Author Archives: Steven Flavell

First we were men then we were brothers, now we are just dumb voyeurs

The stream of racist slurs on social media shows a lack of education that is rotting away certain sections of society; It’s time to re-open the debate on foreign policy in the Middle East.

Yesterday Woolwich was a scene of terror after the horrific execution of an unnamed young man by two men.

Woolwich image

It was a truly harrowing moment that has lit up the social media corridors of Facebook and Twitter as various videos and pictures were taken and immediately uploaded online by various eyewitnesses.

The above picture shows the attacker talking to a witness whilst using Jihadist rhetoric:

“We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reasons we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth. We must fight them. I apologise that women had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.”

The man is referring to British foreign policy in the Middle East, which in the past and present has had heavy involvement in the Middle East since before the First World War. For instance with regards to recent activity in Afghanistan, the British government intervened/waged war (depending on your perspective) to remove the Taliban in an effort to fight Al-Qaida and terrorism. In summary, Britain has interfered/intervened directly and indirectly in various areas such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our foreign policy has been divisive to say the least. There are some who believe we are trying to do good and there are others who believe that we are doing far more harm (obviously this does not justify the actions of these two men). However it can be argued that our foreign policy is not open to debate and persevered with unflinchingly, leaving Britain to look suspiciously like some of the dogmatic governments that we are waging war on ideologically and literally.

Streams of racist views have since flooded the Facebook news feeds showing that there is a serious lack of education rotting into the foundations of British society. Young people in Britain are completely unaware of the history of British interference in the Middle East, which means they accept the current foreign policy like dumb voyeurs with their eyes glazed over staring into the consequences of our actions; war, division and misery.

There is a dearth in the sharing of values between different social and ethnic groups within society. Consequently many people are even unable to make the distinction between peaceful law-abiding Muslims (British and non-British) and violent maniacal terrorists who have no regard for human life and consequently contradict the very nature of Islam. It’s not only moronic and embarrassing to hear someone immediately respond with a racist slur against the billion peaceful Muslims living in the world, but it’s also sad.

We only have ourselves to blame, we are all responsible for this society that we live in; we share the same patch of earth together. We do not live in a true multicultural society in the sense that we do not truly share our values and hopes for the future with one another. Rather than fearing how our neighbour may seek to steal away our loaf of bread we should take the time to consider that he may already have a loaf of bread, in fact he may even have something better.  If we continue the metaphor further it’s evident that we should invite the neighbour over for dinner, clearly we would have a chance of sharing a better meal together.

It is too easy to divide and manipulate people if we make no effort to bring them together. Yesterday’s crime was truly horrific, over the next few days the vast majority of people in this country will no doubt unite in condemning the act and hopefully join together in paying their respects towards the family and friends of the victim. However if we are serious about preventing terrors such as this from happening again in the future than we have to go further in our efforts to unite.

It’s not enough for the government to simply condemn the actions of a terrorist. It’s time to look at the issue and reopen the debate on our foreign policy, not because we are bending to the will of the violent few but because there are millions of British Muslims and British citizens living in this country who disagree with our foreign policy in the Middle East. The British public is long overdue the opportunity for discussion and a re-education of our actions in the past in the Middle East.

This will not immediately repair the divisions that are apparent between different ethnic and social groups in Britain, however it will at least make an attempt to bring these groups closer together by offering them a shared platform for debate. We are all individuals and there is a plurality of ideas and values but if we take the time to listen to one another we might realise that we also share a number of common values.

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Tai Chi Chuan: Feel The Chi

Since their introduction into the UK, martial arts such as karate, judo and jujitsu have steadily grown in popularity. However Tai Chi has been overlooked, although there are a number of schools across the UK and a loyal legion of practising students; as a martial arts form it has been misunderstood. A lot of people seem to think that it is just a slow moving dance for old people to enjoy. Steven Flavell attended one of the new classes on offer at Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club to see if this was the case, or if there was a little bit more to his hidden art form then meets the eye.

A year and a half ago I wanted to do something that would allow me to regularly exercise but was a little more interesting than simply lifting weights down the gym, so I signed up to do Wado Ryu karate classes and haven’t looked back since, but I have a confession to make… those guys I was talking about just now, the ones who think Tai Chi is for old people, I was one of them. So when Darren invited me down to the dojo to try out one of their new Tai Chi classes I was intrigued. When he told me that they are taught by Master Ch’ng Lay Seng; an instructor who can trace his masters back to Cheng Man Ching, who is credited with bringing Tai Chi to the West in the 1970s, I was not only intrigued, but excited.

