Saturday, 9 October 2021

Martial Arts Progression

Sources: Yiquan Chinese Martial Arts and Shizentai Position - You Tube

In traditional martial arts, we tend not to fly into the phantasmatic, physically daunting techniques as you might see in the movies. Such as performing a double flying scissors kick to knock two mounted knights off their donkeys. None of that. At least not right away. And at least not under a foundational type of instructor.

In TMA (Traditional Martial Arts), we’re expected to toe the line of progression…bow before you stand; stand before you move; move in a straight line before you head into the angles; and so on, both mentally and physically. Like learning a language from the ground up. I refer to the basics and the Kata/forms as the grammar and the vocabulary of a fighting art; the combative element is when you speak the language. When we speak French, English, Hindi, Arabic, however we may push the limits of song and poetry, we are still communicating. English in extremis: James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. But the Wake still manages to communicate with readers. In a way, combat does communicate. Traditional combat is based on the grammar and a vocabulary of unarmed and armed fighting skills. Fighting is the language.

What might a traditional approach be? Fair question, I ask myself as I write this. How about if we look at the martial arts of I Chuan (also called Yiquan), fighting Tai Chi, Hsing I Kung Fu and traditional Karate to find out.

1.   There are three basic parts in martial arts progression – solo work, the bridge between the practitioner and another person, and finally, full training with another person.

2.   Depending on the art, solo work involves both standing and moving. Some examples of standing –

a.  The standing postures of I Chuan, Hsing I, Tai Chi, etc.

b.  The prolonged horse stance training as might be seen in Hung Gar or Choy Li Fut.

The idea is to develop a “root”, like the root of a tree. Another analogy is the development of a strong foundation upon which a practitioner can build. The stronger and bigger the building we intend to build, the stronger and bigger the foundation.

However, even when standing still, some arts, such as I Chuan, actually practice pushing the air around them from the inside out. In I Chuan this is referred to as “testing”. You can imagine the air all around you, or you may imagine that you’re standing in water. The effect is the same –

The art of stillness is at the same time the art of moving.

(In personal training, I found a similar experience when standing still at the beginning of a Karate Kata, which might take some time in a tournament…)

Tournament Kata Judge #1 to Judge#2: “Hey Sophie, what the heck here…how long is he gonna take doing his Kanku-Dai. I gotta get home to feed the horses!”

Tournament Judge #2:  Shhh, Mikey. You can see he’s old school. He’s doing his Kata like a fight system. It might take an hour or two.”

Like a fight system?

There are two parts to the beginning of many old school forms or Kata – the standing still and the bow. Let’s start with the process of bowing…

Bowing in: this action, as much as the standing before and after a typical bow, is the point where everything in our lives comes together. You can bow standing or kneeling, the process remains the same. We present ourselves to the lineage, to those who have shared the treasures of martial arts with us, who have guided us, who have given us their support. We present ourselves to the lineage as a mind/body unified practitioner, as one who is also unified with the space that surrounds us. At that precise moment, all of our martial arts training and capabilities are at our fingertips. We present ourselves as one who has a deep foundation, built upon the lineage and our efforts to unify ourselves with our minds and bodies and with our surroundings, in fact to have unified ourselves with life itself through the physical, mental and spiritual training we have gone through thus far. The deep act of bowing is an act of humbleness, of strength, of loyalty, of lived experience…it represents everything in martial arts. Whether you practice Aikido, Taekwondo, Judo…the act of bowing represents who you are in the martial scheme of things.

Let’s walk the bowing back to when we enter the training hall itself. We don’t just leave or daily lives outside, cleaning our slate so to speak. We carry exactly who we are into the training hall, because if we don’t walk Karate through the day, or speak Tai Chi to people we know and work with, or comfort a child with the strength and gentleness of Ba Gua Kung Fu, then what is the point of training in an old school system to begin with? We bring our day into the lineage training hall, and then we build upon that day.

To reiterate: at the point of standing, everything we are and everything we have become in the martial arts is unified and ready.

Combat wise, we stand ready. The combat effectiveness of our system is at our fingertips: a fight capability against single or multiple opponents, unarmed or armed; the ability to adapt our martial arts system to any terrain; and all that our martial arts system contains – strikes, kicks, locks, takedowns, throws, etc. – at a level of fluid adaptability.

