Balance is important for everyone, and students struggle as much as anyone. Samurai culture focused on the twin paths of academia and martial arts, which they termed bunburyodo:%e6%96%87%e6%ad%a6%e4%b8%a1%e9%81%93

文 literature or learning

武 martial arts

両 both

道 path, way

This concept remains valid today. Experts recommend balancing studies with regular physical exercise. Physical fitness improves general health, concentration, stamina, self-esteem and builds a culture of self-discipline. A great martial arts dojo can be very effective at addressing each of these qualities by challenging each area of a student’s physical fitness, as well as developing problems solving skills, resilience and confidence.

Cultivating both the body and the mind is important. Physical strength without education can lead to loutish behaviour. Intelligence without health can be a waste of a great asset.

When selecting a dojo, particularly for beginners, I recommend researching further than your local church or school gym. Not all dojo are equal, and not all suit the same purpose.

Ask yourself what outcomes you wish to achieve, and check that the dojo syllabus matches your needs. For example, if your main motivation is to bully-proof a child, a school that focuses on inappropriate responses such as head-kicks or eye-pokes won’t be your best choice.

Your child would benefit more from a school that teaches a range of tactics that include avoidance, escape, verbal de-escalation techniques, defence and control techniques. The curriculum would also include safe contact sparring and wrestling.

Finally, in order to fit within your lifestyle, consider the lesson schedule. Is one two-hour lesson easier to fit within your week, or would a few short sharp hour sessions be a better fit? Sobukan tries to accommodate both.

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We have been invited to demonstrate martial arts at the 10th anniversary of OzAsia, Adelaide’s premier Asian festival, on Sunday 25th September from 1pm until 2pm, and I would love for everyone to be involved in some capacity.
Please reply with your availability at your earliest possibility before Sunday 11th September so that I can plan our involvement.
This will be a great opportunity not only to demonstrate our wares and generate interest in Japanese martial arts, but also to prepare for our grading, which is scheduled for the following weekend. I apologise for the families of children who will be busy with Sobukan events two Sundays in a row, and thank you for your commitment and cooperation.
I anticipate that our activities on the day will follow previous demonstrations, and I should include some of the following:
  • Kumite (I will try to match kids and adults in advance for fair and friendly matches)
  • Kata
  • Two-person drills, such as tegumi, quadrant, throw drills, ground drills, lock drills, choke drills
  • Jujutsu technique
  • Self defence skit (but a replacement for Raghu will need to be found)
There will be plenty that new students can do. White belts are requested to attend and help set up, pack up, talk to spectators about Sobukan/martial arts, practice their skills and offer general support.Moon lantern festival (10)
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September news – Sobukan 5th anniversary!

The Sobukan 5th anniversary celebration and grading tests are only one month away, over the weekend of 1st – 2nd October!

DSC_0917I would like to welcome a number of new students on board and also farewell Raghu, who has moved back to India. You are all like family members (hence the term ‘Sobuclan’) to me and it is always sad when someone moves away or circumstance otherwise prevents them from continuing training. Raghu has been a loyal and enthusiastic Sobukan member since December 2011. He came to me with no martial arts experience and is now one of our most technical martial artists. In these four and a half years he has competed in a number of full-contact tournaments, participated in many expos and demonstration events and barely missed a Sobukan event. He was the first SA resident to compete and receive a grade in Kudo. I for one will miss Raghu very much and wish him all the best in India.


5th anniversary

gold-mini-balloon-number-five-topper-9f5Sobukan turns five in September! Our dojo is now older than some of its members!

On Saturday 1st October from about 5pm, please congregate at the dojo for a celebration party, with family friendly martial arts movies, games, sushi, pizza and drinks. Please bring your own drinks, and some snack to share would be appreciated. If you have any games that you think might be interesting, please also bring them along. I can bring a poker set, and Pictionary – does anyone have Twister?




The adults grading will be held from 10am Saturday 1 October.

Sobukids will test the following day, from 10am on Sunday 2 October.