Master Ch'ng performing a Lotus Sweep

I arrived at the dojo and Darren introduced me to the other students and Master Ch’ng. I was instantly glad that I came he seemed like the real deal. We moved into the Dojo and began the lesson.

We began by practising our stances and posture; it’s all about maintaining a relaxed stance while concentrating. Master Ch’ng demonstrated a couple of basic exercises before we moved into a routine consisting of a number of steps and postures with obscure names such as white crane spreads its wings.

Our movements were slow and I had to concentrate quite hard on following the rest of the students. I soon realised that although I was relaxed, my legs were getting an incredible workout. Each movement that I thought looked simple turned out in practice to require balance, strength and concentration. If this was a martial art for old people, I wanted what they were having!

Pushing Hands

After about an hour or so we moved on to the famous pushing hands exercises. This was the bit that I had been looking forward to, it’s where students can learn the self defence applications to the delicate movements of Tai Chi that most of us take for granted.

The pushing hands exercises on the surface involve you and another partner rotating your hands in a circle together, but it’s actually all about relaxing, and sensing the movements of your opponent. If they push towards you, you go with their movement and turn it back on them. It was pretty cool, and really different to what I was used to in my karate classes.

After the class I spoke to Master Ch’ng and told him how much I enjoyed his class, but I wanted to understand a little more about what the classes meant. He said “It is mainly about training how to let go and relax. So it helps physically, as well as spiritually and mentally.

Once you let go the muscles relax, once the muscles relax energy can flow, once energy flows blood follows through and allows proper nourishment to go to all the cells, which means they become healthier as well as the person.

Also when the energy can flow you have the ability to sense and read opponents better, but this needs training to build up that ability.”

I was really impressed. After the class I thanked Darren for inviting me along to the class and asked him why he decided to offer Tai Chi classes at his dojo. He said “Because it’s a martial art. A lot of people don’t realise that it is a martial art. We wanted to offer something different because although a lot of schools offer Karate, MMA and Jujitsu they don’t do Tai Chi.

Although there are specialist schools around, the element of this particular style that we offer that I like is the pushing hands and applications of the moves, which you don’t normally find in most Tai Chi schools.

Because Tai Chi is form based a lot of schools will only teach the form and you won’t learn the self defence applications. Whereas the Tai Chi classes we provide are quite unique in this area because they do. We provide a two hour class on a Wednesday from 7-9. The first hour and 15 minutes cover form and posture. After that we move onto the applications of the movements and practice them in relation to self defence.”

As I left the dojo my aching legs reminded me of something, Tai Chi is definitely not just for old people!

You can find out more about the Tai Chi classes on offer at the Colchester Wado Ryu Karate Club on their website by clicking here, and even visit Master Ch’ng’s website here.

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The Race For Europe

After 13 games the Premier League juggernauts are beginning to jostle for position and a place among Europe’s elite next season. With the exception of Manchester City (who ALMOST look invulnerable), pundits would be hard pressed to predict how the top six will look come the end of May.

With the domination of the ‘big four’ in recent years, the race for Europe had looked a little too predictable as Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool seemed to monopolise entry into Europe’s top club competition; the Champions League. However with the crumbling of the Liverpool machine under Gillett and Hicks, the rise of Tottenham under the exceptional leadership of Harry Redknapp, and lest we forget the gushing wave of Arab oil on the blue half of Manchester, the established order of the ‘big four’ has well and truly been swept away.

Now there are six clubs realistically vying for power. Although the title would appear to be Man City’s to lose (as they look head and shoulders above the rest of the pack), the remaining three Champions League places appear to be up for grabs.

Manchester United
Under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson the red devils have dominated the Premier League and even knocked Liverpool off their perch by surpassing their record league title haul. Although Sir Alex has managed some exceptional teams in the past that have dominated, he has also had to navigate his way though some tricky periods of transition by breaking up and rebuilding successful sides. Nobody would doubt Fergie’s ability to come through; nonetheless it cannot be denied that United are currently in the middle of a tough transition. United started the season in imperious form by ploughing through their opponents whilst ingratiating the likes of Cleverly and Welbeck into the team.