Those are the bowing, and the standing parts, before we even do the forms or Kata!

And why do the Kata/forms follow the bow/standing? Because they are the fight systems we delve into as martial artists. We don’t perform Kata/forms, we explore, and by exploring further develop the lineage treasures. We don’t change the forms/Kata. No one wants to change the actual movements; we want to bring out the deep fighting capabilities…within each movement. We honour the past by living the martial system into the future.

“Wait a minute here,” a Jiu Jitsu-ka says. “What’s this hankering for Kata and forms?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” her uke agrees in immaculate Queen's English. ”We ain’t got no forms nohow!”

Yes, you do.

An osoto gari outer reaping throw is a form as is a wrist throw as is a hip throw. Before practising with a live uke, practitioners may often run through the movement by themselves, over and over. Then they practise straight on with an uke. In the combative mode, things change: an osoto gari becomes a weapon that drives in from any direction, any angle and under a variety of circumstances.

For example, you might find yourself at the opponent’s side. Grabbing hold of whatever part of his shoulder that you can (remember, he’s moving…and he’s trying to hurt you), you drive a knee kick into his left hip, then osoto the inner part of his left leg.

There’s a particularly nasty type of combat osoto where you approach from the back, sweeping the front of his knee backwards while slapping the back of his head forward with your open palm.

Back to standing, or bowing: the osoto gari, along with hundreds of other techniques, must be at your fingertips when you’re standing or bowing.

Fully realized combat Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Karate, also contain osoto gari methods…and locks and tons of throws. And these are also at your fingertips as you bow or stand, at least if you’ve studied the Kata/forms in depth.

Quite the journey. And the journey never ends.

Friday, 1 October 2021





The universal post position has got to be one of the most important postures in martial arts – and if you haven’t tried it, please, I’m begging you, give it a go. Even if you’re in Taekwondo, or boxing, or Cornish wrestling, let the universal post position play as an energizer for you. And if you’ve danced with the Irish whiskey on a good Saturday eve, the universal post position will keep you from harm as you hold onto the lamp post out in front of the pub waiting for the taxi to arrive.

The universal post is the energizer bunny calmed down but still working the gas pedal. Coincidentally, it also serves to calm, strange as it sounds…energy and calm. Not like those canned drinks that make your heart hallucinate.

I’ll get into the nitty gritty in the next post. Sincerely so, because I also want to show you that you are doing the same position in Karate, etc. as well. That’s going to take some convincing, but I’ll try.

I’ve done the universal post lying down, though not after a dance with the Irish whiskey. It’s great in bed as a way of balancing energy flow. Super cool, how you can feel the stuff we call chi connect like a river from head down to the big toe.

But I’ve never played the universal post as sweetly as the gentleman in this video does. Give it a quick look. As I said, we’ll talk plenty about the universal post in the next post, forgive the pun.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021



Nami ashi geri translated into English means the returning wave kick. Probably its widest known representations are found in the Naihanchi series of Karate Kata (Nifunchi; Tekki). The kick isn’t one that you’ll often see practised when Karate-ka move up and down the Dojo floor unlike, for example, front kicks, side kicks, etc. It tends to come to the surface during bunkai (Kata application training) or as a method for blocking an opponent’s low kicks during sparring.

Basically speaking, the leg rises toward the inside and up, (toes pointing forward) and then returns along the same path, foot back on the floor. The speed, power and energy of the kick resemble a wave of water rising and then slapping right back down again. Often, there is a stamping of the foot as the foot returns to the floor.


The following link leads to a good example

If the kick remains locked into the side to side performance line then you can certainly use it for foot sweeps, kicks to the outside and inside of an attacker’s legs, blocking an opponent who is kicking you low from the front plus an assortment of throwing techniques.

A more extensive compilation in which the practitioner begins to break out of the side to side performance line can be found here –

Just like Tai Chi’s forward line stepping when performing the brush knee step or Jiu Jitsu’s straight line basic approach to the outer reaping throw, we eventually have to break out of the straightness, if I can use such a term, and switch over to a 360 degree flow encompassing a myriad number of adaptive applications that flow with the situation at hand. That’s how we turn the nami ashi into a fight system.

I think by now you have a good idea of the kick’s structure so it’s time to roll forward into two areas of importance vis a vis its usage –

1.       Almost every part of the foot and the leg proper is used as a weapon, every area from the heel of the foot, to parts of the instep and even the toes as well as the outside edge of the foot upon its return. The inside of the leg can also be used.

