Kamikaze Pro: Dojo Blog #13

kpro7So after missing two weeks of training, I was finally able to rejoin the guys and girl at the Kamikaze Pro Dojo this past Wednesday. It was my first time at the new venue, Budokan Martial Arts Centre. I was unable to make the first two sessions after the day and venue change because my change of availability at work takes some time to come into effect. I was very happy to be back on the horse again.

I was impressed with the new space. It doesn’t have a running track outside which is a downer, but the improvements in other areas make it worthwhile. In the big room where we spent the majority of our time, the entire room is padded. That made it easy for all of us to work on various techniques without having to worry about needing a mat at hand. We still had a crash mat to work on some bumps, but we didn’t depend on it.

We started out in the smaller room next door waiting for a karate class to finish. In there we went through various rolling sequences, which proved a good opportunity for me to shake off some cobwebs and get back into the swing of things. There were a few new people, which is always cool to see. They seemed to really enjoy themselves too so I’m expecting to see them again next time. Considering the change of location, the numbers were high. I don’t think I’ve seen so many people at training before. Since my time away, a couple of the younger lads have really come on leaps and bounds. It’s crazy what a difference two days can make.

After going through the rolls, we moved into the big room and ran through some bumps on the crash mat (flip bumps and running sentons) before breaking off into two groups. This was another big step up for me. Myself and a couple of other inexperienced guys were put together with four of the best in the school to work on some amazing moves. We put together a chain (similarly to how we did with Pete at my last training session two weeks before) and learned some adventurous stuff. I know for those guys this was probably child’s play but for me it was a big challenge.

I stuttered several times while trying to run through the chain wrestling but got more into it when we moved onto the really fun stuff. We all got to practice a crucifix pin and a code red, which was amazingly fun. I am so glad to be doing this kind of stuff. It was probably the best time I’d had in weeks. That may sound sad, but doing a code red makes you feel like a legend, even if the other guy is doing practically all of the work.

It was good to see Ryan and James again, good to see all the other old faces and a few new ones. I think my progress is coming along steadily, and the sessions seem to be getting more fun and productive as the weeks go on. Unfortunately I won’t be there this coming Wednesday as I have a film project I need to attend to but I will be looking forward to getting straight back down to business the week after.

You know the drill. If you want to do some pro wrestling training and you live in or around Birmingham, you really have no excuse not to search Kamikaze Pro on Facebook. The new location is extremely central now and the trainers are top notch. Be sure to check back in two weeks for another update on my journey from mark to money.

Thanks for reading,

Craig [Editor]

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Kamikaze Pro: Project K

IMG_0284The Cadbury Club in Bournville, Birmingham

Kamikaze Pro – Project K
The Cadbury Club, Bournville
Saturday 8th March 2014

Stop crying about WWE and support the top quality wrestling on your own doorstep

I’m not a big expert on British wrestling, past or present. I’m one of those guys who loved WWE as a kid, did so as a teen and still do as an adult. When it comes to independent wrestling, watching Ring of Honor online very occasionally is about as deep as I go. However, I started checking out a few shows in my local area for the first time around a year ago. What I saw was entertaining in that sort of “not bad for a fiver” type of way. I can’t say that my first impression was good.

On Saturday, my outlook was completely changed. After being invited to cover a Kamikaze Pro event in Birmingham, I realised what is available practically around the corner – a legitimate wresting product. It was a small distance for me to travel and tremendously worth it. The quality of wrestling on show truly was eye-opening. The effort put in by everyone involved seemed to really pay off because every single person there seemed to have a good time. It would be hard not to recommend this promotion to any wrestling fan. If you live in the Midlands area, make the trip to one of their shows. You can find out more about what’s on offer from Kamikaze Pro here. Now, down to the review. I loved every match on the card. I thought the performances were exhilarating from start to finish. Everybody in the crowd (including me and my buddy) laughed, cheered and gasped throughout. The night had everything I’d ask for from a wrestling show. Let’s take a look at the line-up.

