Martial Arts Illustrated -'Learning Curves' Column Part 14


By Lakhvinder S. Madahar



Sometimes the pressures of life don’t allow you to lift your head up to enjoy the view. A while ago I had a good friend of mine (Guy Bloom) pop over to our academy and spend a morning with us. Then later on in that day he had put up a review on facebook. I was very grateful as its encouraging when someone makes a positive assessment of your work. An outsiders view holds great value in assessing what we do, as quoted below.


 “Spent a few hours, at the Total Martial Arts Academy in Coventry with Lucky Madahar. Now these guys are what it is all about, they have actually trained all of their lives, earned their credentials from years of study as opposed to seminar attendance. Lucky has decades of knowledge and Pindi puts himself out there, gets in the ring/cage, wins fights and trains fighters. I mean seriously what more do you want? In this era of pretend black belts and instructors with larger than life characters with no skill, these two unassuming fellas just get on with being real” – Guy Bloom (ATTACK KINETIC)


It’s only natural at times to reflect on our failures as well as our successes, a form of analysis.


Succeed or fail keep on walking - standing still means being left behind! 

As the great martial arts legends Bruce Lee and Guro Dan Inosanto have said, - Walk On!


First Lesson


At the time of my very first lesson in martial arts, I stepped on the mat as a ‘blank canvas’ (Children have been referred as a ‘blank sheet/canvas’ in the past – anonymously). It was a Judo lesson I attended in November of 1972 but feels as if it was only yesterday. I was twelve years of age at the time, an innocuous phase in life and obviously in martial arts, with a touch of anxiety we tried our best to shadow our Sensei’s instruction. We didn’t dare anticipate anything for our exertions, unlike the present attitude of buy today and pay tomorrow.


Metaphorically speaking the martial arts standards at the time seemed to be as solid as an Oak tree with deeply rooted morals. This reminds me of a quote from a Sikh teacher, when he said “In the olden days our temples were weak because they were built with mud bricks but our faith was solid. Now our temples are strong because they are built with baked bricks and marble but our faith has become weak”.   


Our Judo Sensi (teacher) a Black Belt through years of training, his blank canvas had transformed into a master-peace of the martial way. His appearance showed he was battle-hardened but then most adults from that period were manual workers and had a look that demanded respect. This was most evident on the mat when he demonstrated his technical skills and knowledge of the East.


I was not at the club for very long as we (family) moved to a different town. The thing that still struck me the most about our club was our Sensi never hesitated on using his flip-flop on a student that was slacking in training. If this happened now days I think a lot of belts would be handed back (jokingly said) and I think this really separates the old school mentality to the present Mcdojo attitude. Personally I don’t agree with harsh training methods but it does show the student’s commitment!

Then there was a little twelve year old, me a white belt looking up to this giant of a man - a Black Belt. We held the Black Belt in such a high esteem; it almost had a Holy Garial status amongst us white belts.

But it would be just awesome if I actually did achieve a Black Belt – WOW!


“The dreams of yesterday are the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” – Kathy Bell


I’m sure there are many others just like me who also treasure their own memories of their first martial arts lesson with mixed emotions. Then decades later, a few must wonder about the reasons behind their continual involvement in the martial arts.

Martial arts is a journey not a destination so I guess we martial artists just - ‘Walk On’ and continue to enjoy our own individual journey!



According to David C. McClelland - Motivations are largely unconscious and the three key motivations that drive performance are;


  • Achievement – the drive to excel and improve in all efforts
  • Power – the drive to influence and manage other people
  • Affiliation – the drive to form and maintain warm relationships with other people.

The martial arts tick all of the above and I am thankful to God for guiding me towards such a fulfilling discipline.




“Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever” – Mahatma Gandhi


Based on Jerome Bruner’ theories - Knowing is a process not a product,


  • We learn by active experience
  • Instructing someone is not just telling them something but encouraging them to participate
  • We acquire knowledge through the use of reasoning, by constructing meaning from the information.
  • This is a form of information processing
  • A spiral curriculum would work best in schools, Bruner suggested. This involves a constant revisiting of ideas, building incrementally until the student reaches a high level of understanding.
  • Ideas are first presented in a simple and intuitive way.
  • They are continuously revisited and reconstructed in an increasingly formal way
  •  …..and are finally connected to other knowledge for comprehensive mastery of the subject.


