The Training EAR – Garry Smith and Jayne Wharf

In this article we examine why we need to train the mind as well as the body, better people than us have written extensively on the theory and practice and between us we have used over their works to inform our training methodology. Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller in particular but many others contributed to my learning and how we help people train at the Academy of Self Defence.

Whether we class ourselves as teaching a martial art, self defence, RBSD or whatever we call our stuff, we think that teaching the practical skills and techniques is the easy bit, that does not mean everyone teaches well. The vast majority of ‘instructors’ in this diverse and entirely unregulated ‘industry’ of ours have little or no training in how to teach. Most have worked their way through the ranks, put in the time on the mat, some have not, and, being generous here, most do what they do with good intentions. Some, luckily a minority, are either con artists, deluded or both.

Possession of the relevant techniques and skills of what is being taught, good coaching skills should be a no brainer and a sound theoretical underpinning of what you are teaching are the three main elements that instructors need. The top these up with bags of confidence and excellent communication skills and away you go. With these five things together you can teach the techniques, the skill, the art but how effectively can we train the mind.

Let me digress slightly, over the years we have had a quite a few discussions with students, instructors and especially between the 2 of us. Most people (students) understood that we could teach simple but effective techniques that they could learn, drill and repeat in comfort and increasingly under pressure but they questioned whether they could actually bring them to ‘do it’ to somebody even if it was somebody attacking them. The honest answer is of course that we cannot know whether they could or not. It is not an answer many want to hear. More importantly it is less an answer anybody wants to give, not if your income relies on getting them signed up as student. That is a killer of a dilemma and for many it is the elephant in the room, everybody knows it is there but they are all willingly blind.

Here is another killer, no pun intended. Learning martial art is no walk in the park, we speak from experience, but it should be underpinned by a wider skill set. We do not need to go out and take degree after degree course in order to develop this but an attitude that celebrates and indulges us in continuing professional development is essential. We will never be fully formed as humans, there is too much ‘knowledge’ out there to ingest and digest but we can strive to learn a little more everyday.

So how did learning the techniques and drilling them over and over creates the neural networks that make future use possible, so actually training is the keystone in the process, without it we cannot build further. Our students are not empty vessels, they have their own fully developed values and beliefs, inculcated over many years and these include, for the normal person, beliefs related to harming and damaging other human beings, beliefs that tell us it is wrong, a taboo. Our students are not signing up to have their values and beliefs reprogrammed, they want to be able to prevent being hurt. well it is a long job to help them achieve this and whether we know it or not we will be using operant conditioning.

Now the person who manages to assist ordinary decent people develop a mental attitude that will instil in them the mental ability to dish out some actual or grievous bodily harm, albeit in self defence, in a fun, sweet and cuddly way will probably mint it. Or set their students up for injury or death.

For a small example just watch the following video.

Time for a new acronym, EAR, this stands for Encourage, Assist and Reward. In the clip Jack receives two instructions, being told to roll over plus the motion made with the reward, over a period of time he is persistently encouraged with an even tone, exactly the same stimulus each time, he is assisted then rewarded, he desires the reward, he realises that if he rolls over when asked he gets the reward, clever Jack. Our students are more sophisticated animals but the process is the same, within our training we need to introduce stimuli that represent a threat, the student is encouraged to respond with power and aggression to repel or downgrade the threat quickly, this done they receive praise, the reward they desire, EAR. We are encouraging them to develop their controlled aggression. For a more violent example please take a look at the following.

We have all heard many anecdotes of the effect of just hearing the command ‘fix bayonets’ has had in diminishing an enemies will to fight on, it is the primitive fear of being impaled on cold steel. Killing someone with a bayonet is not neat and never very pretty and incredibly hard to do, from a psychological perspective, but replace the dummies for our focus or Thai pads and the training process is the same, we too use operant conditioning, (I notice it is a war face and not a killing face, on camera).

