Friday, 29 June 2012

Marfest 2012 – a great success!

Aiki with Geoff Aisbitt
Despite a dip in public attendance this year the festival was still a fantastic event.  Martial Artists from all over the North East descended on the CitySpace centre with their families and friends to watch or participate in the demonstrations and taster sessions on the ‘come and try it’ mats.

DFM with Phil Doherty
Marfest is as much about the camaraderie between martial artists as it is about the displays of martial art. Over the 12 years the festival has been running a community of martial artists from all disciplines has gradually gelled together to not only demonstrate their art to each other and the general public but to also exchange knowledge and information, support and encourage each other, and to form strong and lasting networks and friendships.  

Judo with John Simpson
The strength of this support network was demonstrated very clearly in the afternoon when there was a gap in the order of events. To fill the gap, Peter Seth (Marfest organiser and 4th dan Aikido), Geoff  Aisbitt  (4th dan Aikido, 3rd dan Aikijutsu) and student’s of Christine Poole’s Jujitsu club (British Jujitsu Academy NE) did an impromptu display of Aikido and knife defences. This was impressive because these people do not normally train together (though Geoff does sometimes do some aikido training with Peter), practice different though related arts and had not rehearsed this display at all! This required a lot of trust and cooperation which was possible because the Marfest has brought these people together on several occasions now and so they know each other. Here is some video footage of this impromptu display…..

The video shows Geoff Aisbitt doing some knife defences with a jujitsu student.

Peter Seth demonstrating an Aikido principle

Geoff again showing some aiki principles

The other demonstrations though were definitely planned, well rehearsed and displayed professionally. Here’s some video footage of some of this year’s participating arts…

Phil Doherty (DFM)  showing a knife defence technique

Two of Christine Pool's jujitsu students.

Bill Patterson's ninjutsu students

There were some last minute programme changes.  Sensei Paul Simpson (Kempo Jujitsu) was unable to make it. However, John Barrass (founder and senior instructor of ESDCS – Evasive Self Defence Combat System) stepped in to cover the vacant ‘come and try it mat’ for the afternoon, teaching his style of close-in reality based street defence. John is a very experienced martial artist who has attained black belts in four arts, including 4th dan in jujitsu.

Ninjutsu weapons
Peter Gruffity (Capoeira instructor at Group Senzala North East) has supported Marfest over many years but was unable to put on a demonstration this year. However he did attend the festival and did a couple of taster sessions on our ‘come and try it mats’. For those of you unfamiliar with capoeira, it is a Brazilian art form developed by African Slaves in Brazil over 400 years ago. “It combines the potency of violence and fight, the fluidity and expressiveness of dance, the soul-calling power of music, the wit and playfulness of clever games, and the showmanship of acrobatics into one beautiful art form.” (source:

Joe Harte (Taiji, Northern School of Taiji in Co. Durham) was also present and led a short taiji session over lunchtime. He was also available throughout most of the day to talk to people about the principles and practice of his art form – an opportunity taken up by several people.

more judo
Of course many of our regular participants were in attendance giving their time freely and generously for this charity fund-raising event – Geoff Aisbitt (Aiki arts), Christine Poole (jujitsu), Phil Doherty (DFM), Mike Campos (taekwondo) and Paul Tennet (Kung Fu).  Newcomers this year included John Bruce (karate), John Simpson (Judo), Mick Farrow (Cane-do) and Bill Patterson (Ninjutsu)

And I’ll leave you with the ever popular lion dance (performed by members of the Moi Fa Wing Chun Academy)….

Friday, 22 June 2012

Remember: Marfest 2012 is THIS Sunday, 24th June...

Reminder - Marfest is THIS coming Sunday between 10.00am and 4.00pm at Sunderland University CitySpace Centre.

The good news is that PARKING will be FREE!

Please park on the gravelled car park or in the bays opposite the bus shelter at the rear of the venue. There should also be plenty of roadside parking.

CitySpace Centre

Hall where Marfest will take place.

Somewhere to relax!
Remember the cafeteria will be open too.

If you are coming by public transport:
Via Public Transport: The site is easily accessed by Metro. The University Metro Station is close to the site. Exit the station and then follow the signs to the University campus.
There is a bus stop on Chester Road directly outside the building.
Please visit Journey Planner ( and enter “Chester Road, Sunderland” as your destination.
From Sunderland City Centre: City Space is within walking distance of Sunderland City Centre.
See also our 'How to find Marfest' page.
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Lion Dance...

Marfest always kicks off with a performance of the lion dance. This is performed by members of the Moifa Martial Arts Academy. As you will see it has not always been the innocent entertainment spectacle we know it as today....

What is the lion dance?

