Combat Jujitsu instructor , Kevin O’Hagan interview

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Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Hi Kevin, thanks for speaking with us today. We’ll start with the most generic of all interview questions. Can you tell us how you got into Ju Jitsu and Martial Arts in general.

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

Kevin O'HaganOkay, yep. With regards to Martial Arts in general. I go back to about 1975. At that time I had become aware of a guy called Bruce Lee, which at the time I hadn’t heard of but obviously is now a legend. He inspired me really. The reason why, is that I had seen a very small guy, performing these incredible feats. Up until then I was brought up on a diet of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood. These big guys were the only type of guy that could defend themselves. This was the first person I had seen of a small statue that could do these things. I thought to myself “I want to do that, I find out what this is all about and practice it.” So he certainly was my first influence for getting into martial arts.

So from there I went into Kung Fu into a style called Pak Mei (White Eyebrow), I trained that for quite a few years and then moved into Taekwondo for a while. I did enjoy the punching and kicking arts but I always had one eye on grappling as well. It fascinated me, the locks, holds and stuff like that. I found myself going to Aikido and AikiJitsu for quite a few years. I trained exclusively under a lot of top Japanese instructors in that. Again, I really enjoyed it but again it didn’t have all the answers. There were some missing parts in Aikido that didn’t have answer for me. Eventually, this led me to Ju Jitsu. and once I found it, it became my main art. It seemed to be multi faceted and back then you didn’t find many arts, that including punching, kicking, locks, throws, take-downs and ground work which jujitsu did and that’s how I found my way into that.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Excellent, I didn’t know you had a base in so many different martial arts. Your cardio, fitness and strength is quite infamous and I was wondering if you could take us through a normal training week that you do.

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

Yep, I guess my routines have changed over the years. When I was competing at the top level, when I was training for my higher grades at Black Belt, my regime was quite punishing to be honest. I always want to challenge myself and I always kept an eye out for people’s training routines and what they were doing. I always tried to see if I could mirror them or even best them. So from a young age I was into that type of training. I guess now I have changed my training round a bit. I’m 53 now and I have found that I can still train at a high level but recovery time is lot longer. So some of the things I have been doing for many years are becoming more detrimental than good but it took a long time for me to come round to that way of thinking.

In general I always worked on cardio, endurance and strength. Cardio and endurance was always the top two for me, particular endurance wise. When it comes to grappling, having the endurance and the strength is probably better. So lots of body weight exercises. Big exercises that I favour are pull ups, chin ups, cable work, basic lifting, dead lifting, clean and press, shoulder press and bench press. Body weight exercises include Hindu push ups jump squats, squat thrusts and mountain climbers. Just a whole spectrum really, so some days endurance, next day cardio, next day strength. In among that some bag work, grappling, etc. so quite a wide and varied regime. And still three times a week I still train and work the bag and pads, some grappling and some basic strength

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: So obviously, 40 years or so in the martial arts, you must have seen some humongous changes. I was wondering if you tell us the number one biggest change you have seen from when you first started till now.

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

I guess the most notable thing was style for style, system for system. You didn’t get many people wander outside of that parameter. So if you were doing Karate you were doing Karate if you were doing Judo you were doing Judo. And there wasn’t much exchange of ideas and techniques. I found as the years went on a lot of systems became less rigid and they started finding out that every system has something to offer. One of the very first associations I joined was the Great Britain All Style Self Defence Association and this was a melting pot for all different styles of martial arts They would teach the more combative elements of their system. So I got to train with people from all different arts and we melted our ideas into one pot and took the best out of it all. Now its quite a common thing but back then it was quite revolutionary. Around 1981-1982 cross training in MMA had come on the scene and it really exploded a lot myths about martial arts. It allowed people to be more open about training at different clubs adn it became a less rigid regime that it used to be.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Forty years is along time to train and you have done it consistently. What do you think it takes to keep that drive consistently for that long. Do you have a secret you could share with us?