Militaries the world over have invested money beyond imagination into working out how to make normal people into killers, not irreversibly but as and when needed, in battle. Much of that research is underpinned by psychological and sociological factors and we can take it and use the same underlying principles. Of course we are not going to scream and use profanities at our students, of course not, we are going to scream and use profanities with them as they use force, use violence to defeat or repel the attacker. If we are to empower them to quickly turn a state of normality to one completely abnormal to them, like training the young soldiers to kill manually up close, we need to build on the new neural networks created by learning and drilling technique. Once the drill is hardwired hardware it is possible to create yet more neural networks connected to them, repeated training loads the supporting software. we make the actions that make up our responses to attack habits. Predators have habits, attackers have habits, we have habits, we can create new habits lets look at the psychological training of the military.

The example used explains the need for close analysis of the situation and identification of component factors and the relationships between them. So removing the food vendors, left field if ever you saw it, removed the threat.

We argue it is good practice to analyse our students and our training, identify the component parts and the relationships that exist between them. Maybe we need to analyse the drills, the equipment and environment in which we train. Is the threat quietly menacing or threatening verbally, is the threat approaching in interview style or is it an ambush, are you on lovely mats with well-lit and dry surroundings or are you in a burnt out, dim shell of a building or a deserted car park. Are we training both the mind and the body? We argue we need to Encourage, Assist and reward our students as they progress from automatic repetition to a thought out series of actions based on what the threat is and not what an instructor said the threat would be.

Think about it, we all train mostly in safe, well-lit dojo and gyms, it is not where our students will be attacked. Maybe we need to not only think outside the box but train outside it too. Maybe we need to experiment, to play around with how and where we do things, please let me know how you work to train the mind as well as the body not just to learn the drills and techniques but to apply them with controlled aggression. Last point, to EAR you also have to hear.

We look forward to hearing from you, comments, criticisms and your thoughts all welcome. For now it is back into the trenches for us and until then, fix bayonets and remember…….

Marc and Rory have both produced huge volumes of excellent work in books, video, in training sessions and on their websites, go help yourself.

2 ‘Violence of Mind: Training and Preparation for Extreme Violence’ by Varg Freeborn.

3 ‘On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society’ by Dave Grossman.

4 ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do and How to Change’ by Charles Duhigg.

5 ‘Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Programme can Save Your Life’ by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley.

Book Review – ‘Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul’ by Stuart Brown M.D.

I cannot recall how I came across this book but I think it was something I came across on social media referring to an article in National Geographic from December 1994. So I searched for and purchased said magazine and it is a great article on animals playing, fascinating in fact how different species such as a polar bear and a husky played together, go find and read.

Better still buy the book as its all in there too but without the fantastic pictures. To be fair Dr Brown is preaching to the converted with me. I love to play. Play is fun, it is a natural act but unfortunately many forget how to play as adult life takes over. In a world where the screen dominates and managed activity is all pervasive we have forgotten how to play creatively as we did as children.

Many children are also deprived of the opportunity for spontaneous play as they are ferried from adult supervised activity to adult supervised activity.

At our junior Ju Jitsu sessions the kids love to end with a game, it seems not to matter what the game is except the more chaotic the better. Play engages the brain and the body, when we train in the woods, what we call Wild Wednesday, the adults taking part in some pretty tough physical training are re-engaging with their younger selves as they crash about through the undergrowth, jumping over logs and throwing rocks.

Having grandchildren is fantastic, I get to be Mr Wolf or just ‘the monster’, I am on all fours as a horse for them to ride and they really love the rough and tumble and we had an epic water fight not so long ago. I love to play, to me Ju Jitsu is play, padwork is play, training is play, its how I express myself, I can lose myself in these activities and more importantly play with others.

I thoroughly recommend this book, the other night I was reading ‘Behave’ by Robert Sopolsky and was not surprised to see him quoting Dr Brown’s work on play. High praise indeed. Buy it and read it.

Review by Garry Smith.

Book Review – ‘Modern Samurai’ by Matt Stait

When Matt asked me to review his book I was unsure whether to. I had seen it advertised and it looked interesting but I had that much to do myself I did not think I would have the time. However, Matt kindly sent me a copy so I decided to read the intro and make my mind up. I read the intro and the first chapter and decided this was worth fitting into my schedule.

