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Alun first started training in Martial Arts started early in 1985 aged 18 after being used constantly as a training partner by his brother, Russell who had been training for approx 6 months at a Goshinkwai Yawara self defence class in Blaenafon.
“My first impression has stayed with me to this present day:……. As I entered the training hall for the first time, I watched two green belt students perform a series of fast, aggressive defences from attacks that seemed almost certain to cause injury. It was like watching a full-blown, violent street fight, but amazingly, neither student was injured. The experience of watching this controlled ferocity at close quarters was all that was required to give me the training bug, something which remains with me to this day!
I started training regularly then on with Russ, training at up to 4 sessions a week. The first club was run by Sensei Rob Barber, Sensei Dai House and Sensei Paul Davies (all shodan). Also, Paul’s uncle Sensei Dai Weeks (3rd Dan) and Sensei Rob Taylor (4th Dan) would also instruct and visit regularly, with Dai usually conducting the grading’s.
We were awarded our first grade “6th kyu white belt” on 28th November 1985. By the end of 1986, we were training at our regular class twice a week, visiting other clubs also in order to train with higher grade students and had weekly private tuition sessions with Paul in an old scout hall in Brynmawr – I will always be very appreciative of Pauls time and patience.
Following approx 2 years of training we were graded 3rd Kyu (Green Belt) by Dai Weeks and our 2nd kyu (Blue belt) shortly followed. At this time, our passion for the training had grown and we requested to Soke Gordon Warfield if we would be able to run our own club as we felt that this would help us progress higher and also we both enjoyed instructing so much. By running our own club we hoped to develop stronger technique, having to adapt our normal training to compensate for various builds of people.
Gordon kindly granted us special dispensation to start our own club at Nantyglo comprehensive school, with Rob Taylor overseeing us as our senior instructor. Rob graded Russ and I Brown Belt 1st Kyu during 1988
It was at a grading session on 16th April 1989 that we gained our Shodan, being graded by Gordon Warfield and two visiting 3rd dan’s, Tony Sugden and John Gamble. Gordon requested that Russ and I present ourselves on the mat and perform for about 30 minutes. This was by no means a prepared presentation, by just some coarse “off-the-cuff” techniques and being brothers, tended to be a bit over the top for aggression and bad timing! Following our display, Gordon announced that we had just attained our Shodan (1st Dan Black Belt).We were thrilled that our dedicated training over the last 4 years had paid off.
A couple of years further on, Russ started to take on new career opportunities, starting his post grad degree in Teaching and started to ease off his training. I continued to train hard and moved from my home town of Brynmawr to Risca, near Newport.
Fortunately, we lived about five minutes walk from the leisure center and I started a new Goshinkwai class there in 1991. Over the next several months, the club grew in size and I now had the opportunity to train children as well and seniors.
By instructing others and having to adapt the techniques to various sized and capable opponents, my confidence and aptitude developed and the membership started to grow. At this stage I received almost no tuition myself, but continued to practice, learning through trial and error much of the time.
One of the first senior members at Risca, was to become my greatest exponent of student dedication and friend “Oliver (Olly) Pritchard”. In several years of training, I could count the number of sessions he missed with me on one hand – some achievement! His hard efforts have certainly paid dividends, as he attained his 4th Dan.
On 13th December 1993 I was awarded my 2nd Dan by Soke Dai John Warfield and it was following this grading that, I was personally invited by him to attend his private Dan grade class – this turned out to be the most influential years of my training career and for which I will be eternally indebted. This is where my real training started. John offered so many new avenues for me, introducing superior footwork systems, atemi (Striking) intense grappling technique. At age 26 I was the youngest in the class, the training was very fast, hard and focused and it took me several weeks to adjust to such a way of training. If I could compare the training to what I had been accustomed to, it was like moving to National level compared to County level – some change! Although the training was intense, It was just what I needed in order to progress and I had the good sense to write the technique and principles down, being able then to study them in detail at my own classes, passing on the teachings to my senior students, in order to expand the knowledge and fine-tune their application. I continue to use the same notes today to ensure that I accurately pass down what I was taught to my students and that this style is passed on
The training would concentrate on various principles, starting initially with footwork, something that John had quoted, as being the most important part of his tuition. I had never really studied footwork patterns and body movement in any detail before and remember finding the patterns difficult to master, something I now don’t even think about during training. The footwork would almost always be followed up with aggressive low kicks to kneecaps, shins, groin etc to disable or offset the opponent’s balance, before moving into the next category, Atemi or striking.
I had performed atemi in my earlier training, mainly punches, chops, palm heels etc, but now I was being made to practice far more complex strikes, having to change hand positions continuously during multiple strikes, and using what seemed unorthodox knuckle, wrist, edge of hand strikes and combinations etc at the time – Something again that comes natural with time and practice. I hardly ever use a punch, concentrating more on palm heel, knuckle, forearm and elbow strikes, which to me are far more versatile and destructive, with the added bonus of not causing harm to yourself – something that you should consider especially as you get older.
