Enjoy the Journey (to Black Belt and Beyond)

What you’re getting in to

Summary of the Summercamp 2015, and a personal realisation of what’s needed to achieve a black belt mindset.

About 1,400 words, 4-7 minutes reading time.

Kali Sikaran International Summercamp Review

The Black Belt mindset and journey at various stages. A group picture of Kali Sikaran practitioners at the summercamp 2015, posing and smiling on the rocks with the sea in the background

Hello.  I wanted to write about my experience at the Kali Sikaran International Summercamp, Strömstad, 5-9 August 2015.

I was going to share how well organised it is, with high level training for everyone, given by world champions and world class martial artists.  How the facilities and catering is top quality (ALWAYS appreciated before, during and after a hard day training), how the staff who run the site are welcoming and accommodating, and of course how the location is truly beautiful, no matter the weather.

I thought about telling the story of how the people at Summercamp are ALL friendly, helpful and approachable, how people going for their examination were putting in countless hours of practice as well as attending the structured classes throughout the day.  How people were helping each other with their examination preparation, regardless of whether they knew each other beforehand or whether they were testing for the same level.

I was going to write about how, even amongst all the activity, there were still opportunities to find some quiet time to yourself, just to watch the birds catching flies as the sun set over the ocean.

Perhaps I could tell you about the BBQ on the rocks and entertainment on the Saturday evening, how the live band and DJ rocked, and how EVERYONE’s dancing was professional and well appreciated (if you don’t know what I mean, you weren’t really there).

I should tell you about what a fantastic and fun atmosphere it is for physical, mental and social growth, both individually and as a group of like-minded people.

But I’m not going to tell you those things.

I know what you’re thinking: what could be more important?

There is one moment in particular that has stuck in my mind as being a true highlight, not only of the week, or this month, or this year, but a real highlight of my martial arts training over the last 12 years.

I realised something that had been staring me in the face for a long time, something I had heard said by other people but never really understood before

“You want to reach a goal? That’s good, but understand why and make sure you enjoy the journey.”

Click here to start your journey online.

Black Belt achievers and Kadua Guros Harry Flexman and Ben Creighton stand with Katulungan Guro Matthew Teasdale, smiling and satisfied with their achievements!At Summercamp in 2015, along with 3 of my Kali Sikaran family, I passed the Kadua Guro examination (Phase VI, red T shirt, the equivalent to Black Belt); there was a special moment of transition from student to instructor during the presentation ceremony, but the realisation dawned on me when I remembered I am now eligible for the red and black instructor logo for trousers and shorts.

Then a memory hit me like a truck.

I instantly had a vivid flashback to the first seminar I ever attended with Punong Guro Johan Skalberg, it was Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 2007.

I had been training in Kali for almost 1 year, and Capoeira and Muay Thai for about 3 years prior to that.  Of course I thought I knew everything then, but you don’t know what you don’t know…

At the end of the seminar everyone was packing up ready to go home, I had noticed the red and black bull logo shin patch and said to PG Skalberg

“cool trousers, how do I get some?”

He replied “ahh, they’re kind of exclusive.”


I left it at that.

It bugged me for a little while afterwards, but I kept on training because it was fun, rewarding and I was getting better.

Maybe things would have been different if PG Skalberg had predicted the future and laid out the exact path before me:

“yeah, sure you can get the cool trousers, but you’ll need to train for at least another 8 years for between 2 and 10 hours per week.

You will lose your job and have to move away to the other end of the country but have to keep training.  

You will try out many other clubs but not find a good one to join, you will have to meet lots of new people, many of whom you won’t like and some of whom will be blundering oafs who injure you during training.  

You will have to sacrifice evenings and weekends to train with and teach other people who don’t love it as much as you do.  Some of them will give up easily, even after you’ve given your best effort. 

For more than 2 years you will only have one dedicated training partner, but he will help you learn by showing up every time, in the dark, in the rain and snow, training in a cold damp garage lit by paraffin lamps, or in a poorly lit car park at night time. 

You will have to travel across the UK and Europe to get the training you know you need, this will cost you time, energy and money that sometimes it feels like you don’t have. 

You will need a spouse who is supportive and understanding as to why you are away or busy, or tired or injured. 

They will need to put up with you talking about it all the time as you work things out for yourself. 

Make sure you appreciate them for doing this.

You will need to put yourself in training and sparring situations where you are out-skilled and will not win every time. 

It will hurt your body and your pride, but you must carry on anyway.

You will sustain many injuries: black eyes, bloody nose, bruised fingers, fractured ribs, swollen forearms and shins, ankle and hip pain, hyper extended elbows and wrists, mild concussion and partial knock outs. 

Sometimes you will train so hard you want to throw up, but the worst part will be that you can’t throw up, and you have to carry on anyway.

You will need to open your own club, learn how to advertise, build a website and run the finances, deal with people who want to learn for the wrong reasons.  

This will also cost you time, energy and money that sometimes you won’t have. 

There will be times at the start when no one shows up and you are sitting in a room on your own, you could be at home on the sofa watching TV, but you are there anyway. 

Use these moments to think how to do it better next time.

Still want the cool trousers?”

Let me guess, you’re thinking “that path sounds insane and impossible!”

You’re absolutely right!  And if you had asked me in 2007, I would have agreed with you!

Hold on though.  There’s another way to think about it.

The good news is: whichever way the coin lands, there’s a flip side.

Continuing the imaginary speech…


Persist, and you will find like-minded people who will appreciate your time and effort.

You will start to see the light of understanding in their eyes and joy on their faces when they improve. 

This might not matter now, but it will do.

You will meet new people who think like you, these people who you don’t know now will become your friends, and some of them will become your very best friends.

You will become more effective and satisfied in all areas of your everyday life, and inspire and help others directly to improve their lives.

You will be able to defend your friend when he needs it the most, and it will literally




Still want the cool trousers?”

Hell yes.

Right now, I would not change a thing, except for START SOONER!

For every setback I can think of, I remember the success afterwards more clearly.

For every plateau and frustration in my own training, I focus on the breakthrough that inevitably followed.

For every injury, I remember what it taught me about my body, how I can get stronger or train smarter.

Every failure is a lesson if you choose it to be.

This is what “enjoy the journey” means to me, and although I only really realised it recently, it will stay with me now and in the future.

Also, now I’ve earned that small token, even though it is only another step along the journey, I think I’m starting to understand why the cool trousers are kind of exclusive…

Click here to start your journey with us in Bath

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A Flexman · 17th November 2018 at 1:47 am

Thank you, Harry. Reading this was another ‘swell with pride moment ‘ for me, and as a dad now, you’ll start to experience these with Espen as he grows and changes. It’s a lovely feeling.
Love Arl xxxxx

    harry · 20th November 2018 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you!
    It was a good moment for me which I hope to encourage in many others

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