I am really glad I did as what appears to be a book about being on the doors is actually a piece of social history. I share Matt’s reservations about how the doors were run and how they are run now, I shudder when I see what pass for door staff sometimes now and wonder how the hell they cope when the shit hits the fan. As Matt states in the introduction this is not another hard man on the door reliving war stories, it is a huge collection of highly entertaining, often amusing, anecdotes told with a refreshing candour. There is no bragging, there are dashings of humility and many wry observations on the often weird manifestations of human behaviour both good and bad.

Some of the anecdotes remind me of the writings of Theodore Dalrymple as the descriptions of some of the meaner, nastier echelons of society are exposed for our benefit. Many people like to not see how despicably some people can act, how horrible and narrow their drug addled, alcohol and crime filled existences but for the person on the door dealing with these people is often unavoidable. It was refreshing how Matt obviously used soft skills when dealing with difficult customers but had the muscle and skill in reserve for when the softly softly approach did not work.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Modern Samurai and whilst I told Matt I might take 3 weeks to do so a bit at a time, I finished it in under a week as it was a really interesting read. In this book Matt paints vivid pictures with words, I saw the venues he described come to life, the characters too were well described and their attitudes, mannerisms and behaviour jumped off the page. I would recommend this book to anyone thinking of taking their SAI door badge, I almost did once and walked out on day 2 of the appalling training and looking at those training with me and realising I would not trust 1 of them to watch my back, especially the t****r doing the training. Not 1 of them had any grounding in the reality of violence.

So here is a glimpse into a world that existed but is rapidly changing, this is a great piece of social history and Matt is clearly a cool guy who I would really like to meet, buy the book, it will make you frown, it will make you wince but it will definitely make you smile, a lot.

Take a Look at Yourself – Garry Smith

“When you stay in your comfort zone you do not develop resiliency. What’s more is you don’t realize it, but your comfort zone also shrinks.” Marc MacYoung.

Life, for most of us, is a busy thing. We have multiple roles to play and time is finite. Time management is an issue for most people as we try to meet a multiplicity of demands from competing sources. Some do this with unerring skill and efficiency whilst the rest of us bungle through as best we can like plate spinners on a game show hoping we can keep all the plates spinning and not drop any.

Because we are so absorbed in keeping the plates spinning we never have the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate what the hell we are doing. We become a slave to our actions and, better still, we can find no end of reasons to justify keeping the plates spinning away, in fact whilst we keep up the act, exhausting as it can be, we thrive on our skill and dexterity. Dammit, we even throw in another plate every now and then to keep things interesting because we can.

Anyone recognise this? Because I sure as hell do. Earlier this year I did a things to do list, I split it into several crude divisions and it was enormous, frighteningly so, in fact the intention to give myself direction and purpose backfired dramatically as faced with the huge amount of things I needed to do I froze and stasis set in. I did not become inactive, I kept on spinning my plates, but I did not refocus my priorities and create a structure to me time management as I intended, I simply went into a period of denial.

I knew I needed to do something but the problem was where to start as everything needed doing at once, not only did I need to keep my current plates in the air I needed to start multiple new ones spinning. Well sometimes we have to admit we are beat, and I did. Not beaten in that everything crashed but beaten in not being able to see the best way forward. So what to do?

Well that is where I am lucky as I am surrounded by smart people. It was time to take some time out and start to hear some of the things they had been saying for a while, things I had not listened to properly as I shuttled from plate to plate. This was not a conversion on the road to Damascus. There was no overnight solution. We are talking a process, still ongoing, that is nearly 6 months in progress.

If for years you have convinced yourself all is hunky dory then realising that there are serious inefficiencies in how you work and live is a massive shock, rationalising it alone takes time, acting upon it more so. I do not have a master plan to share, my situation was/is unique to me but I think there are a few steps others in the same situation could follow.

The first step is to identify the most important plates and the least important. The latter have to go, no matter how hard that is, they have to go, maybe not into the bin but at least into storage, then you can focus on the former.

Secondly it is important NOT to set too targets that are unrealistic, staying grounded is important, and remember to take baby steps forward instead of trying great leaps.

