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What A Black Belt Should Be (as Iain sees it!)

Welcome to the longest podcast we have ever done! This month’s podcast follows on from last month’s on the grading system and the black belt. I received a lot of requests for more information on what I felt a syllabus should include and what a dan grade should be. So I picked up a copy of my syllabus and clicked the record icon on my laptop. The resulting “stream of consciousness” is this month’s podcast.

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The Black Belt and the Grading System

In this month’s podcast we discuss the always controversial subject of the grading system and the coveted black belt. On internet forums, message boards, and in the letters pages in the martial arts magazines we frequently find discussion on how standards are falling, the black belt does not mean what it once did and that there is no uniform standard anymore. So in this podcast I’d like to give my take on the black belt and the plusses and pitfalls associated with the grading system in general.

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How A Kata Records A Style

In this podcast I’d like to explain how an individual kata can record a complete fighting system! There is a common view that individual kata are for specific circumstances, and it is only when all the kata are combined that we have a complete style. I think this is an incorrect and mistaken view; both from a practical and historical perspective. Surely, one kata can’t record a complete fighting system though? Well, in my view it can!

You may be asking how a relatively small number of techniques can ever be considered to be a full system? Well if you are, listen to the podcast and I’ll do my best to explain my thinking to you! Kata are a lot deeper and much wider reaching than many people suppose.

As part of this discussion we will also cover the nature of kata, how kata should be practised in order to realise its full potential, what some of the past masters had to say about kata and its application, and how and why kata were created in the first place.

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Cardiovascular Martial Arts Workout (Podcast)!

This month’s podcast is a cardiovascular martial arts workout! It’s been a while since we have done a workout podcast and I’d been receiving lots of requests for one. All you need for this one is a little space and some light dumbbells. You then play the podcast and work along with it for a 23 minute training session that involves various cardiovascular exercises, muscular endurance exercises, and various types of shadow fighting!

Before doing the workout, you should watch the video that goes with this podcast (found on the blog of if you are accessing this podcast via iTunes etc). This video has demonstrations of the key exercises and should make it clear what is required.

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The Biggest Secret in the Martial Arts? (Podcast)

It’s officially our 30th podcast! I say “officially” because we’ve done things like double-podcasts and workout podcasts in the past. Regardless, I’m classing this as our 30th podcast … and it’s my website so no one can stop me! Thanks to you all for your support of the podcasts. The amount of downloads is fantastic (and pushing our bandwidth limits!). I’m truly delighted that so many of you are finding these podcasts useful.

This month I want to discuss what many seem to regard as the biggest secret in the martial arts! While there is no doubt that many martial artists are aware of this secret, there are very few who will publicly discuss it. Indeed, most will totally deny this highly influential secret and seem to regard it, and the influence it has, with great distain.

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History: A Thing of the Past? (Podcast)

Happy 2010 everyone! Is it just me or have the 10 years since the millennium flown by!? The passage of time is what inspired this first podcast of the new decade. In it I discuss the influence “history” can have on today’s martial practise. It is my view that history can lead to ever increasing efficiency and growth, or stagnation and death depending upon how we view the martial practises passed on to us through history.

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Karate's Three Biggest Mistakes

In this month’s podcast I’d like to look at what I feel are the three biggest errors made by karateka today. As regular listeners will know, I like to keep my podcasts positive as it is way too easy to stand back and point out what is wrong with the martial arts.

Personally, I’d rather put forward solutions and suggest how things could be made better. However, people will only be interested in potential solutions if they are aware there is a problem in the first place. So what I thought I’d do in this podcast is point out what I feel are the three most common, and yet frequently unseen, mistakes in karate.

I hope you’ll forgive me for being a little “negative” on this occasion and that you appreciate that my purpose in pointing out these errors is to encourage us to think of positive solutions and to help ensure that both the art of karate and its practitioners can reach their maximum potential.

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What is Kata?

In this latest podcast we look at what kata actually is and what purpose it serves. Kata can be a kind of shadow-fighting, a physical exercise, a form of moving mediation, a pointless dance, a relic that should be consigned to history, a repository of forgotten “secrets”, and a whole host of other things besides. All of these views on what kata is can have merit depending upon what is meant by “kata”. However, none of them get to the heart of the matter in my view. In this podcast I explain what I see as the core purpose of kata.

As part of the discussion that leads to my definition of kata, we also discuss how kata came into existence and the nature of the link between kata, kumite and combat. I also look at the relationship between principles and techniques as it relates to kata. Whether you agree with my final definition of kata or not, I hope that you enjoy the podcast and find it interesting and entertaining.

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He’s Back! – Richard Barnes Interviews Iain Abernethy

Richard Barnes is back! Those of you who have been following the podcasts from the very beginning will remember that the first podcast was an interview with myself conducted by Richard Barnes. Over 80,000 podcast downloads later and Richard is back!

In this light-hearted podcast, Richard and I discuss my own personal journey through the martial arts; from my very first class to the current day. We also discuss the purpose of kata, the rise of the “McDojo”, the realities of self-protection, the future for karate, my current training, and a number of important martial topics.

Regular listeners to the podcast will also be treated to numerous “in-jokes” and an update on the unnatural urges that afflict Richard’s dog! I had a lot of fun recording this podcast, and despite all the joking around and general silliness, I think we managed to fit some interesting discussions on the martial arts in there too!

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Styles: Are They Killing Karate?

In this latest podcast we discuss karate styles! Whilst the styles handed down to us are of great value, in this podcast I suggest that if too much emphasis is placed on “style” it can be extremely harmful to karate and its combative efficiency. The podcast begins by looking at what some of the past masters had to say about the notion of style, and then moves on to examine the history of the more commonly practised karate styles.

Having covered the history of the most widely practised styles, the podcast then discusses how those styles came into being through the Shuhari concept. We break down this important concept and look at how our moving away from it in recent times has been problematic for karate. We also look at how this has affected kata and the way kata are viewed and practised.

The podcast concludes by looking at both the positive and negative aspects of style and gives my own personal view on the way forward for karate as a whole.

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