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

I think for me that when I discovered marital arts it was an absolute passion. I loved everything about it. Every second I could devote to training, I was on it. Apart from my family it was the only other thing that really interested me and I lived and breathed it. If I wasn’t training I was watching, reading and researching. I just found it fascinating. Why? I don’t know. It just clicked with me. I liked a lot of sports but this just overtook me, I guess then it became goal orientated, I wanted my black belt and then it went on, thinking where can I go from here. You go up through the grades, so that keeps you training. When you go into the competitive area, it gives you a new set of goals and a new lease of life. You want to see how far you can travel in those areas. From there it was altering other people’s training, seeing other people’s progress and getting them to their black belt. So I guess it’s finding new goals, and reinventing yourself. So you have new things to do which then gives you a new lease of life to give you another goal to go another week. But overall, an enjoyment of martial arts is what it’s all about.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: So something I was wondering, your famous for your realistic self defence and the real meaning of no holds barred. When you were competing, how did that effect you? Did you find it was limiting you, did your training change.

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

Kevin O'HaganWhen I first did that, I found it very very difficult. My training was with no rules whatsoever, and the mindset was for combat and survival and not sport. So taking that mindset into the competitive arena was difficult. I remember early on there were many occasions when I had a problem with that. Especially sticking to the rules. So when I decided I’d like to explore that a little bit more, I knew I’d have to shelve the combat jujitsu for a while and start again reinventing myself. Doing a bit more boxing and Thai boxing, a little more wrestling skills, because a lot of things that are banned on a MMA list, were the things that I was using. So it took away about 70% of my arsenal. I had to relearn many skills so I could fight and at a fair level and in a sportsmanlike way. It also challenged me by taking away some of my best techniques and finding some new stuff to use.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Okay, quite a blunt question. You train combat Jujitsu students getting to their black belts and you also coached MMA fighters getiting into the ring. Does one favour the other? Do you have one that is more important to you than the other?

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

Ermm, I think that comes in cycles, I think training people in combat jujitsu and getting them to their black belt in that system was everything for me. When MMA came in I realised I was going to have to put Jujitsu on the back burner if I was going to take people down that route. Some people I did have cross over. Some people that trained with me in combat jujitsu, made the transition into MMA quite successfully and others came in as raw beginners. So I definitely had to change the percentages to get people ready for the MMA arena compared to combat jujitsu

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: If you had pick one moment in you martial arts career, that you could relive what would it be? Do you have a particular scenario or time you’d like to revisit,?

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

I think you can always look back, and of the things people say is I wish I had found ju jitsu earlier that I did. I think I dabbled around in different arts, but never having that full satisfaction. I always thought there was something missing and maybe it took me a bit longer to find what I was looking for, I think some of those years could have been better spent. So I would have liked to have gone into competitive area at an earlier age. At the time Ju Jitsu didn’t really have an outlet, you know. You either did Karate competition or Judo competition. And it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that a format started coming up. I first stepped into any competitive arena when I was 36, for the very first time. So up until the age of 43- 44, I competed at the best I could. But I always though that if MMA had come along a little bit earlier, I might have go further in the sport. But I certainly enjoyed it.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: So you started competing when most people are thinking about retiring.

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

Without a doubt. This is testament to my fitness, and it was still worthwhile.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Lastly, you’ve written many books an, instructional DVD’s. Do you have any that have recently come out or are on the horizon.?

Yeah, I have recently done a set of DVD’s, it an eight set of DVD’s with the wonderful title called “The horror show”. It’s urban combatives, it’s looking at the more nefarious techniques that you’ll find in the martial arts. So lots of things like bone breaking, ripping and pressure points and stuff like that. It was great fun doing it, there is a wealth of stuff on there and was really pleased with it. It was a mammoth task to do eight disks in a few days but we got through it. It’s high production, high quality and that’s certainly my latest one and at the moment the best. I have plans next year to do one on combat jujitsu, and all the aspects of it. Which I’m really looking forward to putting down on tape so everything DVD wise, book wise is available at my website www.kevinohagen.com. This website has recently been revamped, its got some new stuff on there, we’ve also got a new free report that you can download immediately and they’ll be some things coming up in the new year. So lots of stuff still in the pipeline still to do.

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu:

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Wonderful, than you very much

Kevin O’Hagan @ Combat Jujitsu: Thanks