Thirdly be honest with yourself, we all have limitations, if you cannot do something, find someone who can and let them.

That is it. Now for an example and whilst I can use some work related ones I thought I would just spin off here with one indirectly related but important. Fitness.

As an instructor of Ju Jitsu and self defence it is important to stay fit, others may disagree with this statement in full or part, as you are a role model as well as an instructor. About the same time that I realised I was trapped in a potentially never ending plate spinning hell I also took a good look at myself. Now we all look in the mirror, we all see pictures of ourselves, we all have an image of how we appear to others. Well one day I got a shock. I looked at some photos I had taken to use for publicity purposes, come train with me, and there was this slightly overweight round faced guy staring back at me. An imposter who contradicted my internal picture of how I thought others saw me.

Damn. Now long with my other priorities I needed to take action on my fitness and by default my health. Whilst my attention on keeping all those plates spinning I had taken my eye off the ball regarding my own fitness. I had grown used to deceiving myself that because I trained in some of my own sessions, walked the dog etc, that I was fit and healthy, a good weight too at 15.5st, plenty of firm muscle around the stomach but little fat too. I had, once again, slipped into a comfort zone.

Then I listened to others and stopped telling myself lies. I had to get up and do something about this. So in line with my 3 steps above I decided that this was one that was a priority, I set very limited targets (increasing them very gradually as I progressed) and only I could do this.

This all started in February 2018, it was a spluttering start. On the advice of a friend I bought a proper pair of running shoes, I had not run in many years but realised my cardio vascular fitness was poor, well not so much realised as admitted. A number of people had pointed out that I often wheezed when breathing, several asked if I had asthma, I explained it away as the residue of chest infections.

It was the back end of May when I finally got into something of a routine. Short runs of just 12 minutes duration were enough and short sessions on the weights made me ache a lot. I worked through the pain and began to feel the gains. My focus was on getting fitter not losing weight, I worked my exercise regime into my life as advised by another friend as time spent sharpening the saw, it started to work. Over the next couple of months I extended both my runs and my weights sessions, No set targets or dates, just when it felt right. I could feel the gains and other people started commenting, quite a few people, so mid July I weighed myself.

To say I was surprised was an understatement, I had lost 1.5st despite putting on some more muscle. By the end of July I had lost over 2st of fat I never thought I had. My weight then, and now is 13.5st, I now run for 1 hour 3 times a week and weight train 3 times a week. I eat sensibly and fast for 16 hours overnight (liquids only) and I have continued the regime of cold showers begun a year or so ago. I am not on a diet but I manage my intake and output. My run is before eating in a morning so that I burn stored fat and the exposure to cold stimulates the burning of stored fat too.

This is not a recipe for anyone to follow, it is now part of my daily regime, it works for me. It is an example of taking a look at yourself, realising there is an issue, identifying appropriate action and taking it.

This one set of actions has also enabled me to become more focused and disciplined on other areas of my life, professional and personal. The journey is not complete, it never will be, in terms of fitness I am now incorporating other activities into my lifestyle and evaluating their effect. It is a fact that knuckling down on my need to recover my fitness provided a fairly quick win, some unexpected gains (unexpected weight loss) and a massive sense of achievement. I am 60 years old next birthday, inescapable fact, and the coming years will not get easier. I am not trying to relive past glories, not that there were many, but preparing to age well and live life to the maximum whatever that may be.

The rediscovery of the self discipline to train regularly and stay motivated has been a joyous thing, it has helped me to focus more on other aspects of my life and make progress in them too. I have a long way to go and will always be imperfect but recognising our limitations and working on the deliverables is now my focus.

It all started by taking a long hard look at myself, recognising the weaknesses in myself and hearing the messages others were sending me, people who cared and care about me. In truth I have recovered a part of me that was subsumed under the necessity to keep too many plates spinning.

Instructing others is what I do, they pay me to train under my direction, it is a contractual relationship. Setting an example is part of that relationship in terms of continuing your own professional development (physically and mentally), maintaining a positive attitude and exhibiting positive behaviour. In order to check we are doing this every now and again we need to take a look at ourselves.

