Sensei Focus: Dai Master Rafael Nieto

Dai Master Rafael Nieto

Let us divulge into what we don’t know about Dai Master Rafael. Most of us will only meet him when we achieve our blue/white belt and above, we would have been coming religiously to our lessons each week, bonding with our Senseis and only ever hearing whispers of Master Raf. We may have seen him in passing when he makes a fleeting appearance to the dojo or in photos framed on the walls.

Those students that have done brilliantly to achieve and attend the senior gradings at our Goodge Street dojo will know of his presence. He can command a room and really push us to our limits knowing what can be achieved though martial arts.

Dai Master Raf gives an intense class, there is no slowing or sitting down, but he will always make sure we finish the round just like every great instructor should. He will make you feel alive and leave you with such a rush of adrenaline that you didn’t know you could get when you first signed up for your trial class. Though it may be something new to us Master Rafael is used to high intensity and high stress situations, it is something he had to master after spending 15 years as a fireman in Central London. He is someone that spent his free time perfecting the art of kickboxing as well as to have a day job fighting fire, that’s pretty damn cool. This journey not only taught him life lessons but just confirmed traits he already has. He is brave, resilient and it is his mission to help others. Master Raf is teaching us martial arts, it is his curriculum we follow, but it isn’t just about kicking and punching. He is teaching us a way to help with stress relief, the limits of our body but also, what it can achieve and a way of thinking. We aren’t just being taught a skill but we are keeping fit whilst having fun. All of these things when put together help our mind and body.

Dai Master Raf has never shied from an adventure no matter where it takes him. He does not know the word ‘slow’. His hobbies include diving, hiking, climbing and following those passions has led him all over the world. Master Raf is not an average man and he doesn’t settle for mediocre, and his hobbies show this; they take him to the highest or lowest points of the world. He has travelled to Machu Pichu, Peru following the Inka trail, he has climbed Mount Everest, he recently travelled to St Kilda to dive and before that he has explored the depths of the Red Sea.

“Is it for self-defence or is it just for fitness…. the reason I ask you is because some people think this is just for fitness but….

I’m teaching you how to use your body, that doesn’t mean you have to go around attacking people but if you need it, you have the tools.

So, you’re in the street and somebody attacks you, are you going to hit them with spinning kick? Probably not and why not? It is not practical, but more importantly it’s not what, one thing I always tell you it has got to be. Simple. It has got to be simple because in a stressful situation you don’t have time for anything else, and how do I know about stress situations? I spent 15 years as a fireman in Central London. I have seen more stress situations than probably all of you put together and what stress does is, it freezes you. That is why we have to practice, at the fire station every day you do 2 or 3 hours drills to practice for those stress situations. It is the same as here. That is why I always practice your basics with you because it is the simple things that are going to work. Everything else is what? Show business to make you look pretty … pretty fantastic!”

He has been involved in Martial Arts since 1972. During that time, Rafael Nieto taught and trained with Mugendo for thirty years under the supervision of Meiji Suzuki. He has done various fighting systems, winning national and international titles.

He became Technical Director of the National Karate College in 1988 and British Team Coach in 1992. He won the British WAKO title four times in addition to the World and European WAKO title. With his pupil, Master Ricardo Gress, he works closely to promote the Martial Arts community in both Great Britain and Spain. They are recognised as leaders in the Martial Arts community worldwide.

In 2012 he was awarded the most important Henry Cooper award in recognition of his contribution to the inspiration and development of the younger generation and most recently became Vice President of WAMAI and continuing his support for the Martial Arts community.

Rafael Nieto is the founder of Xen-Do Martial Arts. He runs four schools in prime Central London locations with the highest quality instructors. His philosophy is “Fit For Life”. Master Rafael understands that people who do Martial Arts should incorporate it as a symbiotic part of daily life. Martial Arts is not just a hobby, it’s a life choice.

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