The goals I had set for myself in the earlier stages, I did achieve some and others were not meant to be. On the odd occasion some goals were well in my reach but my priorities had changed so I had to abandon them. Setting goals give me long-term vision and short-term motivation.


Then once the goal had been achieved it was very exciting for me to set another goal, this felt like a new beginning for me!


There have been many turning points in my martial arts journey mostly positive. Learning and training was the main influence, discovering a new training method, reading an inspirational article, attending the seminars and training under the guidance of some martial arts legends, etc.  


The first seminar I ever attended was the 1979 Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace seminar in Birmingham. It was a very enjoyable experience, learning loads on stretching and kicking – amazing stuff. On the Q & A section of the seminar I remember being taken-back a little, when Mr Wallace said “If it was down to him, he would give the Black Belt out on the first lesson. Because once they (students) get the black belt then they begin to learn”.


Thinking back on it, I agree with what was said because some students’ in our group were focused on the next belt and did try to get away with next to no training in between grades. 


Bruce Lee’s view of the black belt was “it is nothing more than a strip of cloth to hold your pants up”.


I think this was a positive influence in the way that pursuing knowledge and training was more important than chasing the rewards, so I began training with a different mind-set and researching for the ultimate martial art. 


This allowed me to experience Jun Fan/Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali, Grappling, Wing Chun, Boxing and Muay Thai. It was a very enjoyable time, lots of learning and making many new friends.


As we were in research of the ultimate martial art.


  • Observing what is useful,
  • Reflecting on what is useless
  • Adding what is Specifically our own!


Actually we just tried because you can’t really become a Van Gogh or a Michelangelo while still painting by numbers on something from Hobby Craft.


The Ultimate Fighting Competition (UFC) exploded on the scene in the early 1990’s and this was another turning point not just for us but the whole of the martial arts world. We had mixed feelings about it at the time. On one hand it stopped the talking and the ‘Let’s Get It On’ attitude was born. It is a martial sport that has pushed the martial artist to a new standard both physically and mentally. Sadly for a while it did fail to up hold the martial values of the past but it’s nice to see some of the champions are an exception.    


It was interesting to see in the first UFC event, a boxer turning up to fight with one glove. I’m assuming the thinking behind it was that he was going to box with one hand and use the free hand for wrestling. The poor understanding of the fight game by some of the fighters gave a cause for concern.


Then there was a Tea Kwon Do fighter who tried to adept a strategy from the 25th Jun 1976 mixed martial arts fight between Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki. The fight ended with the Tea Kwon Do fighter getting knocked out very early on in the first round.


This was over twenty years ago. Now the UFC has evolved into its oven formatted style – the Mixed Martial Arts and has arguably over taken Boxing. The present Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacino fight is exciting but is an exception, fights of this calibre come around once every twenty-five years or so and probably is the last one in my life time.


Presently the Mixed Martial Arts seems to be in the media more than any other martial arts events with an insistent fight attitude that’s quicker than Nescafe.


'Martial arts without morality is Brutality' – Ben Lergussa


Traditional martial arts are a more balanced package, filled with in-depth wisdom and codes of morality. Physical skills cover weapons training, empty-hands fighting, grappling and mind developments in through mediation.


Gichin Funakoshi’s Book ‘KARATE-DO My Way of Life’ taught me some really valuable lessons but one story in particular got my attention it concerns one of his teachers – Master Matsurmura


The story begins in middle of the last century in Naha, Japan. It’s about an engraver an accomplished Karate man wishing to be the Master’s (Matsurmura) student. When master Matsurmura expressed, he was no longer teaching and had no wish to take on any students. On refusal the engraver requests that if you will not teach me than do I the honour of a duel. The master warns “If two tigers fight, one is bound to be hurt and the other to die” as the challenge matches were to the death in those days. The engraver told the master for the opportunity he was willing to die. Then the master happily obliged……………it’s a great example of “the art of fighting without fighting”.


If you get a chance to read this book please do, it will change your outlook on martial arts, especially if you’re into mixed martial arts and have never trained in the traditional martial arts. Avoiding the situation to fight was a part of the student’s upbringing and masters demonstrated this skill many times in the book. I can see how this can be interpreted as the actions of a coward by many of the modern trigger happy martial artists and fighters.  


I read Joe Hyams’s book ‘Zen in the Martial Arts’ just a few weeks ago but never owed a copy until I found one in a charity shop recently. If I had read this book in my youth many years ago, it would have meant experiencing and enjoying the martial arts at a much higher level.