Are you in a comfort zone?

Book Review: ‘Rules of Engagement: A Life in Conflict’ by Tim Collins – Garry Smith

This is an epic read and thoroughly interesting and entertaining in equal measure. As former head of the SAS and as commander of the First Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment he describes dealing with murderous terrorists in Ireland, the West Side Boys in Sierra Lone to the invasion of Iraq with clarity and some humour.

A compassionate man by nature he is also fiercely dedicated to achieving the mission he is set. He has a wonderful grasp of the importance of culture, religion and sets incredible examples of peaceful conflict management in some very frightening places where there is little respect for life from some people.

Tim Collins embodies the diplomatic warrior, his skill lies in using soft skills first and foremost but there is an iron hand ready to follow if that does not work. He has proved himself to be an expert negotiator and strategist but honestly discusses the things that went wrong. He clearly commanded the loyalty of his forces as those who lead by example do.

This book is a behind the scenes look at how modern war is waged, it is very different than what we see on the news. What struck me was the complexity of the operations and the scale of everything and yet Collins was still able to focus on the individual be it friend or foe. The book itself is epic in scale and gripping, a real page turner.

For me this was a great read. Tim Collins made a legendary speech to his troops as they prepared to cross over into Iraq, I do not have the original but here is a recreation by no other than the great Shakespearian actor Kenneth Branagh.

Collins is one of that rare breed of men who wears his heart, alongside the Union Jack, on his sleeve. A gentleman and a scholar.

Read the book, it is a cracker. This man should be Prime Minister but that is just my opinion.

Review by Garry Smith.

Book Review: ‘Violence of Mind: Preparing for Extreme Violence’ by Varg Freeborn – Garry Smith

I downloaded this onto my Kindle some weeks ago along with 3 other books, 1 of them a novel. I had a weeks holiday coming up and I wanted to get some serious reading done, the fact that the week in question turned out to be something of a heatwave meant that whilst we did walk a lot, we sat soaking in the sun and reading a lot too, continuing into the cooler evenings after great food and whilst drinking good beer. Herefordshire is a beautiful place with beautiful scenery and wildlife, the combination of good things was spot on.

So VoM, well Varg is a friend and I really like his stuff anyway so I was really looking forward to reading it. I was not disappointed. He does not pull his punches, he holds no sacred cows and his experience flows throughout the book. I have long held the view and stated often in my training that I can teach the physical stuff pretty quickly, once the fundamentals are explained and inculcated in the student, teaching technique is not that difficult, learning it is. Its why we constantly revisit the fundamentals, however many times that takes, we do that. The difficult part, I tell all and sundry, is developing the mindset to put what is learned into practice, first in a safe environment, then increasing the resistance until the student gets a chance to validate if they can make it work.

Reading VoM affirmed much of what I know and do, that is always a pleasure, but, it also made me question a few things and reframe others. As I read VoM I had images in my mind of how we train and teach, reading VoM helped me imagine tweeks and changes we could make to get better so that our curriculum offer can evolve further.

VoM is unique due to Varg being unique. Very few in our business, whatever that is, have anything like his experiences or his extraordinary ability to articulate complex ideas and concepts without using technical jargon. In fact he shoots down, pardon the pun, those who hide behind jargon and pseudo sceince. The criminal mind is not our mind, we cannot truly think like fully socialised hardened criminals, but as instructors we have a duty of care at least to learn how they think and the harshness of the world their mindset is forged in. VoM exposes how those who teach art, who teach students that nice moves learned in a nice dojo with nice partners are about as much use in a fight against a violent criminal as a chocolate fireguard.

I know a little of this as I have hunted men, ambushed, hurt them, for fun. Lets stay with the book though.

Read this book and then reflect on how you train and if an instructor how you teach. Reflect very hard on what you teach. Do you, can you, explain to your students what they may come up against, what they will be dealing with, do you know yourself? If the answer is no or not sure, and the best tactic is err on the negative, get this book, read it once, leave it a while then read it again. The lessons are there if you want them.