T-Bone v Justin Sysum

Despite not having all the glitz of a “big time” WWE show, it didn’t take long for this to feel like the real deal. These two guys really set the tone of the evening with a great opening match. The crowd were hot and it really felt like an intimate experience that we in the audience were lucky to be a part of. T-Bone and Justin aren’t vanilla midgets, yet they still managed to bounce around that ring like it was Mexico City in 1995. T-Bone left after his hard fought victory, allowing Marshall X to jump Sysum at his weakest. The GM came out and there will now be a match between the two at the next Kamikaze Pro event on March 30th. It was a great way to get the crowd going, and they didn’t shut up for the rest of the night.

Battle Squad:Awesome v The Bhangra Knights

These two teams had probably the most entertaining match of the night. I didn’t know anything about either of them going in, and I was still more engaged with them than I am with most teams on the WWE roster. I loved the fact that they both had clear gimmicks and cool matching ring gear, and the in-ring work was top notch. It was fast paced and frantic, but also incredibly comedic at times. The four guys worked hard and pulled out some incredible solo and tag team manoeuvres. At the same time, they seemed to have a whole lot of fun entertaining the crowd. We were all cracking up, and they were all smiling. It was just a great match to be around for. The Bhangra Nights picked up the win in this competitive face-versus-face battle. I especially hope to see these guys again!

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International star Ciampa dissing Wales and Eddie Dennis

Tommaso Ciampa(c) v Eddie Dennis (for the ROH Television Championship)

This was an incredible experience! I will admit that the main reason I wanted to attend the show was to see Ciampa. I did not expect his opponent (whom I didn’t know of going in) to be so amazing! He played the heel so well, and made the whole match so entertaining for us in the crowd. He played off of the chants and the shouts. He reacted with flawless timing and execution. When it came to the in-ring activity itself, both guys delivered a high class encounter. It was made all the more special when the General Manager of the promotion came out to announce – prior to the action – that the title belt would be on the line. That added a nice bit of prestige to what was an excellent match. Ciampa retained the title, but he worked hard to make his Welsh counter-part look good. The two of them had a great chemistry and made some big laughs before the physicality kicked off. When it did, they both had us all on the edge of our seats throughout.

Stixx v Van Damage

I can’t honestly say that I remember a lot about this match. I was on such a high after seeing a fantastic first half of action. After a short cigarette and hot dog interval, it was back coming thick and fast. With the anticipation building for Trent Barreta, this one kind of passed me by. That shouldn’t reflect on the guys themselves because they did both do a good job. I was just not overly engaged with what they were doing – an unfortunate position to be in perhaps. Stixx picked up the win over the hometown guy and drew some good heat.

Ryan Smile(c) v Robbie X (for the Kamikaze Pro Championship)

This was my first time seeing Ryan Smile live, but I had encountered him once before. He was one of two guys on the card (along with Pete Dunne) who ran a training session I attended a while ago. It goes without saying that after the ordeal I couldn’t walk – I literally hobbled around the office – for a week and decided that I probably belong on this side of the barricade. I saw enough in that three hours to know that he was going to be entertaining, and he really was.

These two guys put on a high-octane thrill ride of a match. Smile picked up some real heat for his intense reactions to the crowd’s chanting and towards his opponent. He really did look the part of Champion. Despite Robbie looking every bit a credible contender, he was eventually beaten by Smile. The victorious high-flyer was then greeted by the General Manager and told that he will defend his title at the next event against the powerhouse Valkabious – he subsequently cut an intense and defiant promo. I was impressed with everything he did.

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The impressive former WWE Superstar Trent Barreta

Trent Barreta v Pete Dunne

In a non-stop main event, former WWE superstar Trent Barreta clashed with ‘Dynamite’ Pete Dunne. Dynamite is big on the British scene and has wrestled internationally to a lot of success. He is well respected and it was easy to see why. It was cool to see him compete live. I thought he was a sound guy when he trained at that session, so I was pleased to see him put on such a good performance. It was even cooler to see him get the win. That was a nice touch by Trent and the promoters. It made for a pleasing end to a brilliant night’s entertainment.

If you’re in the UK and you hate the “PG era” you should take a look around you and see what great wrestling you might find at a local level. If you’re from Birmingham or the surrounding areas, you should definitely look at Kamikaze Pro. They have a roster of tremendous British talent and regularly bring over some of the best stars from the international scene. If you want real top quality wrestling for a worthy price, you can have it. Stop crying out for the Attitude Era to return, and get into something you can enjoy!