I particularly liked Joe Hyams’s description of the belt progression, it’s as follows;

 “The beginning student in most martial arts disciplines wears a white belt that, according to tradition signifies innocence. With the passage of time the belt becomes soiled from handling and use, so the second stage of learning is signified by a brown belt. As more time passes the belt becomes darker until is black – the black belt stage. With even more use the black belt becomes frayed, almost white, signifying that the wearer is returning again to innocence” – a Zen characteristic of human perfection.


There are numerous categories within the martial arts, martial science, martial sport, martial fitness, martial entertainment, martial spirituality, martial business, etc. The categories usually overlap each other but keeping a balance between the categories is critical in order to reach your full potential as an instructor and school owner.


My vision for the academy has always been to provide the best martial arts experience possible for our members. On a personal level I’ll continue to develop myself as a martial arts instructor and as a martial artist.


“We expect our students to do their best, we’ll do our best and somewhere in the middle we’ll meet success!” - Total Martial Arts Academy.


If you put enough energy into something and persevere, then I believe you’re bound to succeed. I know I will succeed in delivering the original goals I had set out for our academy. I began with absolutely nothing by building my own garage/gym right from the foundations and then started to hold free sessions in it so I could have workouts in the arts we are now teaching. Not a profitable start haha! But literarily a rock solid foundation and have been overcoming every challenge we’ve faced.


            At our academy (Total Martial Arts Academy) we offer in depth curriculum in the following martial arts;


  • Thai Boxing ‘Siang Raam - Kam Singh’ Muay Thai Camp.
  • Erik Paulson’s Combat Submission wrestling and STX Kick Boxing syllabus - Mixed Martial Arts
  • Filipino Martial Arts & Jeet Kune Do - Progressive Kali System. Filipino weapons and empty-hands.
  • Western Boxing
  • Soon Brazilian Jiu Jitsu again


We have been successful on many levels and still feel a long way to go but are now beginning to feel it’s in reach. What is the definition of a successful martial arts school?


Facilities, number of students, finance, choice of different martial arts, profit, marketing, instructors, seminars, networking, rewards, fighters, trophies/belts, etc.


While a ago we focused on training fighter, before that it was developing students, before that it was attending seminar and developing ourselves , so it go on!


Let’s take the success of our fighters:

Pindi ‘The Warrior’ Madahar is Coventry’s most successful fighter in recent years both in Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts).Veteran of over thirty fights, and is the current Muay Thai Regional Champion.


Previously; fighters from our academy had forty – four fights, in Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts and we were awarded Thirty-nine wins. Then about two years ago two more of our fighters won another two regional titles, an England title and a British title.


I’m happy for the success of our individual fighters but we do feel we have failed in so many other areas of the martial arts as it’s not all about winning trophies!



At the beginning of my martial arts journey it was a challenge just to earn a red strip on our white belt. In the present martial arts world we are seeing a title belt being won by a first time MMA fighter with just a few months training.

In the Land of the Blind, the Man with One Eye is King!


Until next month – God Bless!


About the Columnist: Lakhvinder S. Madahar has 42 years’ experience in the Martial Arts and is the founder/owner of Coventry’s Total Martial Arts Academy. He is an inductee into the Martial Arts Illustrated Hall of Fame 2012 (Top Instructors and School owners) and also into the Combat & Fighters Hall of Fame 2011 (Commitment & Devotion to The Development of Martial Arts in the United Kingdom and around the World).


For Private training sessions or Group training sessions in Muay Thai, Combat Submission Wrestling, Mixed Martial Arts and Filipino Martial Arts please feel free to contact us:


Contact detail:


Total Martial Arts Academy

Unit B1 Endemere Road;

Coventry, CV6 – 5PY


Tel: 024 76 666 988


Lakvinder Madahar mobile: 07834 767 487

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024 76 666 988

+44 783 4767487 +44 783 4767487

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Stag Industrial Estate

Unit B1 Endemere Road



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"TMA is what it says, a Total Martial arts Academy. First and foremost, it is a place where you are respected and helped to grow, in a safe environment. As the many reviews say, it is thanks to Lucky (Lakhvinder)  that a place like this exists and students can feel at home, in a world that can be cruel - that's a gem and frankly, a life saver! I'm going into my second year here now and I love training here and seeing everyone's journey. Be it for fun, confidence, fighting or so many other reasons. The instructors are some of the finest in Coventry and very approachable. You will be totally looked after during your first free visit and throughout your training here."


Sarah Shenton

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