For me my holiday is walking in the countryside with my wife and our little dog. Its about time together, good food and a few beers. It is also time to learn free from classes (thank you to my excellent cadre of instructors), time to read, reflect, learn and move forward. I was really looking forward to reading VoM, to say I was not disappointed is an understatement.

Footnote; The morning after I read VoM I read an back article from The New Scientist callec Circuit Training for the Brain by Teal Burrell.


In a fantastic article she uses a concept, proprioception (look it up you muscle memory cavefolk lol), that I had first read in VoM the day before, needless to say, Varg had it bang right.

Reviewed by Garry Smith.

Book Review – The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights, and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature’ by Richard Conniff.

Another oldie I finally got around to reading and another goodie. The whole book is very interesting and entertaining and Conniff mixes some incredibly complex human motivations and funny anecdotes to make his points. He quotes Sapolsky and Ekman quite a bit, unavoidable as they are out front in their respective fields, and whilst he does not mention Navarro and Haidt there is clear overlap.

I really enjoyed the use of primatologists research findings and observations throughout and am now a source of entertaining monkey stories for my grandchildren. On a more serious note there is good science explained clearly, I particularly found the thought on ‘The Right Hand Man (or Woman). From a conflict management perspective the physiology of dominance contests was fascination, I knew quite a bit of this anyway but here it is really well presented.

Upon completion I found it confirmed my business and social practices, I am pro-socially dominant and bi-strategic.

Bi-strategics use prosocial techniques by reciprocating favours, offering help without being asked and they build alliances. However, I am not averse to coercive behaviours to get my way, yep, no more Mr Nice Guy if being a Nice Guy fails.

This is a book where reading a chapter at a time is a great strategy although I did get carried away a few times. It is a topic that I am thoroughly fascinated with so it is not surprising I am recommending it. If you are only going to read 1 book on why we behave as we do, then for now, this is a good source. The thing is I suspect if you read it you will want more.

Reviewed by Garry Smith.

Instructing Vs Howling – Garry Smith

I read 2 really good books on my last holiday, ‘Beyond the Picket Fence’ by Marc MacYoung and ‘Principles Based Instruction for Self Defense’ by Rory Miller. Both are packed full of goodies that I intend to use to improve what and how I teach. As you should know by now I am a lifelong autodidact and advocate of continual professional development. Passionate is a word others have used to describe my relationship with learning.

The martial arts and self defence worlds are disparate and diverse and many weird and wonderful things exist there. There are plenty of opinionated, if not always necessarily informed, people out their including some who love to voice their opinions on social media. A recurring topic that always amuses me is discussion, criticism, whatever of peoples ability to teach _______ (insert style/art).

Very often those commenting teach by virtue of having gained a black belt in _______ (insert style/art). They have no knowledge of pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching children), or andragogy (the method and practice of teaching adults).

Before we go further I am not in any way advocating that every black belt complete an honours degree in teaching, far from it, but they should at least explore a little on the subject and not just assume that they can now teach. Most of us have experienced good and bad role models as we trained and we adopt and reject what we like or do not like. Learning ‘on the job’ is important, but teaching others requires more than just observing others.

Very recently I have seen criticisms, including school yard name calling, between childish members of one clique of members of another clique escalating to threats and challenges to fight. Its not the first time. Basically each group criticises what, sometimes how, the others teach. Basically its a cyber monkey dance and the Howler Monkeys are making themselves heard. Sadly it is mostly noise lacking in substance as their emotions override what little critical ability they posses.

Is it necessary, no. Is it entertaining, hell yes, its a car crash on the web and its live. The thing is there are too many in our industry with closed minds. The have reached the top (in their opinion), they are black belts and often a good number of dan grades too, they are instructors who run their own club and have their own students. The king and his subjects (its nearly always men btw). Unhealthy.

I teach, I am a 4th dan, I have a great instructor team, we regularly discuss variations on techniques, we regularly show each other different ways of showing things, share teaching tips. It a group of open minded people and a very health atmosphere exists where we learn of one another and the students. We all share the desire to get better at what we do. Healthy.