The lion dance is over a thousand years old, originating in China during the Han Dynasty, it spread to other Far Eastern countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and Indonesia. The Chinese have long admired the qualities and character of the lion, which is featured in Buddhist lore, despite it not being a native animal of China. In fact lions were introduced to China by Westerners who were trading with China via the Silk Road from India. Knowing how much the Chinese loved lions they brought them as gifts - along with some lion tamers to look after them!

Initially the lion dance was used to entertain visiting dignitaries, at festivals, religious ceremonies and at other official functions. However, during the Ch’ing Dynasty it was somewhat misused and became a bit of a military or political prop. It was used to smuggle agents in or out of palaces, exchange secret information, recruit fighters from the enemy camp - all sorts of espionage designed to topple governments. The 'lions' were used as a sort of mini Chinese Trojan horse!

Even in the 20th century the lion dance fell into disrepute. It has a long association with Kung Fu and is often performed by Kung Fu clubs. In earlier times these martial arts academies were rivals and attempted to control territories. The more 'territories' a martial arts academy controlled the more prestigious it was regarded. Particularly ambitious schools would invade others to take control of them. They would often do this under the guise of a lion dance competition which they would use as an excuse to have a fight.

By the 1950's the rivalry between martial arts groups (via their lion dance troupes) had turned into gang warfare. Groups of gangsters were controlling the troupes and people were pulling their kids out of lion dance troupes in droves because of the violence that was occurring whenever rival troupes met at festivals. All sorts of nasty tricks were used such as hiding daggers in the lion costume and using them to slash the opponents legs during a 'lion fight'. In the end the lion dance was banned in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia for social or political reasons. The ban lasted for decades and was only lifted in Indonesia in 1999. Even now, in Hong Kong lion dance troupes must obtain 
a permit from the government to perform a lion dance.

In recent years the lion dance has regained its honour and is again performed for entertainment purposes at festivals and at Chinese New Year. It is now thought of as a recreational sport and competitions are held all over the Far East - in a properly refereed and judged arena. In fact lion dance competitions are extremely skilful and acrobatic, often performed high up on stilts! It is generally only the most experienced martial artists from a club that are invited to join the troupe because those martial art skills are needed to perform the lion dance to a high standard.

Come along and see our lion dance at the marfest....

Taiji and Joe Harte...

What is Taiji?
Taiji or t'ai chi ch'uan literally means "Supreme Ultimate Fist". It is a type of internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defence training and its health benefits. 

The physical techniques of taiji are described in the tai chi classics, a set of writings by traditional masters, as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize, yield, or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases, opens the internal circulation.

The study of taiji involves three aspects:
 Health: Taiji's health training concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. Taiji is thought to improve or avoid many chronic health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoarthritis. Its practice has also helped to reduce the incidence of falls in the elderly and aid recovery from strokes.
·         Meditation: The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of taiji is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.

·         Martial art: The ability to use taiji as a form of self-defence in combat is the test of a student's understanding of the art. Taiji is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces, the study of yielding and "sticking" to an incoming attack rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force. The use of taiji as a martial art is quite challenging and requires a great deal of training.
Joe Harte
Who is Joe Harte?
Joe Harte began training martial arts in 1975, then in the early 90's found himself inexorably drawn to Taiji. He is a long time student of Patrick Kelly in the tradition of Master Huang Sheng Shyan. 

With 20 years of intensive Taiji training he now runs the Northern School of Taiji in Co. Durham, Northeast England - Concentrated Taiji classes for those who wish to learn deeply. 

Joe recently gave an in depth interview to The Tales of Brave Ulysses Magazine:

"Lifelong martial artist Joe Harte tells us why the martial arts are so much more than learning to fight; and how anybody can find and benefit from the right training.

To read full interview with Joe Harte, Senior Instructor and long-time student of Patrick Kelly follow the link:

At the marfest....

Though Joe will not be doing a demonstration this year we are hoping he will be doing some taster sessions on our come and try it mats, so come along and meet Joe....

Find out more about Joe Harte here:

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Update - program change for Judo....

Sensei John Pickering is unfortunately no longer able to lead the Judo demonstration.  However Sensei John Simpson  has kindly stepped in to lead a judo demonstration along with Dale Fenwick.

Sensei Simpson is the senior coach at the Lambton Judokwai in Sunderland. He has over 40 years experience in Judo and is currently a 4th dan (BJA). He is a qualified level 2 club coach and senior examiner and kata examinar. He is also a national 'C' referee.


Dale Fenwick, 2nd dan, has taken 7 British National titles plus a Bronze and two Golds at the World Kata championships between 2002 and 2004. 

At the marfest....

At the festival they will give a kata demonstration together and John will run some 'taster' sessions on our 'come and try it' mats....


