Grand Master Sken Review

At Fighting Fit Martial Arts we eagerly seize the opportunity to train and learn from a variety of Martial Arts, so when our parent organisation, The British Combat Association announced that Grandmaster Sken was going to do a masterclass, we jumped at the chance to attend.


As usual the BCA, overseen by its president Peter Consterdine and ably assisted by wife Dawn, had done us proud. The courses are very affordable and great value for money; it is something we have come to expect. Martial Artists at the top of their tree have consistently been made available to us and they have always delivered what it says on the tin.


Sunday May 10th, 2009 was no exception. With a pedigree that very few Martial Artists could match, not just in the UK but universally, GM Sken really is a man you should tap into should you ever get the chance. With a lifetime literally of application and dedication not only to Muay Thai, but to the essence of spirituality that embodies a true ‘Budo’ warrior, GM Sken has the credentials that set him apart and way above most of the top Martial Arts Instructors in Britain and indeed abroad. Unprepossessing yet powerful, with a quiet authority, one is immediately struck by his calm, tranquil philosophy delivered in a careful and measured way. A coach, a mentor, a teacher or instructor should be an example, not only of how to fight, but also how to handle their skills and promote a true and worthwhile lifestyle to all that they meet and this comes across in waves from GM Sken.


The Kushinkai Dojo in a small industrial park in Telford was the venue. A large, airy hall with sprung floor, matted at one end with mirrored walls and punch bags hung at regular intervals creates an immediate sense of professionalism and purpose. This is a serious training area. In the centre stood a lone boxing ring, empty yet inviting, scene of many an altercation, waiting silently for its next pugilistic fix. A gaggle of people stood around in groups, quietly chatting in anticipatory tones whilst glances were flung in all directions, searching for familiar faces or famous names. Peter Consterdine strode amongst us with his usual fatherly ebullience and GM Sken greeted friends and introduced himself self effacingly to those he had not met before. 


After a short introduction by Peter, GM Sken began with a quiet chat, an anathema to some perhaps who had been expecting to blow out of every orifice from the word go. But one gets an immediate sense of the purpose of the man as soon as he begins to speak. One is compelled to listen, not just because what he says is backed up by over fifty years of experience, but also because of the sense that he makes. He commenced with a brief resume of his life and background, all the while intertwining it neatly with philosophies and sagacious advice taken from a lifetime of adventure and struggle. In the process he then introduced at intervals some of his instructors and students who had accompanied him from Manchester to help. Youthful yet capable, it was obvious to all the respect they had for GM Sken.


From a brief warm up he orchestrated a series of balancing exercises from his perch in the ring, centrally positioned in the hall. Posture and balance are obvious edicts in GM Sken’s being and, as is manifestly demonstrated when he performs any move whatsoever, these are shown to be absolutely essential to effectiveness and fluidity of completing any technique. His own movement is silky smooth and executed with poise, deliberation and feline grace and can only be marvelled at and aspired to. From these essential balance skills, he moved on to explosive movement stemming from a relaxed position and the use of bodily levers to effect both submissive and knock out results in would-be assailants. Each procedure was demonstrated and talked through thoroughly by GM Sken with the eager and skilful assistance of his willing students. During each of the routines the same students/instructors were only too amenable to help and give of their advice, as we practised – stilted puppets compared to these guys – the given tasks.


Another few shrewd comments later and we began to attempt some more involved Muay Thai methods, using elbows and knees. Drilling these and feeling very awkward, it was due to the patience and explanatory skills of GM Skens ‘lads’ that one was able to eventually experience some cohesiveness and effectiveness to the technique. From there, after a brief explanation of its background and history, GM Sken demonstrated the sheer and ruthless power of Muay Boran, the ancient predecessor to Muay Thai, and the killing version that would have been used in battles of old.


Interspersed in every routine we were given, I noticed that GM Sken paid particular attention to the importance of pad holding, a subject very close to my own heart. I was thrown in at the deep end in my own introduction to Martial Arts, training with international hard-hitting karate guys, who held nothing back and, God help you, you had to learn ‘em quick! It was a breath of fresh air to see this, as most teachers neglect this aspect of training somewhat in my opinion. He addressed not only the importance of concentrating fully and completely on your partner but also the need to work from the core when tensing each pad for the oncoming blows. As he said in his inimitable, engaging way, the pads should not be so wide that we feel we are punching an elephant’s head!

Throughout the five-hour class GM Sken gave ample opportunity to and was rightly proud of his students/instructors. You could sense that this too was part of their careful development and they stepped up to the mark. As a finale they were given their head and astounded us with their speed, grace, skill and power, culminating in a phenomenally high roundhouse kick by Paul, which knocked an apple spiked on a sword and held high above GM Sken’s head, clean off.


A final inspiring talk from the master, in which he demonstrated his respect and appreciation of his friends and students showed the true ‘Budo’ spirit of the man. A last summary of his philosophy and edicts by which he lives his life gave me, for one, plenty to ponder on and an aspiration and ambition, graphically illustrated in him, which could, and should, last a lifetime.


Alan Macdonald, May 2009

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