2.      Almost every part of the opponent’s lower body from the groin/tail bone down to the feet are treated as targets. So you find bone and muscle structures that are the subject of an attack, joints like the knees and ankles, nerves and blood vessels and, of course, pressure points and meridians.

If you combine the ideas of #1 and #2 from above, then the trajectory of delivery has to obviously expand from the basic up sweep and back as seen in the Kata. (The Kata is never a limitation; it is an icon, a door, that one opens). The concepts of #1 and #2 above invite a variety of angles and trajectories, which are absolutely necessary in sparring and combat.

Here is where we open to all martial systems. You might say: “Do we kick in our Judo or our Jiu Jitsu?” Perhaps not, but you sweep, hook and throw in your system, and now, depending on the situation, the normal sweep turns into a knee break or an attack on the femoral nerve.

Sensei Frank Hatashita, the Father of Canadian Judo, taught atemi (striking) as part of his curriculum.

Shihan Ron Forrester, the Father of Canadian Jiu Jitsu, famously combined Jiu Jitsu locks, throws, etc. with punching, striking and kicking to extend the combative capabilities of his cuuriculum.

So let’s take a moment to combine sections #1 and #2 as described above.


These examples are only if an opponent stands directly in front of you. There is so much more as you and the opponent move.

1. The heel of the foot up into the hollow of the hip or the heel of the foot into the hollow of the hip followed by a snap across and downward or down and backward. The heel or the sole of the foot hacks inward against the nerve packet on the outside of the thigh or against the outside or the front of the knee. The same counts for all targets on the side and front of the leg from the knee down to the edge of the foot.

At the left, (source: Ying Yang House) you'll see some points that involve the Gall Bladder Meridian. Other interesting points and targets run along the back of the leg. You can access these by swinging the leg up behind the opponent and hacking in toward you.

All upswings may not necessarily be followed by the downward swing back along the same path. You may strike the outside of the knee with an upswing, for example, and collapse the joint, and the entire leg, downward with a secondary stomping kick. These stomping kicks are also employed when stripping the Achilles’ tendon. All Kung Fu and traditional Karate contain these trajectories. We always look for secondary pathways through which to continue.

Here’s a sharp little example of a basic approach –


The upswing motion also leads to attacks on the inside of an opponent’s legs, anywhere from the inside of the ankle up to the knee to the femoral region and up into the groin.

The kick can upswing toward the opponent’s right leg but then curve up or backward in the last part of the upswing trajectory, attacking the inside of her left leg. An excellent adaption for this is to slice up into the left femoral region with the toes of your right foot.


This part of the kick is very effective in secondary targeting. For example, you can slice across to the opponent’s right leg just below the inside of his knee then cut back and sharply stomping down into the inside of his left ankle.

Here is an example of practising some low kick angles that are actually found in nami ashi –

In conclusion, all movements in all martial arts forms are doors into combative flow. The returning wave kick is a prime example of a low leg fight system that adapts itself to the needs of combative situations.


Friday, 24 September 2021

I’ve been training in the martial arts since 1964 and yes, we’ve had our ups and our slight downs, but (and I think I’m speaking for pretty well everyone), we’ve never experienced an actual shut down in the way we did when COVID first came on the scene.

Our normal venues were suddenly closed; instructors and their students stayed at home wondering when they could head back to the mats or feel the sudden surge of energy again that comes from a great sparring match. And what about the health side of martial training? Tai Chi classes were disbanded, Chi Kung returned to solo work. Those folks seeking ways to combat heart disease, stress,  joint pain, arthritis, the negative effects of ageing, etc., suddenly found themselves without an instructor.

A few of us sat down to discuss the situation…at a social distance. Sifu/Sensei Greg Magwood of Magwood’s Martial Arts initiated the idea, at least in our area of Ontario, Canada, to give online teaching a try. He worked on the basics and helped instructors like me get in on the ground floor.

Lately, Magwood has returned to physical onsite teaching yet he continues to develop his online presence. Below is a Chi Kung clip of Magwood on YouTube. I love the cat. Watch as it strolls into the frame. This fur ball is a superstar -

Here’s a link to some more cool stuff -



That cool combination inside block/low block pictured at the left comes in handy when you’re being attacked from the front and the back…at the same time.

