Woken up at 6am on a Sunday of all days!! The boys had a friend to stay over last night and were now really keen, to get started on the day ahead. I had booked my two eldest into a pressure point seminar with Grand Master Paul Bowman in Newport City Martial Arts their Martial Arts School.

As a mother of three boys the concept of allowing two of them to learn the skills being taught at the seminar filled me with dread! What was I letting myself in for? I had the image of my boys being shown and encouraged to find and activate said pressure points and being given carte blanche to use this skill as and when they wanted to inflect pain. I was however, thankfully surprised.

My husband had previously attended pressure point seminars in Newport Martial Arts school and had talked to me about how owe inspiring the art was. I was not convinced. It was a world I had no knowledge of and frankly no interest in at all, I begged him to make himself available to take the boys as I did not relish the idea of using my housework day to sit and watch the boys doing something I was not interested in, how would I begin to encourage them and get that last ounce of effort out of them when they were exhausted if I didn’t want to be there myself?

Master Martin and Grand Master Paul Bowman (right)

Master Martin and Grand Master Paul Bowman (right)

Fortunately for me David could not get the time off work, so I found myself sat watching my boys learning am amazing new skill and having my mindset changed entirely. While most attendees were there by choice, I must admit I had to shoe horn my boys into the car to get them to the venue, Sunday is their chill day, so they were not overly keen to spend that free time in a hot sweaty dojo but here I was at 10:00am encouraging them to change while I hoovered and put on a load of washing – I know sad, but it has to be done!

When we arrived, the Dojo was already filling up, great! Nowhere to sit, a room full of people I don’t know, three stroppy boys and I needed to leave soon to take Ieuan swimming.  We sat as everyone started changing and getting ready, I found a few Mum’s I knew and we started chatting.  Master Everton Smith introduced the visiting experts then from behind him he introduced a short, very thin, older man as Grand Master Paul Bowman – great a waste of time and money it was to be then!  I was not convinced that this person would be capable of rendering anyone unconscious let alone show anyone else how to do it.

I was more relaxed about my boys getting hurt but ever the sceptic, sending my boys onto the mat, I waited to be convinced.   I was even more sure than ever now, when the mat filled up that Grand Master Paul Bowman would not be able to control this group; I have been attending this martial arts school for over four years and I know exactly how the pupils act on a daily basis, he was too softly spoken and not imposing enough to get and retain the attention of my boys let alone a whole class.

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To my amazement the second he started talking the room was silent, in fact more than silent it was really eerie; every single person in that room hung on his every word, “I am going to introduce you to a Happy pain”.  Strange way to open I thought and I was still not convinced waiting to have a eureka moment; I think it took three minutes in total, I tried to very first move on my own arm and instantly understood what all the fuss was about – it flipping hurt!

Not like a stub on your toe kind of hurt but that pain when you knock your funny bone that sends your teeth on edge and as a child makes you want a wee – it was that pain.  Now suffering from Multiple Sclerosis I know about nerve pain and this most definitely fell into that category.

After watching a further few moves it became apparent why people had travelled from the New Forest to attend this seminar!  Grand Master Paul Bowman moved seamlessly from verbal explanations to practical demonstrations and invited attendees to ‘give it a go’ while his team of experts provided help and guidance.  It was fantastic to see students just ‘getting it’ after sitting in the dojo so many times while my boys struggled with a certain technique or skill, they were getting it!  But what is this concept of pressure points?

George Dillman describes it as—

The interrelationship between Tuite-Jitsu, (pressure points being struck to produce pain, altered awareness or unconsciousness) and Kyusho-Jitsu (pressure points being touched to release joints for painful manipulation or breaking).

George Dillman | Dillman Karate

George Dillman goes on to describe how each pressure point sets up the next so when activated correctly it can create a snowball effect. I am always keen to see the teaching styles of educators, I hate the teachers who feel the need to screech in order to keep a class in line, at that point you’ve already lost them so you may as well go home.  There was none of this, not once did he raise his voice and for such an unimposing figure with a very soft voice, that to me was amazing, the class simply reacted to his mere presence.

Another pet hate of mine is when educators ‘dumb down’ terms to assist in compliance and build relationships with their students, there was none of this, correct terminology was used for the pressure points and muscle groups on various limbs and parts of the body – I was mellowing, I even raced back from swimming as I didn’t want to miss too much.

During the break I had the opportunity to speak to Grand Master Paul Bowman and I was pleasantly surprised, he seemed to be an entirely genuine person, we talked about how he had developed his skill set and his journey to become a 9th Dan Grand Master, 5th Dan in Weaponry.  He started on his path to Grand Master at the young age of 13 in Harlow in 1964 training in Harlow swimming pool.

He told me about how he knew he wanted to take up karate after watching it on the Dave Allen show on his old black and white TV, he also told me how difficult it had been to find somewhere that held karate classes in Harlow in the 1960s, not like today where you can fall into any number of venues that hold some form of martial arts lessons.

He told me about how the trainer at his time in Harlow was a blue belt, I found that amazing as my two boys taking part today were above that!  This little karate class is where he earned his first Dan. He then moved to Enfield at the age of 11 and at 17 joined a Shotocin karate group, he later visited Japan where he gained a further two Dan gradings in 1987 and 1992.

He then talked in length and with great passion about how he had met George Dillman and this is how he was introduced to pressure points, I was surprised to find out that a Grand Master like Paul Bowman still has lessons from his Master George Dillman even to this day!

He told me how he was so thankful to George Dillman as he was the reason these seminars were run, he was the reason people travelled the UK and Europe teaching this.  He also went on to talk about how all pressure points lie on pathways called meridians each relating to a different organ of the body, this started to make sense of some of the previous conversations I had over heard about Gall Bladder, heart and lung.  Each meridian has an associated element; Earth, Metal, Water, Fire, Wood and each has a polarity either yin or yang.  It is the way that each of these are activated with the right element in the hand that enables the best outcome from the pressure point activation.