However cracks have appeared to form, injuries to the likes of Cleverly and the humiliating 6-1 battering at the hands of their blue neighbours Man City have put things into perspective. United sit second in the table with 30 points and are still picking up victories, but they are not playing well. One problem is that their talisman Wayne Rooney is going through a dry patch; he hasn’t scored in the league since the 3-1 victory over Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney has not scored since the 3-1 victory against Chelsea in September (Picture from http://www.moviespad.com/photos/wayne-rooney-manchester-united-947ec.jpg)

Nonetheless United will surely come good and finish comfortably in the top four, however they may have already surrendered too much ground to their noisy neighbours to claim a 20th league title this season.
Prediction: 2nd

Manchester City
The blue moon is rising, and it looks mighty impressive. Since the 2008 Abu Dhabi takeover City have spent heavily on players, around half a billion! The recruitment of world class technicians such as David Silva and Yaya Toure have been complimented by Roberto Mancini’s desire to open up his team and unleash hell upon City’s opponents. In 13 games the sky blues have been majestic, scoring 43 goals and amassing 35 points. The only blemishes on their record have been two draws against Fulham and Liverpool.
Although Liverpool gave them a scare on Sunday, City looked impressive as they withstood a huge amount of pressure during the second half and held on for a hard fought point. Man City not only look exciting going forward but consistent in defence; they have the joint best defence in the league.

In the context of a stuttering United, this league title is City’s to lose, and with the depth of their squad it doesn’t look like they will choke any time soon.
Prediction: 1st

Chelsea
Chelsea have been the only credible challengers to Manchester United’s domination in recent years. Roman Abramovich’s huge investment on players and the guidance of Jose Mourinho helped forge a powerful Chelsea side that became Premier League stalwarts; and went on to win three league titles (one under Carlo Ancelotti).

However Chelsea are now an ageing side and have become stale as a life-force within the league. Players such as Drogba, Terry, and Lampard who were previously the epitome of Chelsea’s driving success now look like they are on the decline.

Abramovich appointed Andre Villas-Boas in an attempt to instil a new lease of life into the team to compliment the January transfer spending on Torres and David Luiz. However a rotten run of form (five losses in nine in all competitions) has shown that there can be no quick fix to Chelsea’s problems. Firstly Villas-Boas, if he is the right man for the job, clearly needs more time to adapt to the style of play in England. Secondly, Chelsea are in need of a costly recruitment drive as they lack quality and imagination on the flanks, while their previously watertight defence is sinking like the titanic. This is not to say that Chelsea are finished, only a fool would write them off. However they are in danger of losing ground to their rivals.

Villas-Boas has struggled at Chelsea since his move from FC Porto in the summer. (Picture from http://i.thisislondon.co.uk/i/pix/gen/2011/11/andre-villas-boas-chelsea-fc-26648.jpg)

Villas-Boas may not be the right man for the job, under him his side look slow and cumbersome in attack, neglecting the flanks, while his inability to effectively pair Torres and Drogba must surely have frustrated Abramovich. Chelsea’s fortunes could quite easily change as they still have some superb players; old and new, such as Daniel Sturridge, Juan Mata, and Didier Drogba. They can be a match for anyone on their day, but this season they have been anything but consistent and for that reason I believe they will just miss out on a top four finish.
Prediction: 5th

Tottenham
Spurs have always been easy on the eye, but Harry Redknapp has added real steel to the team. With the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Rafael Van Der Vart the side possesses creativity, pace and goals. Furthermore, with new signing Scott Parker patrolling the centre of the park Redknapp’s side are capable of battling to hard fought victories.

Since Spurs’ humiliating losses to Man City and Man United they have went on to record nine victories from ten in the league. Spurs have not only been consistent but even battled to victories in games where they have been under the cosh, such as the 3-1 away victory over Fulham. They also have a game in hand on Manchester United, if they win they will leap-frog them into second place. Doing well in this league is all about performing consistently, other than City, Spurs have been the most consistent in the league so far.
Prediction: 3rd

Liverpool
Liverpool fans must be cursing their poor home form and apparent inability to kill off teams when they have the chance. Five home draws have left Liverpooll lying sixth in the table on 23 points. Although they are very much in contention it has been a season of ‘what if’s’ so far for the Kop. Home draws against Manchester United, Sunderland, Norwich, and arguably Man City should have been victories. Had this been the case the reds would be serious title contenders. Nonetheless results are what count. Liverpool have lacked a killer instinct in front of goal, which has led to a squandering of chances, and an inability to convert decent performances into victories.