Imagine that moment. You’ve waited a lifetime to put this double block technique to use. You’re at the zoo the day the baboons break out. You are being swarmed. Barbie lunges at you from the front in an attempt to fang your leg; Elvis summersaults onto your shoulder from the back. He’s got a Michelin 3 Star fervor for your right ear. Bang! The baboons are tasered by your timing and skill.

With perfect timing, it always seems to work in the movies. But the action is supervised by a director. Perfect block combos don’t necessarily work during chaotic times.




With the combined low block/inside block, the practitioner brings her arms together first, the low block arm on top of the inside block arm. Then she snaps them down and back at the same time. Usually, we go linear; a guy attacks from the front and his big sister attacks straight in from the back.

If a Vegas oddsmaker suggests that the odds of securing that kind of precise timing during unhinged combat would be zero, it may be time for a re-think. What to do?


1.   Let’s take the “are blocks really blocks” as an opener. OK. So that low block can become a hammer fist to the groin. That makes sense. And the inside block? A kind of weird top fist coming in sideways on someone who is trying to wipe a speck of dandruff off your right shoulder. Sure, but you’re still stuck in that rigid, unidirectional mode. Martial arts basics always start off in a fixed iconic position. The rest is application. Hey, don’t you think this next remark is profound? – basics are the grammar and vocabulary; fighting is the speaking and writing of the language itself.


2.   If you remain in that straight arm/bent arm pose you might find, as a Jiu Jitsu friend suggests, a shoulder throw that you can use. The low block grabs his arm; the inside block hooks his shoulder. But is that all?


3.   It’s banana time back at the baboon compound and Elvis is swinging around on a tree yelling: “You’ve still got your training wheels on! Time to open ‘er out!”


By opening, he means softening. Notice that as soon as you soften the right arm, for instance, you can sense all points along that arm ready to move in all directions just like a snake. The same with your left arm that’s coming in to meet your right arm for the wind up before you “block”. Entry/exit. The entry is as important as the exit.

Let’s focus in on one of dozens of flowing applications –

Entry/Exit: your left arm that is originally supposed to enter over your right arm in preparation for the left low block, smacks a miscreant on the right side of his neck, then wraps itself – snake style – around the right side and the back of his neck. Your right arm begins to rise. (You’ve changed your mind: you’re going to do a right low “block instead of a low left “block”). Your fluid right arm elbows the guy on the left side of his head. Then it catches the left side of the guy’s beanie and snaps it down to your lower right side while your left hand tears whatever it’s got of that head toward your left side.

When you begin to open up to all angles, even circular, you begin to work with every part of your arm in all directions.

All you need is to relax. Not in a hollowed-out superficial way but in a way reminiscent of Tai Chi…cotton on the outside/steel on the inside.

Check it out. What have we got? Punches and strikes against every part of an opponent’s anatomy; locks; throws; take downs. They’re all inside those double blocks.

At one point in the Kata Ryu-San, the Karate-ka tucks one leg behind the knee of the other leg while performing the low block/inside block combo…then she quickly does the same with the opposite hands and legs. We saw that in early My Jong Law Horn training. The opponent kicks, we shift to one side lifting our leg out of the way while performing a low block. We then direct a side kick to her supporting leg. That’s just one application.

Again in Ryu-San, the block combo is performed in four different directions. Why? To remind us and to encourage us to use the double block platform across three hundred and sixty degrees, just like our friends in Ba Gua.

I’ve found this block combination to be one of the more intriguing icons in the Karate curriculum. And of course, it’s found in many of the other martial arts as well. We’ve got our grammar and vocab; let the movements start to talk.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

This is the time of the year when, at least in the land where the beaver roam, the leaves are falling.

This autumn, our socially distanced classes on the Driveway Dojo have experienced some extra dividend activity as far as falling objects go: acorns and such, and debris tossed down by squirrels who may be trying to test our reflexes. All good, as the monks back in the mountains of China would say.