With this in mind, (and a little awe struck), I decided to speak to some of the younger students to find out why they had attended and what they felt about the session.  All of the younger students told me that the worst part was the pain but it did not last long and each one said they felt confident enough to use it when they needed to. Ellie Mae felt that the pressure point that made you feel the opposite of what you had been feeling was the best.

Lung 7 – 1.5 thumb widths from the crease of the wrist, in the depression just behind the bony prominence (styloid process) of the radius on the thumb side of the forearm.

Lung 7 – 1.5 thumb widths from the crease of the wrist, in the depression just behind the bony prominence (styloid process) of the radius on the thumb side of the forearm.

Here 1.5 Cun is Chinese for Anatomical Unit (AU) of thumb width.

Gall Bladder 31 – 4 thumb widths from the crease of the hip on the outer edge of the thigh.

Gall Bladder 31 – 4 thumb widths from the crease of the hip on the outer edge of the thigh.

Freya enjoyed the wrist lock.

Heart 6 – 1.5 thumb widths from the crease of the wrist on the inside of the forearms against the Ulnar bone (the thicker bone) and next to the tendon of the flexor carpi ulnaris

Heart 6 – 1.5 thumb widths from the crease of the wrist on the inside of the forearms against the Ulnar bone (the thicker bone) and next to the tendon of the flexor carpi ulnaris

Jorge told me that he enjoyed the technique where he grabbed his partners arm and turned it against them to get out of a sticky situation, Julie had enjoyed the whole, session and felt she had learnt some good self-defence moves – not bad seeing as Julie has only been coming to Martial Arta classes for a month, while Mathuw enjoyed finding,  Lung 5 – found directly on the crease of the forearm along the outside edge – all double Dutch to you too?  Thankfully Grand Master Smith has diagrams of all the pressure points on the wall of the dojo so you can swat up on them!  Marcus, Johnson and Tristyn all said they had found it difficult to find some of the pressure points but had all persevered – great work!!

It was a very hot day and some of our younger students found the last hour really tough going my Tristyn included, it is good practice though for his black belt that his is due to take in July! I expect when I speak to him tomorrow he will be much more positive about the experience.  I was particularly impressed to see the instant effect of stomach 9 + 10, which are located on the side of the neck two thumb widths from the inside edge of the collar bone which made a lot of people shriek out in pain when it was activated correctly.

I was really pleased that everyone I talked to said they would use if and when they needed to not everyday for a laugh with their mates in school and most importantly that they all felt confident with their new skill set.  I was most surprised to find a whole family taking part; Tim, Lauren, Tom and Leon Ingham all decided to take part in the session, Tim told me that as a vet he uses acupuncture on dogs, (Yes it’s a real thing I googled it!), and he wanted a better understanding of pressure points while Lauren had seen this seminar a few times before and was extremely awestruck by Grand Master Paul Bowman, “He’s just fantastic!”.

I took the chance to speak to our own Grand Master Smith around the scepticism at whether activating certain pressure points can in fact cause someone to pass out as I did not see anyone pass out during the session – was it in fact possible?  Grand Master Smith told me about how both George Dillman and Grand Master Paul Bowman had both made him pass out on two separate occasions, Grand Master Paul Bowman cupped his eye and made him instantly blackout while George Dillman had activated the triple warmer 11 + 12 situated on the back of the forearm two thumb widths from the elbow on the outer edge.

Grand Master Smith talked very enthusiastically about this pressure point stating it had the ability to lower someone’s blood pressure by 70% which is why you blackout.  Grand Master Smith stated that when it had been performed on him he felt like he slowly collapsed to the floor in a controlled manner, however other people who attended with him told him he fell straight to the floor!  He concluded it was his blood pressure dropping that made him feel like he had a very controlled collapse as it slowly dropped.

Grand Master Smith indicated that it was Ok though as at George Dillman’s English seminar in 2007 he was presented with his 6th Dan so it was worth the pain – (I must say I would beg to differ but that’s just me!).  Grand Master Smith told me about how activating a pressure point was a fine art; there are over 361 acupressure points in the body commonly used in Chinese acupuncture to assist with quitting smoking, pain management and weight loss to name a few. There are a further 350 “extradinary” points only around 120 points are used pressure point activation, each pressure point needs to be activated in a specific way whether striking or rubbed and in the correct direction to produce the maximum effect.

At times the techniques were uncomfortable yet amazing to watch, seeing a grown man writing on the floor red faced and crying out in pain while Grand Master Paul Bowman stood over him using nothing more than a finger pressure to disable him – wow! My instincts were screaming for me to rush in and help especially when my boys were the students crying out but I regularly heard the trainers reassuring that you have to inflict pain to know you’ve got it right and once you have struck the pressure point you must release your partner, unless you are doing it for real.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was in fact a self defence tool that could save my boys if and when the time comes and while I hope they are never in the situation to need to use this skill, I am very glad they have an understanding of how to activate a pressure point it may be all they need to get away from a bad situation.  I am happy to say that me, ever the sceptic was even convinced of this art.

You may have noticed that I am calling our very own Master Smith, Grand Master Smith that is because at the end of the seminar, Grand Master Paul Bowman shared some fantastic news with the class, that our own Master Smith had successfully passed his 7th Dan and gained the title of Grand Master Smith and a shiny new belt – well done!!!  You really are following Grand Master Paul Bowman’s advice – “Keep training and NEVER give up!” and this fantastic honour being presented with your 7th Dan by Grand Master Paul Bowman makes up for him making you pass out in that previous seminar – I dread to think what you will need to endure when you get to the 8th Dan.