However there still remains real cause for optimism, they have the joint best defence in the league and are currently on an unbeaten run of 11 games in all competitions. Furthermore their recent away victory over Chelsea in the league, and their outstanding performance against Manchester City that nearly culminated in victory shows promise for the reds.

So far this season Liverpool have not been consistent enough in terms of recording victories, however they are showing signs of gelling together better as a team with each game. This combined with the momentum gained from recent form may well provide Liverpool with the ammunition to mount a serious assault on the final Champions League place.
Prediction: 4th

Arsenal
After the sales of the influential Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas were compounded by a bad start to the season, some Arsenal fans committed blasphemy and questioned Arsene Wenger’s tenancy as the guardian of Arsenal FC. However after an incredible run of five wins from six in the league the gunners have put themselves back in the mix for a top four finish.

Robin Van Persie has been outstanding for Arsenal this season. (Picture from http://www.sportsnewseye.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Arsenal-Club-New-Captain-Robin-van-Persie.jpg)

The principal reason that Arsenal are currently flying so high is that Robin Van Persie has been in the form of his life, plundering 13 goals so far this season. With the Dutchman currently looking like one of the most dangerous strikers on the planet, critics would be brave to rule Arsene Wenger’s men out of a top four finish. However Van Persie has struggled with injuries throughout his career, were he to become injured Arsenal’s run of form might abandon them. Arsenal’s next highest league scorers are Theo Walcot, Gervinho, and Mikel Arteta who have just two league goals each to their names.

Although Wenger’s men still remain capable of producing magnificent performances on their day, the erosion of their squad has left them short of quality should their first XI become injured. If Van Persie becomes injured it seems unlikely that either Chamakh or Park would take up the goal scoring mantel for the gunners.
Prediction: 6th

Newcastle
Alan Pardew has done a remarkable job at Newcastle this season. Somehow, against all the odds they are flying high in fourth place with 26 points. They have replaced the likes of Joey Barton, Andy Carroll, and Kevin Nolan with Demba Ba, and Yohan Cabaye. Furthermore they have a solid defence and have based their success on battling to great performances such as the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Newcastle are the surprise package of the league this season, however they lack the quality to consistently rack up the required number of victories to pip the Premier League juggernauts to a place in the Champions League.
Prediction: 7th/8th

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Dave Arcari Projects His Intense Wail Of Energy


On Tuesday 18th October The Colchester Arts Centre welcomed the critically acclaimed guitarist Dave Arcari. He entered the stage with just his guitar in hand, but when he started to play it became clear that he had brought much more than that. Arcari had brought a sound that wrapped blues, country and rock into an intense wail of energy. Steven Flavell reports.

Dave Arcari courtesy of Paul Webster

When the Scottish steel guitar player entered the stage I didn’t quite know what to expect. He seemed to possess a real presence that seemed almost unearthly. His thick beard glinted with silver and his eyes flashed with excitement, and then he started to play… He scrunched his face into the glare of a madman that had stumbled upon a secret. When Arcari played Devil’s Left Hand it all became clear, the lyrics revealed the secret that his expression alluded to; “the devil’s left hand reached across the sticks, and I drank all his whiskey and learnt some of his tricks.”

His performance of Parcel Of Rogues was mesmerising and strangely disorientating. Like a mischievous dancer of deliverance Arcari galloped across the stage, glaring out of focus but very much in tune. He swung his beard away from his body to break free but it clung to him like his guitar.

During Got Me Electric Arcari strummed a bassy percussion into his guitar that he saluted with a roll back of his eyes and the raspy twang of his voice. He stomped his feet as he gazed out with glee, wrapping his rich scotch accent around the lyrics, strangling them with rugged emotion. As I watched him I wondered if this was a madman or a genius, but perhaps he is both…

This article was originally posted by me on the Colchester Circle blog.

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Hokie Joint Turn The Soundhouse Into A Juke Joint


On Friday 7th October Hokie Joint turned The Soundhouse at The Bull into a juke joint; or at the very least gave it the feel of one with their raw and dirty version of roots based blues. Steven Flavell reports.

This is a band that plays music together, not as petty individuals seeking to steal the limelight from one another by over exaggerating their own prowess. They share the moment together and build it up into a deep breath of quirky and original roots music. Their aim is to take the blues to the masses.