Indeed, every falling leaf is like a training partner, a gift of awareness, an object that resonates with every movement we make. When practicing our basics, or one of our forms/Kata, or when we imagine a partner gripping our wrist as we proceed to go through every step of a wrist throw by ourselves, that single leaf floating down to the ground becomes a member of our mind/body union with our surroundings. From which tree is it falling? How is it moving in the air (back and forth as it floats; circling in a gentle spiral; turning over and over)? Awareness remains a deep part of living martial training. In fighting, the leaf, the tree, the wind and the substantial air in between the fighter and what is in her field, are all part of the oneness. In martial health, they are partners in energy work, rejuvenation, calmness and the air around the martial artists provides him with molecules that calm his arthritis or lower his blood pressure.

Training in Tai Chi, for example, always involves the internal coupled with the external, and the external here is made up of the substantial that lives within the field of training. So how did the leaf sound as it touched the ground? Which direction did it drift when it was pushed along by the breeze? Was the leaf curled up or flat? Where did the breeze originate?

This link is just a wee bit over the top but hey, there’s an element of autumnal awareness in the clip –

The hermit nuns and monks in the mountains never really practiced alone. If you train outside, you’ll notice that each proceeding minute brings change to everything around you: shadows change; the colours change; sounds change. The sun or the clouds or the rain are never the same from one minute to the next. Neither is your experience in the training field.

Before these suggestions sound too farfetched, please consider these items –

1.     You’re training is likely severely restricted to just yourself during COVID. Maxine is no longer thumping down hard on your head with her gorilla-sized fist. (We had someone like that back in the Hatashita days: she’d attack you and close her eyes at the same time. It was like being inside a casino whether you lost all your chips (i.e. teeth) to the house or not).

2.     Sensory perception is vital to multi-opponent sparring. At least the leaves are doing you a favour by falling here and there, in front of you, behind you, in clusters or in singles with that light crackling sound when it hits the ground. Advanced martial artists read their opponents. An opponent’s gait, the opponent’s face, the sound of his or her voice if they talk, the depth of their breathing. Do they seem nervous, skittish, angry or deeply confident? In the absence of a human training partner, you can still practice those skills via your natural surroundings.

3.     We’re currently living in unusual and indeed stressful, times. As we navigate through our daily lives, we tend to “run up” against people and situations that rev up the old stress machinery. Working on sensory perception the martial arts way, is first, of all, a form of meditation. As we begin our practice, we bow and stand until our mind/body is unified. This is extremely important. You can block and redirect stressors all day long but if your core energy has been compromised or is depleted, the level of stress will just continue. Training with the leaves, so to speak, allows you to work on your core energy stability while dealing with whatever is situated around you. You and your surroundings become one; you are a unified being inside that one. This is healthy, and it is what we need during these times.

On the flip side, those trees nearby can supply you with lots of training partners. For example, you can practice kicking the leaves as they drop from the branches. High kick specialists love this. Or you can take a staff out with you or a sword. However, if you happen to live on a suburban street, you might cast an image the neighbours might never forget. The next time FedEx delivers to the wrong address, the neighbour will probably point over to your place and say: “Oh, that’s for the guy who hates leaves. He lives across the street.”

I’ll leave you with some falling leaves rolled up in music –

Saturday, 18 September 2021



The physical side of traditional martial arts is usually all about punches and kicks and throws and weapons…

 Your Grandma runs a bar in town called Looters, and when you drop by after a class, she immediately asks you “Did you learn how to drop a bucket over somebody’s head and punch ‘em in the gut?” or “Did you learn to fight a hundred guys with just a carrot in your hand?” Stuff like that.

 A lot of my seminars in the past have dealt with physical technique and the power trajectories that drive them. But here’s something else. I was reminded of this part of martial training after I recalled Bruce Lee’s famous phrase “Be like water.”

 As Joe Biden would say, here’s the deal. When I first started training in Tai Chi, the classes themselves were very special because, and especially to a gawky teen like me, Tom Sifu was very cool. I enjoyed the classes very much but each time I left the training hall, I went back to just being a teen. After a few more classes, something truly weird happened. I found myself getting into a Toronto streetcar and sitting down in a seat…but I was still back in the training hall. I sat Tai Chi, I looked out into the street with a Tai Chi consciousness, and I breathed as though I was moving through a Tai Chi form. That lasted altogether five or ten minutes. Then I went back to thinking how I could be a jazz band leader while playing the tuba ‘cause that’s what I played in the high school band.

