did an excellent job and I’m sure she’ll appreciate the photos of her looking exhausted by the end. Well done everyone on your richly deserved new belts.
So, an excellent weekend all round. On a personal note, I enjoyed it immensely and was delighted to be able to train for all six hours without any ill effects. The recovery continues! There was great training and information provided by Hugh and you could see how much everyone enjoyed the course by the laughter and big smiles throughout the weekend. Lots of thanks to Newcastle Shoto Budo for hosting the course and their hospitality and to Hugh for putting together the practices. Looking forward to the next one!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.