Hokie Joint

JoJo Burgess (image courtesy of Brian Sherwen)
It was very difficult not to focus on the antics of Jo Jo Burgess the lead singer who brought an almost vaudevillian presence to the band in between songs; he communicated with the crowd in an Ian Dury-esque manner awkwardly flexing his limbs and blazing his eyes wide open like a man possessed.

Stephen Cutmore the drummer (courtesy of Brian Sherwen)

Meanwhile their drummer; Stephen Cutmore reminds me of Mick Jagger, partly because he looks like him, and partly because he spends the whole time pulling faces like him! He looks like a man who’s having a brilliant time on stage, providing energy and genuine personality. It really rubs off on the audience.

Joel Fisk the guitarist (courtesy of Tony Joe Gardner)

Joel Fisk brings startlingly skilful slide guitar to the fore. He is a fairly shy personality in comparison to some members of the band on stage, but there is nothing understated about his play; he slides into solos that echo the likes of Eric Clapton.

Giles King harmonica with Fergie Fulton base (courtesy of Brian Sherwen)

When I heard that Giles King was regarded as one of the best blues harmonica players in the country I took it with a pinch of salt. However when I heard him play it all became clear. I have absolutely no idea how to play the harmonica but I do know that Giles King can do some pretty special things with one. During their song Back Where We Are Going he even left the stage and entered into the midst of the crowd while performing a solo.

Fergie Fulton brings energetic base lines that complement the eye-catching antics and sounds of Hokie Joint’s electric guitar and harmonica. For a bassist he displays a relatively rare willingness to get right up at the front of the stage and bust out his bass for all to see. Yup, Hokie Joint were keen to share the love around, and you know what? I think I felt it.

What I really like about Hokie Joint was that they didn’t rely on padding out their set with other people’s songs’, but stuck to their own music. The Music Starts To Play (the title track of their second album) began with a mischievous exchange between the guitar and drums before being joined by the harmonica, bass and vocals. It created an energy that seemed to grow with every breath that was sucked in and blown out by Giles King’s harmonica.

Apologise was another track that oozed energy. Stehen Cutmore wound up the drums with his careful brushwork while he pouted his lips like a madman, Fergie Fulton joined in with a thick base line before the guitar, vocals and harmonica united to create a petulant defiance; to quote the song lyrics “It’s not a problem, why should I apologise.”

The Crying Song was much slower and it began with Joel Fisk playing a clean and clear riff to amplify the vocals of Jo Jo Burgess which sounded incredible. Jo Jo rasped “How I cried, how I cried” like a rusty chainsaw that cut through the sounds of the instruments and into your flesh… in a good way!

I had not seen Hokie Joint before, but I will make sure I see them again.

Hokie Joint will play at the Colchester Arts Centre on Tuesday 18th October. Click here to book tickets.

This article was originally posted by me on the Colchester Circle blog

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The Full Phat 5 Lay Down The Funk-Bomb At Roberts


On Saturday 1st October The Full Phat 5 played at Roberts Live Lounge in Colchester and left the audience suitably funkified. The Full Phat 5 produced a performance of genuine passion and energy that showed how to cover some of the best soul and funk tracks ever made. Steven Flavell was there to enjoy the experience.

The Full Phat 5

When I heard that The Full Phat 5 were playing at Roberts bar I just had to go. Although I had never seen them play before, I have seen Greg Blackman perform with his piano; his voice is something that really has to be sampled in person; it’s just made for soul and funk. However The Full Phat 5 are not just a one man band, far from it. The remaining four members: Matt Haines (guitar), Rocky Hambling (drums), Geoff Hall (bass) and Kev Wiltshire (keyboard) possess years of experience from gigging and touring across the country and Europe.

How this band came to be is not important, what is important is that we have a local soul and funk cover band that can lay down a set that covers songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder to Bill Withers.

The Full Phat 5 opened with a full and rich rendition of I Wish by Stevie Wonder and followed it up with Harvest For The World by The Isley Brothers. The band seemed at ease as the lethargic base and smooth keys appeared to carry you away with the peaceful melodies of the song.

It was at this moment that The Full Phat 5 introduced a little funk to the proceedings by playing Brick House by The Commodores. The mischievous rhythm of the song is impossible not to dance to. When I looked onto the dance floor I thought that The Full Phat 5 had succeeded in bringing back to life the late Patrick Swayze; he was dancing away like nobody’s business, but alas it was not Patrick Swayze. It was merely a drunken lookalike who couldn’t dance at all…

One of the highlights of the night was during the Bill Withers song Ain’t No Sunshine in the third verse where Bill Withers repeats “I know, I know, I know…” and builds his voice with emotion and volume. Vocally it is incredibly difficult to replicate but Greg Blackman filled the lyrics with such soulful passion that it sent a shiver down my spine.