As per normal, we will start with yellow belt tests and progress through the ranks. All advanced grades are required to participate in the entire grading, and demonstrate improved proficiency in previous belt levels. Particularly for first timers, by all means strive for perfection, but the pass mark is 80%. If you do not achieve 80% on the first try, you will be given feedback and an opportunity to finish your grading at a later date when you have had a chance to practice.

Please note that a $25 grading fee is payable in advance.


Some members are training for a BJJ competition on November 12, so we are currently polishing up on our grappling.

Consequently we will delay a Kudo SA tournament until early 2017. Before organising, I want to ensure that we have a few athletes ready. If you are interested in competition, show your dedication to training now! A lot of work goes into organisation, so volunteers are very welcome!
I am also looking into options for children and adults to compete locally in Karate or cross-discipline tournaments. Unfortunately, quality karate competitions for children in SA are few and far between, but I will keep looking!


Important dates

Date Time Event
Sat Oct 1 10am Senior grading
Sat Oct 1 5pm Sobukan 5th anniversary party
Sun Oct 2 10am Junior grading
Sat Nov 12 All day State BJJ competition – classes on that day to be advised
Feb/March   Kudo competition in SA
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August news

Important dates

Date Time Event
Sat Oct 1 10am Senior grading
Sat Oct 1 5pm 5th anniversary pizza/movie/drinks celebration
Sun Oct 2 10am Junior grading
Nov/Dec?   Kudo competition in SA


The next grading is only two months away! Will you be ready?

The actual date(s) will be decided soon. I hope to test adults and children on different days, as each takes several hours, over the first weekend in October to coincide with our 5th anniversary celebration.

For the next couple of months, classes will focus on grading criteria. We have a broad syllabus, and it is not possible to practice every level’s requirements each lesson, so it is important that you practice outside of class. In order to help you prepare, I have been systematically video-taping the syllabus. Yellow belt is done and I will be working on Orange next. If you would like a video of your next grading, please bring a large capacity USB that is compatible with Apple products.

gold-mini-balloon-number-five-topper-9f55th anniversary

Sobukan turns five in September! Our dojo is now older than some of its members!

Let’s combine a grading (overdue for many) with a celebration over the first weekend in October – which happens to be a long weekend. We can test the adults on Saturday and the kids on Sunday and have a bit of a party Saturday night. How does a movie and pizza at the dojo followed drinks at Avoca Hotel sound for Saturday night?


I am planning to hold a Kudo SA tournament at the end of the year, or early next year at the latest. A lot of work goes into organisation, so volunteers are very welcome!

Before organising, I want to ensure that we have a few athletes ready. If you are interested in competition, show your dedication to training now!

I am also looking into options for children and adults to compete locally in BJJ, Karate or cross-discipline tournaments. Unfortunately, quality karate competitions for children in SA are few and far between, but I will keep looking!


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July news

Important dates

Date Time Event
July 10 1 – 5pm AMAA training day
July 16 Kudo QLD championships
Oct 1 – 3 5th anniversary of Sobukan and grading – please keep this weekend free!
Nov/Dec – TBC Kudo competition in SA?

One month has already passed since I returned from Japan, and Sobukan sessions have been a blast!

We have a new syllabus that formalises self-defence and sparring requirements, and reflects those goals. You may have noticed that classes are faster paced, with a stronger emphasis on consolidation of basic techniques, namely:

  • Punches
  • Kicks
  • Knees
  • Break-falls
  • Simple throws and sweeps

Jujutsu classes are now more dynamic, and focus on self-defence applications against habitual acts of physical violence (HAPVs) from standing and on the ground. There is even more sparring in Kumite classes.

While there are a few people that have not yet returned to classes since my trip to Japan, I have been very pleased with attendance and energy levels. Please keep it up!!


I have had a few questions about the next grading test. We have quite a few adults ready for their next grade, and our children are training hard for new belts too. It is only a couple of months until Sobukan’s 5th anniversary, so I plan to incorporate a grading into our celebrations. Start preparing now!!

5th anniversary

Sobukan turns five in September! Our dojo is now older than some of its members!