Thanks for reading, and take a look at Kamikaze Pro on Facebook!

Craig

Birmingham 2022: The Commentators

stanscafe

The Commentators – Source: Capsule

Here is another piece I wrote for the Discovery brochure, as part of the Birmingham 2022 project, to celebrate the opening of The New Library. Check it out, and check out the artists. You can also get the brochure at most information and cultural points in the city. All of these pieces, and many more are in there. Thanks for your interest.

Stan’s Cafe
The Commentators

The Commentators, brought to you by theatrical provocateurs and internationally renowned performance company Stan’s Cafe, will be in residence to carefully document everything they see, from the vital, to the peculiar, or the mundane. Which books are being borrowed? What is the weather like on the rooftop terrace? Look at the queues for the large print romances! If you drop in and check out some of the installations, you could even bump into them, but be careful what you do as you could provide them with some amusing material for their live show!

After previously commentating on a mammoth twenty-four hour Scalextric in 2009, Artistic Director James Yarker and Associate Director Craig Stephens went on to harness their unquenchable enthusiasm and keen observational skills to create marathon commentaries on everyday life. Now, you could be a part of one of their renowned shows. These two sheepskin fanatics will be happy to bring some audible colour to all that you see.

They will also be at the New Library of Birmingham VIP opening to webcast descriptions of the glitzy event, and will stay through the first three days of public access. To hear more and get an idea of what to expect, simply check out their work here.

Craig

Chameleon Recordings: Brum Town Bad Boyz

bigdog

@bigdogyogo – Source: Twitter

This is the pre-release review for Big Dog Yogo’s upcoming single ‘Brum Town Bad Boyz’ released on Chameleon Recordings – If you like what you read here, get it on iTunes, AmazonMP3, Spotify, etc on 20th September 2013.

Brum Town Bad Boyz

Fresh out of the thriving Rap scene emerging in the second city, Big Dog Yogo is ready to unleash his latest track on you. Taking clear influences from hip hop, grime and trap, and with an unmistakably UK feel, Brum Town Bad Boyz is set to be the new soundtrack to the city. While extensively sharp and polished, it retains a raw and violent atmosphere. But when it comes right down to it, this tune is about Brum pride.

Big Dog’s not alone on this one. Fellow Smethwick native Bomma B adds more of a grime orientated twist to this progressive UK trap sound with his distinctive flow. Yogo’s trademark catchy style and pitch perfect delivery blend well with that grime approach. The pair of them spit menacing and violent venom, while still managing to create a feel good vibe for the streets.

The beat has a certain intensity that is hard to describe. It gets you amped up, but it has a slightly haunting edge. The production is slick and tight. The bars are gritty and dark, but not it’s not a comedown tune. It’s the finished article, a big sound gangster rap anthem with identifiably UK genetics. It’s a tune to be proud of, a sign of things to come from the buzzing UK scene, and it’s a unique symbol.

Also watch out for Big Dog’s final free mixtape dropping on Grime Blog, along with the official Brum Town Bad Boyz music video on P110 on the same day, September 20th.

Follow Chameleon Recordings:

http://facebook.com/chameleonstudios
http://youtube.com/user/chameleonstudiostv
@chameleonmojoe

Craig

Keep The Faith

So, it’s been a while but here is another feature I wrote for Area Culture Guide. It’s about Northern Soul, something very close to my heart. As you may know, I’ve been brought up through the soul music scene, it’s a big deal in our family and I once attempted failed to make a documentary about it. Here is my attempt at a summary of it’s magic. Check it out here in all it’s glory, or read on below. Enjoy.

brian cannon northern soul project 8Northern soul collection of 2012 – Source: Brian Cannon

Keep the Faith

Through countless trends, genres and ideas, spanning multiple decades, under the banner of a single clenched fist, has survived one of this country’s most organic and vibrant subcultures: Northern Soul. It’s distinctive and enduring appeal is of course its unique soundtrack. Based on variations of black American soul, its deep roots lie in gospel and blues. However, the particular records played at traditional Northern Soul events are and always have been those of the so-called failures of the 1960s Tamla Motown sound.