The Full Phat 5

The Full Phat 5’s cover of Al Green’s Lets Stay Together was also a very special moment. The band nailed it. The gentle thud of the drums complemented the mysterious keys to create a soothing lullaby. Click here to listen to The Full Phat 5′s recorded version of Lets Stay Together by Al Green.

The Full Phat 5 ended the night with Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder, whereby they well and truly laid down the funk like an atom bomb. It was delivered with explosive emotion and it was a great way to end the night.

This article was originally posted by me on the Colchester Circle blog

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Cage Fitness: A New Way To Get Fighting Fit

For most people who want to get fit and shed a few pounds, their first thought is to sign up for an expensive and long term gym membership. Most people certainly wouldn’t consider going to a cage fitness session. However this new concept is slowly becoming more popular. Steven Flavell endured an intense thirty minute workout at Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club and he did it in the name of journalism! The fool…

One thing we can all agree on is the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and regular exercise.

Cage Fitness uses a punch bag rather than a partner to avoid the risk of injuries

However it’s one thing being aware of it and another actually doing it. It seems that for every person that joins a gym, there is another person who quickly grows bored of the whole experience. One problem can be the expensive subscription for a gym membership, or even the intimidating narcissism that accompanies the many mirrors for people to watch themselves while they pump weights. So what can people do to get fit and keep exercising? Believe it or not, one possibility is cage fitness.

The Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club have introduced cage fitness sessions for people to get fit and hopefully have a little fun in the process. According to Darren Reynolds, the sensei and owner “it offers an opportunity for people of all fitness levels to exercise effectively. Each person can put in what they want to get out of it. It’s not important whether someone works harder than another person; it’s about improving your own fitness levels and enjoying the experience.”

I attended one of the sessions last week and can say that it’s definitely a more interesting experience than going to the gym. It is however very hard work! It’s a thirty minute workout, which revolves around the same training regime that mixed martial artists use such as the fighters that appear in cage fights. The workout is based on a championship bout of five five-minute rounds. Each round works a different part of your body.

Some people reading this may be worried that it may be too physical. I put this to Darren who dispelled this myth; “It’s not like karate in the respect that you don’t have a partner to do the exercises with. You use a kick bag instead so there is no risk of injury to yourself or another person. It’s a very safe activity.”

Darren Reynolds is the sensei and owner of Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club

Darren also believes that “cage fitness can offer varied forms of exercise every single session. Although you are not working with a partner there are other people in the room performing the same exercises, so it can become a mini-competition if you are watching someone else and trying to keep up with them; so it is easy to stay motivated during each session.

“The feedback that I’ve had from people is that it’s not as boring. For a lot of people who go down the gym it can become a bit of a novelty. They may stick with it for three to four months but eventually they get bored of it because it can become a repetition of the same exercises and experiences, whereas cage fitness can progress and change. We already offer a variation of different exercises and drills, but we hope to introduce maybe 10-15 more variations of this to keep the experience interesting and varied for those who participate.”

Although The Colchester Wado Ryu Karate club primarily offers Martial Arts classes, Darren Reynolds explained why they decided to introduce cage fitness sessions.
“It was something I thought would be a good idea to introduce into the Dojo as an extra non-martial arts related exercise where people can come and join in who have no karate experience; meanwhile existing karate students can participate and improve their fitness levels alongside their training.”

If you are interested in giving cage fitness sessions a go or even trying a karate class, click on the Colchester Wado Ryu Karate website. The first class is completely free.

This article was originally posted by me for the Colchester Circle.

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The Colchester Circle: Work Experience

I am terribly sorry for the dormancy of my blog in recent times, but I’ve been rather busy…As some of you may or may not be aware, I have been working at the Colchester Circle as part of a four week internship. The opening two weeks have been a wonderful learning experience for me. I’ve not only been able to gather a better idea of how the publishing industry works, but I have also had the opportunity to write a number of articles on the Colchester Circle blog.

In the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to observe and help-out on a fashion-photo shoot, interview a number of people such as Joel Fisk; the guitarist of Hokie Joint, and even write a number of articles to go on the Colchester Circle blog and in their upcoming November issue.

