A Session with the RedMan-
Applied Karate Session with Paul Herbert 5th Dan
by Shaun Banfield
Shotokan Karate, it must be said, is seen by many as the useless cousin of the Martial Arts. Its absolute focus – by some - on air-line training has rendered it inapplicable to actual reality based conflict. A sad situation, perpetuated through an obsession with aesthetic appearance and flashy technique, the concept of karate has been lost along the way.
Last year I wrote an article entitled “Joining the Dots”. This is an important concept to me for a variety of reasons, but most significantly because of my study under Sensei Dave Hazard 7th Dan, with the guidance and support of my other big inspiration Sensei Paul Herbert 5th Dan. The idea is that in Shotokan karate we are given all of these different elements, like dots on a piece of paper making up a dot-to-dot image. We have kihon, we have kata, we have all of the different aspects of kumite…then left to the side we have the often tokenistically covered self defence. What MOST karateka do however, I have come to learn, is look at each of these specific aspects, but fail to join the dots to see how they link together.
Having this vast array of perfectly designed dots is all well and good, but if you never join them, you will never get to see the full picture. Karate is exactly the same.
Karate-Do is translated as the way of the empty hand. The very name itself is synonymous with the concept of self-protection, yet to most karateka self protection is the thing they spend the least amount of time studying. I feel, for my own development, that it is important to study each element – each dot – keeping in mind its significance in reaching the ultimate objective: self protection.
Therefore kihon is not the destination. Kihon is a necessary path one must take in order to get to the destination: self protection. The same applies with kata and kumite.
With the introduction down, I will now actually discuss the main focus of this article.
A few weeks ago I travelled to Kent (UK) to visit Paul Herbert. He had recently purchased a RedMan suit, a way for him to further develop his students and offer additional depth of learning.
Now I have trained alongside Paul, trained under Paul, and taught alongside Paul and I can tell you that this man can fight. Yes he was a national champion, fought for Sensei Enoeda’s Marshal St team, and fought internationally, but trophies and titles aside, this man can fight for real. As interested as I have always been in his illustrious competitive career, I have always been much more fascinated by his work and experiences working in the line of reality based conflict. He has worked the nightclub doors, worked with international journalists as a personal bodyguard, and worked the dangerous streets of the east end as a bailiff and warrants officer (all discussed in his new up and coming exclusive in-depth interview with TSW). So trust me, this guy can fight.
So I was in Kent with him, and he asked me if I wanted a RedMan session…of course I did!
Paul offers the Redman Applied Karate Sessions in a variety of different formats. He offers them as one-on-one tutorials, as seminars and as small group workshops. But all settings provide an opportunity to gain an insight into Paul’s extensive experience and understanding of violence on the street.
So we were at his dojo, he was suited up, and I was ready to get violent. Now one thing I must say, that is of huge value here is Paul’s size. Anyone that knows him will tell you he is a tall guy, and built as strong as a brick shit house. The reason I mention this is when working, defending and attacking the redman, you will be working against possibly the hardest body type. If you want to learn how to defend yourself, it’s always best to go to the hardest extreme to help better prepare you. Therefore, I really had to think very hard about the way I was using my body.
Paul has a wealth of experience and understanding and he offered this in abundance during the session and gave me direction, and suggestions. I was able to quite literally hit FULL CONTACT. What other setting in modern society are you able to attack something that moves with absolutely everything you have got? We all train in Shotokan for Ippon….but is it really a definitive blow? This was my chance to test myself.
The very ethos of Sensei Hazard’s karate is the idea of having a whole body action to deal with conflict. Hitting with the arm alone is useless. Similarly, having an explosive hip action that arrives just before the technique is equally as un-productive. As I mentioned about joining the dots earlier, this is where kihon has purpose to us as karateka trying to defend ourselves against “real” attackers, rather than “ideal” attackers. Kihon helps to co-ordinate the body and ensure the whole body arrives and makes impact as a unit.
Well when you have someone of Paul’s stature coming at you, you learn pretty quickly what techniques you have in your arsenal that work and do not work. Through this session, I had my eyes opened as to what I need to work on in my personal training. Some of the things I thought I could deliver for a knockout didn’t have the effect I had hoped for, so I left the session with a vast amount of information provided by Paul, and with many things in my own head that I need to focus and work on.
The session is tailored of course to your personal needs, and his flexible teaching approach allows the practitioner to develop and train effectively. Before the session had started he said to me “What do you wanna get out of this”. After I’d explained, he put the pressure on. I was literally dripping wet, and my muscles were screaming. As I was in this state however, I understood that this was the state that I could someday find myself in; knowing that even though exhausted, I would have to fight on.
One of the biggest things Paul stressed to me, while I was hitting, was my attention to my breath. He demonstrated on me what he was talking about, and I swear to god I think I was sick in my own mouth. When I relaxed more, and breathed in the way he was asking, I started to get the results out of my full contact impact.
Paul made me work hard, he wasn’t a static target, he was constantly moving in every direction. Most valuable of lessons I found was his movement in my direction. His stature is incredibly imposing, and when he started throwing techniques for me to work with, I really had to up my performance. You get on the wrong end of one of his huge arms and you’re in a bit of trouble, so I had to really be decisive in my movements and hit hard and effectively.
At times the pressure got to me I must admit, my heart was pumping so hard, and controlling my breath was difficult. Paul however provided a great deal of useful information that enabled me to harness this feeling and direct it into my fight. As I developed throughout the session, I could feel my confidence growing as I effectively channelled my energy into stopping this red mass from coming towards me.
Another significant point Paul was incredibly eager to stress was the ditching of the recognisable karate kamae, and instead setting up the techniques from a fence. We spent a great deal of time talking about this, its value and putting it into practice. He helped me to establish effective trigger points to activate my pre-emptive strike. He just kept reiterating “Be First!!!” He then effectively escalated the intensity of the situation by testing my mettle. After checking I was happy to do so, he launched a verbal onslaught, to intimidate me and kick start my adrenal response. Essentially, he created an environment which I had to fight out of, both physically and mentally. He actually replicated and activated my own internal feeling of fight or flight.
What I describe above is of course an escalated situation that I agreed to in order to get a full and vivid insight into the reality of violence from which I had to work against. Paul was constantly providing feedback, and took the session where I wanted and needed it to go.
At the end of the session I was royally screwed. My muscles were exhausted, but my mind was so free and alive. Life in modern society is stressful, and having a stressful job, and family commitments can contribute to a great deal of weightiness in the body and in the mind. This one session relieved all of this!
Exhausted, yet exhilarated, I left the session with a vast amount of new knowledge. As a consequence, my own understanding of my body, and my karate has evolved tremendously. I cannot express to you all enough the value of this session with Paul as it was simply an extraordinary experience for my body, mind and understanding of karate.
The point is I suppose that karate works, if you make it work.
If a novice picks up Eric Clapton’s guitar and plays it and it sounds shit, he wouldn’t blame the guitar would he? Karate is no different. The karate works in reality if it’s practiced in order to work.
As Editor of TSW, I cannot urge you enough to invite Paul Herbert to your dojo for a seminar, and/or try the RedMan Session with him. I get to spend time with a lot of karateka from many diverse backgrounds and I can honestly say Paul is a significant part of the future of karate in the UK! Please find below a poster with all the relevant information!