To this end we are writing our version of the instructor development course that I helped Rory to write, we have delivered it 3 times in recent years and each has been a learning exercise. So I have drafted an outline, take a look;

Ju Jitsu Instructor Development Course (JJIDC)

Instructor – Noun – A person who teaches someone.

This JJIDC course is for those people who would like to become instructors in Ju Jitsu and acceptance onto the JJIDC will be at the discretion of the senior instructors. The training will combine dojo based training and online based learning activities. The criteria for passing the course will be clear to all and support and feedback will be provided.

The classroom activities will be assessed using continual assessment in class and the online component will have testing built into the individual units and modules with progression dependent on achieving the set pass rate.

There will be three strands:

  • Junior Instructor – This is open to junior Black Belts.

  • Assistant Instructor – This will be open to seniors from Blue Belt.

  • Instructor – This will be open to senior Dan Grades.

The online course is currently being constructed and we are writing the full instructor course first then working backwards to assistant and then junior, we currently have 5 modules each with 6 units with inbuilt testing. It is pretty ambitious but with the people we have around us we are confident we can do this.

Why go to all this trouble, why not? Its about being professional in our approach, it is about setting high standards, it is to enable us to provide the best possible learning experience and it is what, ultimately, sets us apart from the howler monkeys.

Having a black belt does not make anyone a teacher, it never has. Being a teacher does not make you a black belt. Being either a black belt or a teacher is a particular set of skills and each set exists on a continuum with excellent at one end and terrible on the other. Using this as a model we can see the following:

A is an excellent black belt and excellent teacher.

B is an excellent black belt but terrible teacher.

C is a terrible black belt but excellent teacher.

D is a terrible black belt and terrible teacher.

A few people are naturally an A, unfortunately many are a D, the rest of us are somewhere in between. Of course most of us would like to be A, many think they are, especially the Howler Monkeys. The thing is there are lots of different instructor courses out there but there is no overall quality control, no gold standard. So its time to step up and see what we can do, its a challenge but an interesting one. Anyone interested in chipping in please do either by commenting below or emailing me. First we are focussing on our Ju Jitsu instructors so that we can be better as a unit but the basics and principles are universal.

So ignoring the noise in the jungle we will quietly focus on our continual professional development with the ultimate aim of improving our students learning experience. Meanwhile out in social media land the Howler Monkeys will continue upping the volume with little regard to substance. Life goes on.

PS. Male howler monkeys are famed for their deep, powerful roars, which are among the loudest noises made by terrestrial animals, and may help them compete with other males. But, alas, species with the most developed vocal organs also tend to have smaller testicles.

Book Review – ‘The Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors’ by Dan Jones

You may wonder why I chose to review this book for Conflict Manager magazine, probably not if you have read my article in this edition. First let me tell you how I got this book.

We have all our kids, partners and grandchildren round for the day a week or so before Christmas and have a big party. We have a Secret Santa and this book was my gift from Santa this year (technically last now).1

I took it on holiday with me and read it in sunny La Palma in the Canary Isles. It turned out to be a gripping read, a real page turner. The Knights Templers were formed in 1119 to protect Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, they took oaths of chastity, obedience and poverty, they saw themselves as God’s holy warriors.

This book expertly charts the rise to a position of tremendous power, influence and wealth of the order to its demise a little over 200 years after they were founded. The book uses a multitude of evidence from original and secondary sources both Christian and Muslim to chart the vast conflicts and power struggles of the time in Europe, north Africa and the middle east with Jerusalem at the heart of it all.

The scale and level of brutality is epic, conflict of incredible scale is beautifully described as are the levels of butchery, betrayal and valour. I have read other material on the Templars and can say with confidence this is the very best I have read.

Anyone interested in the clash of civilisations between fundamental Islam and the west needs to read this to get a well researched historical context. There are a long list of themes that this book touches on, religion is the obvious one, politics the next but if you think identity politics is new, you might find this tells you otherwise.

So a big thank you to Secret Santa.

1 For those who do not know Secret Santa works as each person buys for one of the others, in our case up to £25, a gift but the receiver does not know who bought theirs.

Review by Garry Smith