I am considering options to celebrate this milestone at the end of September or the beginning of October, and your feedback is welcome. Some ideas include:

  • Camping
  • BBQ
  • Picnic
  • Movie night and sleep over at the dojo
  • Seminar/training day(s)
  • Grading


Kudo QLD will hold a competition on Sat July 16 in the Gold Coast. Unfortunately I will not be able to attend this event. If you are keen to compete, please let me know.

I am planning to hold a Kudo SA tournament at the end of the year, or early next year at the latest. A lot of work goes into organisation, so volunteers are very welcome!

I am also looking into options for children to compete locally. Unfortunately quality karate competitions for children in SA are few and far between, but I will keep looking!

AMAA Training day

The Australian Martial Arts Association has invited me to teach at their interclub cross training day, and you are welcome too! This is a good opportunity to learn about martial arts as diverse as Kudo, BJJ, Taekwondo/Hapkido, Judo and knife defence techniques.

  • When:   Sunday 10 July, 1pm – 5pm
  • Where: Hackham East Primary School Gym
  • Cost:       $20
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Sobukan kicks off June 1

After two months training in Kudo, Hakkoryu Jujutsu, Karate and MMA in Japan, I look forward to returning soon and teaching you all I have learned!

There will be some changes at Sobukan, including:

  • A revised syllabus
  • Greater focus on building strong basics
  • A recalibration towards more effective and productive training methods
  • More sparring in Kumite classes
  • More self-defence and jujutsu technique in Karate lessons

Of course, we will still have loads of fun learning to strike, clinch, grapple, trap and lock with a great bunch of friendly people.

The first class back will be on Wednesday June 1.

Please come along and bring your family, friends and colleagues!

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You may recall that I (amongst others) have previously written about the four stages of competence and shuhari in order to better understand skill acquisition.


Four Stage of Competence

  1. Unconscious incompetence (I don’t even know what I can’t do)
  2. Conscious incompetence (I know what I can’t do)
  3. Conscious competence (I can do it when I concentrate)
  4. Unconscious competence (I can do it automatically)




Today I am borrowing heavily from an article in Koji Komuro’s excellent book on Judo grappling ‘柔道固技教本’ (Judo Katamewaza Kyohon). He discusses his three levels of mastery, what he refers to as ‘degree of learning maturity’. You will see that Komuro’s theory supports the four stages of competence generally attributed to Gordon Training International. The theory also roughly reflects the traditional Japanese shuhari stages. These theories assist both the learning and teacher in appropriate methods of acquiring skill.


  1. Can comprehend (わかる)

Grasping the theory, mechanics, distance, timing and opportunities to use a technique is the first stage of mastery. This stage centres of mental understanding rather than physical ability. Comprehension spans the first two of the four stages of competence. Use of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic aids will assist all learning styles to understand the technique. This may be achieved by using diagrams and demonstrating a technique (visual), explaining the mechanics and applications (auditory) and by feeling the move applied to the learner before the learner attempts to replicate the movement (kinaesthetic).


  1. Can do (できる)

Komuro writes of three following levels within this stage, which roughly equate to degrees of conscious competence.

  1. Can practice in static drill (uchikomi)
  2. Can practice within movement (ido geiko)
  3. Can practice in sparring (kumite/randori)


When learning a new technique, proficiency is generally developed in this order. Therefore, it is recommended to first isolate the basic movement with a compliant partner, then drill within natural movement, and eventually attempt the technique against progressive resistance.


  1. Can use (使える)

Komuro cautions that an ability to use a technique in sparring does not necessarily equate to an ability to use that technique in a fight, whether in combat sport or self defence. Using the technique in reality requires the practitioner to make the move their own, to explore it, experiment with it and develop the confidence to execute it given the smallest window of opportunity.


To paraphrase Komuro’s advice to achieve the final level of mastery:

  1. drill from a position of advantage
  2. drill from a position of disadvantage
  3. drill when the opponent is trying to escape.


Komuro concludes his article by referring to a Japanese idiom ‘一技3年’ or ‘three years per technique’. It would be convenient to allocate one year per level of mastery. However, I believe that the majority of that time is spent navigating the transition from ‘can do’ to ‘can use’.