Following the atemi, we moved on to grappling or Kumi-Uchi to give it its formal Japanese name. I had previously been taught to just sweep or throw the opponent to the floor to finish or maybe use some very basic grappling, pull downs, pushes etc. Again, more comprehensive technique was introduced, concentrating on focused aggression and power, whilst simultaneously causing pain and injury.
At this stage I could see just how important the previous footwork and atemi study was, as I was now able to move more fluently whilst grappling, which allowed me easier of manipulation of the opponent, together with causing pain and injury from rapid atemi and strong holds etc.
The atemi would concentrate primarily on the head, as this is where the opponent’s balance and senses can be most effectively be broken down. I tell my students that the feeling of having someone bombard you with fast, ferocious atemi and then painful grappling is something I compare as to being on a roller-coaster ride, you simply want to close your eyes and pray for it to be over
I was running 2 clubs at this stage, whilst continuing at the Saturday class and on 7th October 1995 I was awarded my 3rd Dan, something I had worked for with my training partner, Olly for several months previous.
This grading in particular sticks in my mind, mainly due to the fact that I had put so much effort into it and had actually detailed a 26-technique presentation in written format, splitting the grading into
1) Close contact
3) Defence from weapons sections.
I only got through half the presentation, before I was stopped
John awarded me with my Sandan 3rd Dan on 7th October 1995 and Yodan 4th Dan on 30th November 1996.
During 2001, I discussed making a short video of techniques for my classes with a student who was a professional animator and former film maker.
We talked about the project and he brought his video camera along to the class one evening to shoot some techniques. The following week he produced footage of the technique cut together from various angles, it look superb to see the technique form a 3D perspective.
More ideas started to roll in regarding special features, formats etc and it wasn’t long before we realised that the best format to capture the varying angles, special features would be DVD.
We had to prepare a trailer for the project and so arranged 2 days filming at the Newport Center in 2002. This went well and we learned much from the lighting and sound attributes, producing around 2 hrs of edited material.
He could see potential for a new technology i.e A total interactive menu with the student being able to select their own sequences of techniques, and so he proceeded to draft a business proposal for a WDA Research and Development grant and sent the trailer for approval. He then spent almost 3 years in discussions and amendments with them before getting the project finally approved. An initial trailer for the DVD was first filmed over 3 days at the Newport center, where John Warfield also gave his endorsement by performing with me. The success of which allowed us funds to progress to full scale production.
It was with extreme shock and sadness that I heard the news that John Warfield had passed away on 29th July 2003, almost 10 years to the date that his brother Gordon had died.I had trained under John for 10 years and this personally depicted the end of an era…In my eyes no one could replace him – He would not be forgotten.
I received my 5th Dan on 18th October 2003 at the annual course
During the summer of 2004, several Instructors and myself filmed the………Total Body Defence DVD over 10 days at the Chapter Arts studio’s in Cardiff
Combat Magazine’s Malcolm Martin also attended the media day to interview myself and the camera crew, as well as taking stills of the days filming.
There were 3 extensive articles published in COMBAT, containing the making of the DVD and an interview with myself – see separate section
I put together 8 techniques on Disc 1, trying to capture more basic technique and advancing through the system to more complex combinations, hoping to capture all ends of the martial arts spectrum. The techniques will be broken down into each individual element and can be selected from up to 5 different camera angles.I have performed them both at slow and full speed. TV Wales and S4C camera crews also attended the media days
and extensive footage was shown both on the ITV news (June 15th) and on Welsh day-time show “Prenawn ‘Da” (July 5th)
In June 2006, several senior instructors and I formed the Total Body Defence Ju Jitsu organisation.
The system of Total Body Defence is simply a natural development from what I had been trained in until the death of my instructor as I have always looked to seek out and incorporate elements from other proven and tested systems to further enhance my knowledge.
During 2008 TBD aplied for affiliation to the British Ju Jitsu Association Governing Body (B.J.J.A.G.B) and this was granted formerly in 2009. Being affiliated to the BJJAGB brings many benefits including insurance cover, legal cover, ratification of grades and friendships.
It was with great pride that on Saturday 30th April 2016 I was awarded my 6th Dan by Professor Martin Dixon and the rest of the governing body board at the annual British Ju Jitsu Governing Body Gala dinner and award ceremony, held at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Walsall.
earlier in the day and it was great to see the diversity and skill of all the competitors.
The Total Body Defence organisation has gone from strength to strength since its formation and boasts 8 Schools with over 30 Black Belts.
I continue to learn and develop with every training session