You can find a list of all the articles that I have written for the Colchester Circle by clicking on my name (Steven Flavell) on their blog. These articles are written on topics ranging from music reviews of The Full Phat 5, to fitness & health articles on cage fitness.

I will try to keep you updated with my latest articles for the Colchester Circle, and even write something for the indecisionsandmisgivings blog. Only two more weeks to go!

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London Blowout

It starts off as a side thought, but it grows. You think about it a little, maybe even try to rationalise it. You say to yourself “why shouldn’t I go? It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do.” You think about it more and more until it becomes an idea. Pretty soon you’ve already enlisted recruits to help you formulate a suitable plan to do it justice. Before you know it you have a trip planned for London. That’s how it happened, my friend Dan and I made plans to head up to the big city and meet his sister and her boyfriend at their place.

Now those of you who have read my blog before will be aware of my sympathies for the plight of the unoccupied. It’s a matter of finding things to do. Well, when you have a big weekend in London lined up the anticipation becomes too much to bear. In my head at the time, this wasn’t just a weekend away in the big city, oh no! It was to be a symbolic night that would give meaning to all those involved. It would be a blowout, a London blowout.

The Journey

The weekend began like any other involving my friend Dan and me; with me affectionately suckling from the teat of dependence that he courteously provided, as he always does. His car was the vehicle that would carry me all the way to London in a nonchalant haze of relaxing bliss.

To some people not having a car would appear to be an inconvenience, and at times I sympathise with this viewpoint (After all the limitations of a slow and cumbersome bus route become all too clear when the pelting rain accompanies the harsh whistling winter winds.) However when you have a friend, a good friend, who also doubles up as a wonderful transportation unit you may well forget about these past inconveniences. In fact while I sat with my legs proudly stretched out before me with Dan toiling over the wheel frantically negotiating his way through the traffic of London towards our destination life seemed rather good. I may not have a car but I do have a full driving licence. God knows if I can still remember to drive, but at least I have Dan, he can drive for me. Sitting there in the passenger seat I may not have been considered to be in a powerful position in the traditional sense, the driving seat, but in a way it was I who was happy.

The arrival

Eventually we arrived at Chris and Lucinda’s place in London. Lucinda is Dan’s sister, and Chris her boyfriend. Their ‘place’ was somewhere in the docklands area. After several hours of intensive driving we were ready to let our hair down and get the party started. Dan was particularly looking forward to having a drink, I specifically remember him saying “I can’t wait to have a drink when we get there.” It wasn’t just Dan who had a drink though, we all did but not before we completed our greetings. Chris had thoughtfully purchased a chilled pack of ciders in preparation for our arrival. Being the polite guest I proceeded to drink the ciders, not excessively, only a few in fact. Nonetheless the expectation of a ‘good night’ was beginning to bubble over nicely.

I remember once Dan told me of Chris’s impression of me when we first met. Apparently he believed I was either capable of great things or collapsing into an anxious heap on the ground. I liked that idea, not particularly the breakdown part but the idea that as human beings our fortunes can and will swing either way, it’s up to us to decide which way. Looking back now I see it as an incentive, something to drive me on and make sure I do go on to achieve ‘great things’ whatever they may be. But back then when we were preparing for our night out in London I rolled the dice, I downed a few ciders in double quick time and prayed that that adorable pink elephant would deliver me and the others towards a splendid evening.

Vomiting into one’s lap

In hindsight my ability to influence the decision making process was insignificant, any man who tells you he wanted to vomit on his black skinny jeans in the back of a taxi is a liar. But at the time I was drunk, and thereby delusional, the reality of the situation was conveniently tinted by that charming pink elephant. The bastard… As I let the sick slowly dribble out of my drooping head all over my lap I did not feel like a man who was lost. I felt how the liberal democrats must have felt when they got into bed with the conservatives and joined them in coalition. By being as discreet as possible and compromising on HOW I was sick, I spared my friends the shame of being evicted from the vehicle of an angry taxi driver. I might have been drunk, I might have been deluded, my jeans may have been covered in sick but at least we got home! Had I vomited out of the window instead, it would have been my friends that ultimately suffered the consequences of my actions and not my clothing. I was trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

Like I said, perhaps this was how the liberal democrats felt when they joined the tories in holy matrimony, old Cleggy probably said “we might have compromised our principles, our sense of being, but the public would have suffered more from a hung parliament and the need for another blasted election!”

