”There is a tide in the affairs of men…….” when we face a fundamental decision or our fears, whether mental or physical. I believe that Xen-Do prepares people to be fit for all aspects of their life and while Xen-Do is certainly not about full contact fighting, some of us reach the stage where deep down we want to be put to the test. In fact this experience, coupled with the experience of releasing and harnessing the accompanying adrenaline rush can prove to be vital in some situations.

There is no point in telling people not to be afraid, fear is fundamental to our human survival that is why we are scared of so many things that can cause us harm.

We blink if an object comes towards our eyes to protect the eye, it’s an instinctive reaction not something learnt. So I teach how to control the blinking reflex that is a learnt behaviour not an instinctive one.

We can however control our fears and use them to our advantage; the adrenaline which makes the senses sharper, is a fight or flight reflex. Controlling this drug which is created and released by our bodies allows us to decide how to react in certain situations.

When you compete the greatest challenge is not with you opponent but with yourself.

Sensei Stefano Ispani has been a student of Xen-Do School of Martial Arts for over 15 years, playing an increasingly important role as ambassador in our quest for expansion, I hope you will enjoy his story and appreciate the context in which carefully selected, sparring and full contact tournaments, play a part in the Xen-Do programme.

Dai Master Rafael Nieto,
London. November 2015

Xen-Do London Sensei Stefano Ispani (Left) displays the Spanish Tournament Trophy

I stood in my corner, gently moving my weight from one ball of my foot to another and confidently banging my 10oz Top Ten Boxing gloves together whilst biting hard on my gum shield. I remember watching Rocky Balboa doing the same in Rocky IV when he fought the Russian Ivan Drago, somewhat naively I thought copying this pre-fight move moments before the referee called me into the centre of the ring would somehow calm me down. It didn’t, I remained as nervous as hell. The referee beckoned us forward. At that moment I noticed that the Emergency Ambulance was parked outside and hoped the Paramedic hadn’t disappeared for a siesta in case he needed to carry me off to the local hospital.

I took my first step forward to the centre when I heard Sensei Raf, in my corner, shout “Stephanie!” (he maintains a creative imagination for nick names in times of crisis), I turned immediately around to be met with a ferocious slap across the face nearly knocking out my gum shield. “Now you’ve been hit, there’s nothing to fear”, he barked “NOW GET IN THERE AND DO IT!” Christ, I thought, if my opponent doesn’t knock me out, Sensei Raf sure as Hell will……….

I had been practising Kick boxing at the Xen-Do School of Martial Arts. London for 10 years, achieving my Black Belt 1st Dan after 5 and 2nd Dan after a further three. The last two had been great but I felt as though I had plateaued and that breaking through this glass ceiling of mediocrity was about to change without any prior warning nor much choice. It had been announced that a number of Instructors from the club were participating in a Full Contact competition in Barcelona in the beginning of June, and I had been itching to join the party to travel out there. Not to fight of course, rather to enjoy the banter, participate in the camaraderie and of course sample the outstanding Tapas Barcelona had to offer. When I mentioned my culinary pilgrimage to Sensei Raf, our conversation adopted a real Helter Skelter twist;

Me: “Sensei Raf, I’ve heard about the competition coming up in June, I was wondering if I would be able to tag along, you know I……”

Sensei Raf: “I think that would be a great idea – after 10 years it’s about time you did a competition”

Me: “But….”

Sensei Raf: “Training starts next Tuesday”

Me: “But….”

Sensei Raf: “You’ll need to train with the guys at least four times a week and then on your own for another two”

Me: ”But….”

Sensei Raf: “You’ll also need to drop some weight, you’ll find the sparring hard if you’re carrying too much. We’ve got six weeks, plenty of time to get ready.”

Me: “But….”

Sensei Raf: “Good – I’m glad we’ve agreed that then. See you next Tuesday. Be prepared for hard work”.

Me: “But….”

It was now too late as Sensei Raf had brought the discussion to an assertive close with an about turn and headed back into the office at Karmaa. I was left sat in the dojo like a poor impersonator of Rodin’s Thinker Statue trying to work out how exactly I had found myself in this seemingly unwelcome position.


by Stefano Ispani

Follow Stefano in Chapter two as he describes the relentless and challenging training leading up to the tournament.

If you are thinking of taking up Kickboxing or Martial Arts then why not attend a FREE trial experience at one of Xen-Do’s four London Clubs? Choosing a Martial Arts Club is one of the most important decisions you will make so if like Stefano you are unsure then Xen-Do’s World Class Senseis will take the time to explain our curriculum and answer your questions.

This article is based on opinion:
– the author is not a qualified doctor or anyone who can dispense medical advice.
– any opinions stated are just that and people should consult a doctor before making any dietary changes or changes of any nature prompted by the articles published by or on behalf of Xen-Do.
– under 16’s please obtain parental permission before posting anything online.
– any opinions stated are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of Xen-Do.

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