The same thing happened after the next class, and then the next. Each time, Tai Chi’s out-of-the-training hall influence lasted longer. My anxiety about whether the girl three rows over and two seats down in French class truly liked me. She was kind of classy. When the teacher asked her to get rid of her gum, she took the gum out of her mouth and flicked it super casually through a very sparse opening in one of the side windows right out into the Spring air. This does- the-super-classy-girl-like-me anxiety, and much more, got laundered out by Tai Chi.

 What I found was that in the space of the Tai Chi training hall, we move like water. After a while, that water gradually flows out into the rest of our day. For prolonged periods, I’d walk like Tai Chi along the sidewalk, or I’d sit relaxed and comfortable yet fully alert. The same results came out of the Jiu Jitsu classes and the Karate and the Kung Fu training.

What really got to me was when we went out to eat after training. We’d sit at one of those round tables while the food was set out on the table’s centre. Everyone would have her or his own plate in front of them. The idea was to grab what you could with your chopsticks from the main bowl and place it on your plate. Of course, I was useless in this. Then I looked over at Tom Sifu. He held his chopstick’s right near the top. Everything he did while eating was done with complete elegance. It was as if he was moving about the floor with a double edge sword in his hand. I realized that I could perform my everyday things such as eating or talking to others or just simply walking around a street corner just as though I were practicing my Tai Chi, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, etc. It seemed silly to me then to think that Kung Fu starts at 7:00 PM and ends at 8:30 PM. If you train, Kung Fu doesn’t end.

And I saw this when meeting all advanced students and instructors. The Father of Canadian Karate, Tsuruoka Sensei, moved like a cat on…and off… the training hall floor. Hatashita Sensei, the Father of Canadian Judo, was the same, as were Shihan Forrester, the Father of Canadian Jiu Jitsu, Nakamura Sensei (Kendo) and Kimeda Sensei (Aikido). They were training all the time, and they were living their martial arts all of the time.

So when we say do that punch or perform that kick, we should also say do the dishes like a fighter who has just got his first job at a restaurant after immigrating into a foreign land with just a few dollars in his pocket or comfort a friend with a heart trained like a martial artist versed in the compassionate side of the martial arts. The art and the training hall live in all of us. There are no boundaries.


Friday, 17 September 2021

We’re back! Yes, for real. No nonsense. The blog is active again.
As many folks have been doing lately, I’ve switched a lot of my classes online. My students have taught me tons of things over the past year and a half of COVID restraints. They taught me that teaching (and sharing, which is what teaching actually comes down to), embodies many forms: on site in an enclosed space or out in a park; online through a Zoom class or archival footage; a phone call; a chance encounter with an old student at a Starbucks. Plus the written word.
I can share with people physically on site. I can share with people via an online class. But I can also share through this blog.
Remember when I used to post a new article every day. My daughter said: “Get a grip on yourself. You’ve got a problem.”
So please allow me to ease back a bit.
Also, please contact me at any time via the button above if you have any topics that you would like to see covered. As I say to my online folks…we’re a community. Your ideas will help develop and enhance this blog.
So stay tuned. We’re back and ready to further explore the amazing world of the martial arts.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Taking a Break

Original Source:

s you’ve probably noticed in the last while, I haven’t been posting as much as I have in the past. A writing project is in the works, and that will require a little more time and effort. Plus, there remains a full schedule of teaching and training.

So, for a while, I’ll be taking a break. Hopefully, you’ll continue to visit this site because I do plan to continue posting articles on a more irregular basis.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! May this year be a healthy and prosperous one for you!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Martial Arts Saved Me

Martial arts saved me from being grumpy, disappointed, lonely, inconsiderate, and unhappy. They saved me from being complacent, mean, stubborn, and bitter.  Because of martial arts, I’ve been able to push the negative from my life and replace it with hope, insight, and positivity.  I can look in the mirror and be content with who I see; not just the physical person, but the one who has overcome, grown, and achieved personal success wholly due to martial arts.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Lest We Forget

I have been privileged to have taught many Canadian Forces personnel and their dependents over the decades. As a Base club, we started off in a long narrow mat-covered room with a solitary window at one end where one either stuck one’s head out to breathe in some much needed oxygen or hurl the contents of one’s stomach onto the lawn outside. In mid-summer, the air became so thick a puddle of sweat would form on the surface of the mats – in fact, I recall one excited newcomer slip on the sweat and fall to the mats as he quickly made his way back to the lineup at the end of class.