I always say that a martial art is not just about the combat skills it teaches, it's a whole life improvement program that benefits you in ways that you would not have thought possible until you look back and reflect.

Recently I had a telephone conversation with an old student of mine which left me in an emotional state. It confirmed that I had been saying over the years was true and made it all seem that much more worth while.

At his request I shall not reveal his full name, let's just call him Andy and here is his story.

I think it was around 1997 when I enrolled in my first class with you at the David Lloyd sports club. I then joined the class in St Stephens road church hall during the week, as well as starting private lessons with you in your then garage on Sunday mornings. Later, the class moved in to your garage. I did return twice I think. The first time I was just so crazy busy that I wasn’t able to devote the time and focus I needed on it although my enthusiasm never weaned. The second time I returned was with my X girlfriend as we thought it would be nice to do something together that we enjoyed. However, commitment wasn’t there on her part.

I have never forgotten my teachings in classes and my lessons, and the fun and sense of mutual respect amongst fellow students and yourself.

I started learning because as a family we had been through a tough time with a distant family member, I was I believe 20 at the time. Hiding inside a house with the family whilst another family member ransacked and mocked outside at all hours of the day and night feeling totally helpless and useless not being able to have the courage to stand up and face the “bully”. This was why I started learning. However, a couple of years later I did stand up to that “bully”, and the problem never returned to our doorstep again. The best thing about this is that I didn’t want or need to use any of my physical teachings to do this. Simply having the courage to stand face to face was enough to stop it. So to this day I have never used the physical skills acquired in class, but the mental side of your teaching is what helped me through that situation.

Last year August 11th 2013, whilst having a family barbeque I collapsed, was rushed to hospital and was told I had a stroke at the age of 37. The following day in hospital I had another one which was the shocker. I awoke in the middle of the night not knowing what had happened. I could move my toes and hands but had no voice. My vision was all over the place. For the next 14 days in hospital I came to the realisation of what had happened. After 4 hours of MRI scans, my family were taken aside and told that I probably would not awake, and if I did I would most probably be bed ridden, non-responsive and may need to be hand fed for the rest of my life. Over the next 14 days I had to learn how to walk again, I had major balance issues amongst many things. I had constant hiccups day and night for 7 days. When I came home 14 days later I had my lounge made into a bed room for me. Care workers coming in 4 times a day, physiotherapy once a day etc. All this whilst seeing my little 3 year old girl coming back from pre-school with my then girlfriend (Now Fiancée). I missed her first day at pre-school during this time amongst other things.

Anyway, the reason I called you was to let you know that during the critical first 6 months of my rehab, I was pretty much laid up in bed not being able to do much at all. My right side was very week. Lots of things went through my mind at this time, and one of those things was your teaching. Even my family do not know this yet. When I was alone, I would remember certain things in the Sil Nim Tao form. Over the months I would circle the wrists, practice the bent write energy straight push and pull. I would then remember the angles etc. of the centre line. So I was in the end able to do the completed form whilst lying in bed. This I did when I was on my own. There is not a doubt in my mind that this was a major part of my recovery.

How I am now? I cannot drive anymore, I cannot walk outside on my own as I have balance issues due to a little brain damage which effects my eye coordination, and I also suffer from erratic fatigue. However, I have full movement of all of my arms, legs etc. In fact, I am very lucky to say that if you didn’t know what I had been through, you probably wouldn’t think I had any problems.

I would just sincerely like to offer my up most respect and thanks for all that you have taught me over those years.

And to any students currently training for their own reasons I would like to say this….
You are training under the right system and the right teacher. If you think about what you learn from your classes you will realise that you gain much, much more than just the physical aspects of the forms etc. Friendship, fitness, respect, self-belief and possessiveness to name just a few.

I started learning to stand up and fight the “bully”. It turned out that I never needed to fight him at all, I just needed the confidence and self-belief to stand up to him.

But little did I know that what I was learning wasn’t to provide me with tools for the fight of my life, it was the tools to help me fight FOR my life.

Hopefully I can come and see you at some point, it would be really great to catch up.

Thanks Sifu


Well, there you have it, a sad story hopefully with a happy ending. So whatever martial art you train if your teachers only focus is on becomming a better fighter maybe it's time to start asking questions.