A guide to training in parks
Training in open spaces can be a real joy and it is great to get done fresh air. Even if you have a big enough garden, a change of scenery can be beneficial. However, there a number of things to look out for. Parks and open spaces like national parks or forests are considered public property and are free to be used by all (within reason). Please, be mindful of the following:
Be mindful of other park users, some can be a nuisance.
Be mindful that other people might look at you in a funny way or make comments. Ignore them.
Be mindful of your surroundings and care over not to be a public nuisance.
Be mindful of local residents.
Loud music, you might like your music, others might not share your passion.
Keep an eye on your belongings and if possible, travel light.
Take your litter with you when you leave.
So long as you keep these factors in mind, you shouldn't get any hassle or the police getting involved. Nobody has right of way, but it is courtesy to give way. I have heard cases where joggers have asked mothers with pushchairs to move out the way. This kind of behaviour is not acceptable. Since they are more mobile, it should be them that make way.
Photography and filming
You can do both, but make sure there are no children or other people in your shots. We sadly now live in time when people can get very sensitive and politically correct over small things. From my experience in street photography, I know I am free to take what pictures I like, but I do respect people's wishes. If it helps, offer to show them the shots and delete them. So therefore, no hard feelings or misunderstandings. Don't get bullied by other members of the public or residents. The flip side to this is that some people don't care and will end up in your shots. That means you will have to retake those shots.
Everybody is fascinated by them. This is one area we as martial artists must be vigilant on. Training with weapons is fun and exciting, but we need to be mindful of the following:
Weapons can be dangerous, for that reason, please only take wooden sabre, swords or a pole.
Mind where that blade goes and work out how much space you need.
Make sure that you are insured, if you're not, please speak to your instructor.
Keep an eye on your belongings. Thefts do occur, dogs can get curious and children feel entitled to touch.
Always keep your weapons in a suitable case.
So why should we not take metal weapons? Well it is down to safety and keeping the peace. Over the past 20 years, there has been an increase in knife crimes. The law states that you may not carry knives longer than 3 inches. Some styles do have dagger forms and Wing Chun uses paired butterfly knives which are about 12 inches long. However, you are responsible for your belongings and your actions. A metal sword would be classed as an offensive weapon*. The court will decide on whether you have a good reason to carry one. Samurai swords can be brought quite cheaply** and have been used to harm people. For that reason, bladed weapons are not permitted to be used or carried in public. Unless you have good reason to. Whilst we don't use samurai swords in Taiji, the general public can't tell the difference. People can get sensitive and call the police. Please don't give them the excuse. I've known people who had the police called and one of them for practicing on their front drive (it's private property) and I myself have had the police called on me. Although I feel it was more racially motivated than me being an actual nuisance or a danger to the public. But martial artists aren't the only ones that attract attention. Somebody I know who enjoys fishing gets questioned regarding their right to fish. Remember, that not everybody is capable of informed opinions. Calling out the police is a waste of police time and not to mention taxpayer's money. They could have been dealing with a real emergency, not a somebody doing Taiji.
Another thing on weapons and martial arts, is down to historical and cultural context***. So to a lot of people, you could be viewed as interesting or dangerous. So please don't give people the reason to doubt or fear you. Furthermore, don't do anything that may result in giving your art a negative impression. We don't want to be in the situation where we can only train indoors or in clubs. We don't want Taiji or Chinese martial arts to end up like this. It is up to us to give martial arts the positive impression it deserves.
If you are in need of a wooden sword, try Tigersden.
Thank you for reading my blog.
*It is not illegal to own a metal sword as a martial artist or collector. They should only use used to demonstrate your art.
**A real handmade Japanese sword can cost you as much as a deposit for a house or more. For this reason, Japanese swords are mainly brought buy legitimate martial artists and collectors. For the rest of us, a good quality sword can cost between £200 up. Some are live, most are semi-sharp or unsharpened.
***This blog article is about training outdoors in the UK. Other countries have different laws and attitudes to swords and martial arts. Please exercise common sense. The police in other countries may also be less understanding and professional than police in the UK.
Selling, buying & carrying knives.
Guns, knives, swords and other offensive weapons: UK border control. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/import-controls-on-offensive-weapons#importing-knives-swords-and-other-offensive-weapons-into-the-uk
Knives and offensive weapons information.
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