Above image is accredited to Will Taylor, Chair, Department of Homeopathic Medicine, National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, Oregon, USA, March 2007

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Sobukan temporary closure

Please note that Sobukan will be open on Easter Saturday, but will then close until Wednesday 1 June 2016, as I will be visiting some of the best Kudo, Karate, MMA and Jujutsu dojo in Japan for two months intense training and research.

Fees will not be collectable for April and May.

In my absence, Sobukan members may contact each other via the Sobukan Martial Arts Facebook page to arrange self-training sessions. Alternatively I recommend joining judo classes over the next two months.

I apologise for any inconvenience due to the closure, and look forward to sharing new skills and training methods with you in June!


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Arnold Classic Kudo Nationals

On Sunday 20th March, Daniel, Tristan, Raghu and I fought in the Kudo Nationals at the Arnold Classic. Everyone conducted themselves extremely well and put in great performances, making me very proud.DSC_0146

There was no-one in the 230PI Master’s division, and the open division was full of 100kg + fighters, so I fought in the 240PI Adult division. While I didn’t mind fighting younger and bigger opponents, it was unfortunate that three from Sobukan were in the same division.

Tristan was first up, fighting Alex, a wrestling and Kudo champ from QLD. Tristan matched him in the striking, but was outwrestled by the champion wrestler. He put in a valiant effort to fight to a draw in the first round, and almost caught his opponent in an ankle lock before finally being caught by a knee bar in the extension round.

I fought Ian Teng next, a Melbourne based BJJ/MMA/Kudo fighter who visited us at Sobukan last year. Ian was the heaviest in the division, I was the smallest! I managed to win my fight, landing a front kick to the face, a spinning heel kick to the liver, a big leg kick, a hip throw and some strikes from knee ride.

Raghu got a bye.

Daniel then fought a muay Thai fighter, and was unfortunate to injure his shin when his opponent leg checked his very first leg kick with his knee. Daniel fought on regardless and at the end of a back and forth battle with some huge knees, punches and kicks, and a nice takedown by Daniel, he emerged the eventual winner. However, due to the shin injury, he was unable to continue and was awarded the silver medal.

Next Raghu fought Ian in the fight of his life. Raghu looked like a pro as he used agile footwork, sublime angles and leveraged his reach advantage to pepper Ian with a smorgasbord of kicks and punches, winning by a distinct margin.

Alex got a bye. Raghu and I were then scheduled to fight to meet Alex in the final. I had made a decision in advance to withdraw if I had to fight one my students. It would not be fair to them to fight their instructor and a hollow victory to beat a student. I chose my role of ‘coach’ over my role as ‘fighter’ to progress Raghu to the final.

Raghu fought hard against the champion, but despite Raghu landing some great kicks and surviving some slick submission attempts, Alex’s wrestling was too strong and Raghu had to tap to a tight arm bar with just one second remaining on the clock. Raghu was awarded the silver medal, and I the bronze.

Also from SA, Garry and Jordan Smith showed great heart in battles in their respective divisions. Garry unfortunately re-injured his knee and was unable to continue in the third round with his strong opponent. Young Jordan fought a much bigger, older opponent and made everyone proud, but his opponent Harvey was too strong.

Huge thanks to Sean W and Daniel C who worked as marshals at the event, and supported our team on the day. Also thank you to Justin for his conditioning programme and guidance to the fighters in the lead up to the competition.

Thank you to Paul Cale Shibucho, Geordie Lavers McBain and Tony Watts for putting on a great event, and to the Silvio Morelli and the promoters from Blitz for the opportunity for exposure to the greater martial arts community.

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Kudo Nationals in Melbourne this Sunday

Good luck to all the Sobukan participants fighting this weekend in Melbourne!


Adult 230* – Raghu Anbalagan

Masters 230 – Chris Gillies

Adult 240 – Tristan Walker

Adult 250 – Daniel Carlesso

Adult 290 – Daniel Scibilia

Thank you very much to Sean Walker who will be supporting us in Melbourne and to Justin Tronerud, who has helped the fighters with their fitness/conditioning. Thank you also to all members who have been very understanding while I have been focusing on preparing for this tournament.

* Physical Index: height in cm + weight in kg


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