Words of Experts – Robert John

Robert John is one of the first students of Akuzawa sensei and one of the Hanshi of the school. Rob is passionate about body movement and development of skills in an efficient way. He’s also a fantastic teacher, able to deconstruct skills back to basics making them easy to comprehend for all. He came to Hong Kong end of October to share his knowledge on internal training.


1. Do you have any morning routine? (It doesn’t have to be related to martial arts)

My morning routine is the following:

Mental calibration: A mix of Tony Robbins priming stuff, maybe some wim hoff exercises if I have time

Cold shower to jumpstart the brain

Physical exercise wise, it can be a variation of tenchijin, shiko and ashi age. It depends on how I feel. I’ll slide up and down a post as well, trying to use my chin and neck. I try to maximize my bang for buck, so I try and work on whatever I feel I’m weak on.

2. If you only had 10 min to train, what would you do?

The best bang for buck exercise would change based on where I am and what I’m working on. But generally speaking, seated tenchijin – transition to seated shiko. If you’re past that development then just tenchijin and shiko If you’re really only just starting, ashi age will give you lots for only an investment of 10 min.

3. What is the best investment you’ve made in yourself? In others?

Best investment… that’s a hard one. That would be two-fold. Mental exercises to shape and control the mind. Physical exercise wise, putting in the time to do Arks conditioning exercises.

4. In your opinion what are the biggest mistakes that people make when training? On the contrary, what do you think people get easily from the beginning?

Biggest mistake – people go for power, and strength. And they try to strengthen what is already strong. You need to actively search for where you are weak. Zero in on it, and then strengthen the hell out of it. You’re only as strong as the weakest part of your own chain. People tend to get the conditioning part fairly easily – which is why people are apt to fall into the strength/power trap.

Photo by Jo Keung


5. Has any failure you had in the past help you get better at what you do? Do you have a favourite failure you could share?

Sure, my biggest failure was thinking I was right. (Don’t we all? Lol) And biggest fail was when I got swept clean off my feet by a fellow classmate who had hacked a good portion of what Akuzawa sensei did. You have to remember that at the time, I was pretty conditioned, and someone sweeping me clean basically never happened. So when we got into it over what ark was or wasn’t doing; and he swept me clean off my feet, that was a shocker for my ego. But I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for that moment. That moment really changed my perception of sensei’s art, and continues to influence how I approach it even today.

6. When you feel you are reaching some sort of ceiling/stagnation period in your practice, how do you go through it?

Stagnation to me means I’m running out of ideas. When this happens it means I need a change in perception. That could mean changing my environment, who I train with, looking at different arts etc. Worst trap you can fall into is having only the same inputs day in and day out. I really think our progress is only limited by our perception, and by extension our imagination. I think sensei’s genius is his ability to see, consider and experiment with approaches we wouldn’t even think to try. Of course the hours of training are key, but I don’t think one can disregard this factor… indeed it might be the most important.

7. What do people never ask you that you wish they did?

Never thought of this… but maybe it would, how do you approach the puzzle of this body skill. What is the thought process involved in this kind of problem solving?

8. Would you have any advice for your younger self?

Meh, be lazier. But without compromising on results.

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