Traditional Ninjutsu weapons with Bill Patterson…

A ninja was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan who specialized in unorthodox warfare. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination and open combat in certain situations. The ninja used a range of weaponry.

A selection of Ninja weapons:

Bo Staff:
This was an important weapon in the ninja’s arsenal. The ninja’s bo differed from others in that it was hollow. This allowed the ninja to launch a poison tipped dart or small knife out of the open end of the staff by flicking it at great speed, often taking the opponent off guard.

The tanto was not made of the high quality steel that the samurai's sword was but the ninja made up for this by using the tanto as a multi-purpose tool. It could be used to pry open doors, dig holes or small ditches, or it could be thrown like a shuriken. It was also used to cut and stab an opponent.

The Shuriken was simply a flat piece of metal with sharpened points that were thrown at the enemy. It was not originally designed as a killing weapon and was mostly used to distract or deter so the ninja could escape. Although the Shuriken was not intended to kill, it was easily made lethal by dipping the edges in poison.

Shuriken were also designed to hit the opponent then bounce away out of sight. This way a ninja could fool an unsuspecting guard or sentry into believing he had been cut by an invisible swordsman. (One of many mental tricks).

This is a hand held weapon consisting of a length of chain (kusari) with a weight (fundo) connected to each end of the chain. Various sizes and shapes of chain and weight were used as there was no set rule on the construction of these weapons.

Kama is a paired weapon reminiscent of a pair of sickles. They are usually swung in various arcs, crescents etc. All sorts of slashing motions combined with the forward momentum of the ninja caused some devastating damage. The blade of the Kama is roughly around 11-12 inches. The handle is slightly longer. Original sickles had a longer blade and shorter handle.

This is a combination of a sickle (short scythe) and a long chain with a weight attached to the end of it. The sickle was used in a slashing or stabbing motion, as well as used to block and hook opponent’s weapons. By holding the chain portion of the weapon, the sickle could be swung around to get a greater reach with it.
The chain portion of the weapon was most often used for trapping an enemy or his weapon. Once tangled up with the chain, the ninja could finish him off with the sickle. This was a weapon the ninja invented out of farming tools they used.

Koppo stick or shobo:
This is a short, palm held stick used for attacking pressure points. It was attached to the hand via a ring which fitted on the middle finger. There are many variants of this weapon, collectively known as palm sticks and there usage is similar to that of the yawara stick: the principle areas of attack including bony, fleshy and nerve targets such as knuckles, forearms, bridge of nose, shins, stomach, solar plexus, spine, temple, ribs, groin, neck and eyes.

Who is Bill Patterson?
Bill Patterson is a 4th dan in Ninjutsu traditional weapons. He also holds 3rd dan in Battojutsu Ryu. He has trained in martial arts for over 30 years and studies and teaches in Katori Shinto Ryu, Iaido and Battojutsu – all martial arts that use swords and related weapons. He is currently teaching in ninja weapons (including the ones above) plus the katana.

Sensei Patterson has studied under several grand masters: Dr Masaaki Hatsumi, Harunaka Hoshino (Koga Ryu), Takayuki Kubota and Risuke Otake. 

At the marfest…

Sensei Patterson will demonstrating from a range of traditional ninjutsu weapons and sword….

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Jujitsu with Sensei Christine Poole...

What is jujitsu?

Jujitsu is the forerunner of Judo and the inspiration behind Aikido.  Commonly known as the ‘Gentle Art’, Ju-jitsu is a Japanese primarily open-hand system, that utilises throws, chokes, locks and ground fighting as well as strikes and kicks. Dating back to antiquity where it was generally known as ‘Tai Jitsu’ (body art), Jujitsu was taught to Samurai; the system being employed when the warriors lost their weapons on the battlefield or were attacked while being unable to bring their weapons to bear through a surprise attack.

The art has developed into a variety of styles, but all contain the same basic elements and principles, balance, leverage and speed to gain advantage, whereupon strength is applied to complete the technique.  All underpinned by the principle of yielding to the attacking force, then turning it back on the attacker.

As well as empty-hand training, most Ju-jitsu schools also have a degree of weapon training including the sword and staffs, and how to defend against them.

Who is Christine Poole?

Christine holds a 6th dan in jujitsu and is the founder of the British Jujitsu Academy (NE) and runs clubs based in Sunderland. She has over 24 years experience in jujitsu and has worked for many years as a security guard. She has taught jujitsu to hundreds of children and adults. Christine is also an expert in teaching jujitsu to disabled people.

At the Marfest…

Sensei Poole and her students from the academy will be demonstrating their art at the festival as well as providing taster sessions on the ‘come and try it mats’…