In hindsight, regardless of whatever drunken philosophy I used at the time to justify my act, whether it be pragmatically seeking to make good out of the bad like Willie Stark from ‘All the Kings Men’, it was I who vomited on his own clothes and smelt of sick at the end of the night.

Waking up in Dan’s arms

I woke up to a surprise. Waking up with a splitting headache was not the surprise; that was to be expected, collateral damage exchanged for the excesses of the night before. The ‘surprise’ was waking up in the arms of my friend Dan in a bed that I have no recollection of getting into. Even more of a surprise was that the only clothing that we were wearing was underwear… Well, it’s not that I don’t trust the man; he’s a lovely bloke, one of my best friends in fact. But when one wakes up in the arms of his six foot five friend; who is incidentally massive (not fat but big) one cannot help but question the series of happenings that must have led you there. Dan is not a rapist, I would happily testify to that in a court of law. Furthermore our friendship is purely platonic; we both have girlfriends for Christ sake! However when you wake up in your mate’s arms you fear the worst… What If he in a sort of dream-like state mistook me for his girlfriend, well how on earth would I fight him off, answer me that!?

However contrary to what might have been it appears that we did not make sweet love that night, we merely shared a bed, a double bed. When Dan woke up he said he felt a hand on his chest, he wondered if he had got lucky. Well you can imagine his sense of disappointment when he looked over and saw a man with a beard. We got up an assured ourselves that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. We left the house for London bridge to explore the surrounding area, we were however very hung-over.

London bridge

As I stood in the queue outside London Bridge I saw a man walk out from a posh restaurant and carefully take out a slice of bread from a bag, I probably saw the sad reality of poverty stricken Britain. I probably saw a tragic example of how the rich reject the poor and show them the door refusing them a place to dine at the privileged table of society. But I was horribly hung-over…

It may have been the splitting headache but maybe just maybe it wasn’t, perhaps it was the morbid romantic in me that allowed mysel for a moment to muse this thought. Watching that man outside that restaurant eating that slice of bread, I chose to believe in a different scenario, the man was not eating the bread out of necessity but because of an elaborate alternative. I imagined that the man was on a date with a woman, and he had allowed her to order whatever she desired, he probably wanted to impress her. While she ordered a hearty meal he ordered a cheap salad and drank water. Half way through the date, proceedings were going well. But then things started to turn, his stomach began to rumble as he watched his date tuck into her meal, his salad certainly wasn’t doing the job so he made his excuses and left for the toilet. On his way he snuck outside the entrance whereby he ravenously devoured slice after slice of bread. He wasn’t eating the bread out of hunger, but for love! Well it may not have been true, but at the time, it seemed plausible, and perhaps that was enough.

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The Importance Of Writing A Covering Letter

As we all know, times are hard; economically, socially, philosophically and god knows what else…In these testing times of economic uncertainty getting your foot in the door for that first job can be challenging to say the least. On the internet there are a wealth of sites that provide useful hints and tips on how to secure employment. It all boils down to being proactive and matching your own set of skills with that of the employers’ specification. Candidates must learn to “sell themselves” to the employer, do what you have to! Sell your soul if you have to but for christ sake don’t sell yourself short! Writing a covering letter is your opportunity to make an impression on the employer and land an interview, maybe even a job… below is an example of the ideal covering letter.  

Dear Sirs,

I would like to apply for the position of “Useless Twit” as advertised on the moronic website for morons. Please find my CV attached.

As you can see from my CV I am a recent graduate from the University of Indecision where I achieved a 2:1 in Hypochondria and Anxiety (a four year sandwich course for the foolish). My academic misgivings make me a Twit of the highest order. My dissertation on the importance of Pop Culture where I analysed several magazines that should be burned rather than read prove my uselessness. My dissertation was awarded a distinction for its particularly shambolic style and inconclusions.

I am particularly attracted to the role with regards to ‘plundering all situations of their dignity until all the persons involved are left in utter disgrace’. Although I have no formal work experience in this field may I draw your attention to my criminal record whereby I have been charged with several counts of public indecency. Once in a supermarket I proposed to a salmon at the fish counter only to be advised by an employee that the salmon was in fact dead. He advised me that I may purchase the salmon if I wished. Naturally I refused advising him that I do not pay for it.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I hope that I will hear from you soon.

Yours insincerely

Fyodor Cretinman.
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