Sunday afternoon saw the culmination of my client’s hard work in attaining her fourth dan under Iain Abernethy. Over the past couple of weeks, Mary Stevens, head teacher of Athena School of Karate, has booked me to help her cover the pad-work and sparring aspects of this particular test. It’s great to see a fellow teacher make such huge improvements in both their own training and the service they provide for their pupils. During the time I have trained with her, she accumulated a vast amount of new knowledge from different sources and sought out new valuable expereinces. The grading was a very private affair conducted by Iain Abernethy with Chris Webb, another well-respected pragmatic karate teacher with a valuable background in the armed forces, assisting Mary with her bunkai applications and drills, and me being their to hold the pads and participate in the sparring.
In addition to a demanding syllabus of demonstrating basic karate combinations, advanced katas, kickboxing style combination work, bunkai (applications), drills, 3 x 2 minute rounds of pad-work (punching combinations, single kicks and punch/kick combinations), set striking combinations on the focus mitts, 4 x 2 minutes rounds of sparring (boxing, kickboxing, clinching and ground-fighting), Mary had to submit a project essay on a relevant subject of her choosing. She focused on the development of fight avoidance soft skills, using Geoff Thompson’s “The Art of Fighting Without Fighting” book as a starting point before evaluating how this areas has progressed since its publication.
Mary past the grading with flying colours and a superb critique/appraisal from Iain. It is always good to see traditional martial artists head in this particular pragamatic direction in their training. Although my path veered off traditionalism a long time ago, teachers like Iain and the rising movement of pragmatic traditional martial artists have always been a strong source of inspiration for me. I feel they pay due respect to the objectives of their pioneering teacher forebears and provide a valued service for the students of tomorrow.
Personally, I was grateful for the opportunity to be able to help coach someone in the more universal martial arts areas and to see the fruits of our many previous private lessons – whether it was channelling inspiration from classic boxers in the punching combination work or drawing upon set work taught to me by my Muay Thai coaches or the various points taken from our clinch-work clinics used in the clinch sparring or the ground-work private lessons and workshops I had taught in the ground-fighting sparring.
I am happy to see that more pragmatic traditional martial arts teachers, most probably inspired by Mary, are not only looking to be graded under Iain but also seeking out my help to synthesise and synergise different areas of their attribute training with me.