I was lucky enough to have an evening free in London and could pop along to the fantastic Bob Breen Academy in Hoxton.

Due to the Olympics Bob is back in a school hall with home made printed signs denoting the location of the changing rooms – which are teachers offices given up for the evening renters needs.  Not the most glamourous or fancy of settings – yet the 3 hr session split between stick fighting, boxing and grappling (fillipino style) was as busy as the reasonably sized space could take.

About half way through the boxing class the room was really heating up with the effort and exertion, and by the end of the last class the rather hard floor was getting slippy and wet from people rolling around on it.

Now you might think that this does not sound that appealing a place to train at but i can assure you that it was a fantastic 3 hrs – everyone was focused on the training, people dropped in and out as they needed with no mention of a 50 press ups for making it late to class or drawing attention to the fact that they had to leave early in some othersilly and demeaning manner.  The class simply ploughed on with what it was there for – training people to fight.

I was inspired by the bare bones approach Bob has created, really getting down to the core of what the training was about.  No need for fancy uniforms, uneccessarry ceremony or out dated approaches to student discipline or conduct.

Yes you still had to show respect – though there was no conscious effort needed for this as it just demanded due respect from the vibe and quality of the tuition.  Yes you were told what you were doing right or wrong in a clipped and exact manner that lacked in embellished courtesy but was made ever more effective by its direct manner.   The class simply avoided getting hung up on itself, not needing any support through the modern trappings of branding or merchandise – the academy is the people who train and the man that leads them, that is its strength and that is what makes it such a good experience.

On a personal note i found that the material was not wholly new too me (except the stick fighting where i am a complete novice and no mistake) but the extra touches, the little gems, additions, corrections and edges that an instructor of Bob’s caliber can give you makes the experience that much more valuable.

Thanks to Bob and his students, i hope to be over again soon.

Lee Trunks

www.combineddefensivearts.com 

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