Does a Martial Artist **** in the Woods?
Firstly a big hello to all who read this, especially those people in Vietnam, Belgium, USA, Canada, Ireland and UK who have been on today. Secondly, NO! We are not even going to go down that dodgy road where we engage in teenage, puerile sexual innuendo. Ever since we started training outdoors in the lovely Eccleshall Woods, an ancient woodland maintained and looked after by Sheffield City Council, we have heard all the jokes and made up some more ourselves. We have been laughed at by our families, looked at oddly by dog walkers, (which is rich as it is them that find the dead bodies not us, think about it), and considered a bit odd by most of our mates at the dojo. But it is great, not being laughed at but by rising serenely above it and feeling the physical and mental benefits of taking our training outdoors. There is no cost other than the fuel to get there, we use minimal equipment, though this is changing, we train hard surrounded by nature under a beautiful green canopy. After a bit of a run up and down the slope a few times we start doing some exercises.
We have outed ourselves from the dojo, left the comfort of the mat and stepped out into a brave new world. Not everyone has followed but a few of us now meet regularly for what we call Wild Wednesday. We have created a training arena that is truly wild, we take only the basic kit and no, we do not wear camouflage, yet. So bag, gloves, focus pads, Thai pads and occasionally a 5’ punch bag suspended from a perfectly horizontal beech tree branch, a selection of logs and rocks of various sizes and weights and it is game on. It is tough make no mistake, it is not for those who like routine as you are dragged out of your comfort zone quiet literally and quiet quickly.
Training hard and anaerobically on uneven terrain with numerous natural obstacles presents challenges it is not possible to recreate in the dojo and it can be wet and cold too. In winter the dark nights add a whole new dimension as we space out a few camping lamps and don head torches. Suddenly that great shot to the focus pad is much less likely, your footing a little unsure and the target harder to see. Training in the sterile atmosphere of the dojo makes learning fun and as safe as possible and it is our core training but we stepped out into the woods to create an edge to our training and it works. Yes we get a few odd looks and maybe we deserve them, we have noticed fewer dog walkers lately but maybe that is the rain. Our partners think we are slightly mad middle-aged men desperately trying to recapture our youth but still we persist with others opinions of us in the same way as we persist despite the difficulties presented by the environment and the elements. We do it because we can.
If you are a gym rat or mirror loving poseur then this training is not for you, it’s cold, hard and slightly dangerous, frankly it will not appeal to all, nothing does unless it’s the lowest common denominator and we are not for dumbing down our training. We go home covered in sweat and bits of leaf mould having trained in fresh clean air under a canopy of green in summer and of stars in winter. We have worked the body hard to create a hard body, the kind of body that is ready for combat wherever it takes place. We would argue that if you are training for your particular art for art’s sake, and there is nothing wrong with that, we do that as well, then the dojo is the place.
However, if you train, even only part of your time for real life combat situations then you too need to come out and do it in the woods. I have in recent years trained with some very special people and learned many different ways to train, unfortunately my experience is not the norm as too many martial arts are governed by their own style police and ensnared in politics. My advice to those who have imagination is to use it, use the nightclub, the disused factory, the cramped corridor, the toilets, the showers, the stairs, take your fight club where you want it to be, even into the woods.
One of the reasons I am not blogging as often is because I am now writing a book about this and a number of other organisations that use different arenas to train in. If you are one of those prepared to be different then please get in touch. Also please read Bill’s comments below, Bill has been an excellent Sensei, training partner and friend for years. His skill in Ju Jitsu is light years beyond mine and I was proud to have been an Uki on his fifth dan a few years ago. Cheers, Garry.