DJs and collectors alike sought out only the rarest records that were released in limited numbers. Although a lot of those beloved artists were influenced by the Motown scene, mainstream soul itself was and still is shunned by the purists of the movement. The sound itself is entrenched in deep rambling bass, hectic and fast paced drum patterns and frantic horns. In a similar vein to jazz, it’s an expression so explosive and emotional in it’s delivery that it has the power to cast frenzy over a dancehall.

It all began in the North of England at The Twisted Wheel in Manchester with local businessmen Ivor and Phil Abadi who promoted all-night parties and booked DJ Roger Eagle, a collector of American jazz and blues records. This was the birth of the famous all-nighters. From this initial platform, the scene grew in popularity and events for the day, evening and all night starting sprouting up from nowhere in towns across the North and the Midlands.

The Torch in Stoke-on-Trent, Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca became notorious hotspots for young people with limitless energy wanting to dance all night to tunes they could scarcely hear elsewhere. The dancers’ appetite for the soul was enhanced by widespread use of the drug amphetamines (commonly known as speed) Midlands DJ ‘Pem’ recounted how “there was always a lot of drug use” and insisted “It’s still there on the scene at the moment, just not as much”

But this story is not quite as vice as it may initially sound. Pem recalls the Midlands scene in it’s heyday as being “unique” and insisted “none of the clubs ever sold alcohol. The guys and the girls never went to meet a partner. They just purely went to the venues for the music” This is quite the contrast to what you would find on almost every high street of every town or city in the country on a Friday night. It was a group of people simply coming together to appreciate music.

Largely unknown American soul artists became idols on the back of ongoing plays from DJs like Russ Winstanley and Ian Levine. Mostly known in the scene for only a few songs, artists like Chuck Wood, Dobie Gray, Jimmy Radcliffe and Frank Wilson were often unbeknownst to the fact that they were forming the bedrock of a musical community across the Atlantic.

The modern day state of the northern soul scene is one which polarizes opinion. It has its pros and cons. Pem thinks “the northern soul scene has got very political over the last ten years. A lot of people just want to make money” On the other hand, many of its compatriots now believe it to be thriving more than ever. With most of its generation no longer shackled by parenthood with children having left home, the majority of Northern Soul fanatics are now free to dedicate themselves to the music once more, and that’s something they do loyally.

They spend hard earned money collecting vinyls, they spend hard earned money going to shows and to festivals, and they spend all of their energy on the dance floor any chance they get. The pressing question on the lips of the scene’s elders is the future. What will come of this historic musical community that is so engrained in British culture, music and fashion? Pem worries about what will come of the huge array of records he owns: “’I’ve got probably £50,000 worth of records and who will buy them when we are gone? It’s not a young people scene”

There are always one or two young people dotted around at shows, but it’s never a large percentage. Go to a festival with 2,000 people and you may see 50 ‘young’ people. This is worrying for those who have so much passion for the music of their youth, and for the young people who are embracing the subculture. Pem thinks that those select few may keep it alive somewhat, but is not wildly optimistic about the chances of Northern Soul continuing to thrive in the coming decades: “I think it will fade with our generation. I think it will become very obscure and very underground” In a sombre tone, he tells me “It would be nice to think it would live on and the records would go somewhere, but I really don’t think it will survive”

It is hard to predict how the future of Northern Soul will pan out, but the influence it had on a generation will never be forgotten. Its legacy may be fading, or it may be thriving. It depends who you ask. One thing is certain. There will always be a few die-hards keeping the faith. You can still hear it’s grand bellowing at the Wigan Athletic football stadium, where it greets the players on match day before kickoff. You can still see its influence in our fashions. You can hear it’s inspiration in the music of artists like Duffy, Plan B and Adele. It’s memory has yet to completely disappear, but will that be the case for much longer? Is one of Britain’s most iconic youth cultures soon to become a permanent thing of the past?

If you want to see for yourself, you should check out Halesowen Soul Club on the second Friday of every month, at Halesowen Members Club on the Hagley Road, B63 4RH. It’s a great example of what’s going on in small communities all over the Midlands, and it’s only £3 on the door. If you’re looking for something a tad bigger, get down to The Hub on Kent Street, Birmingham, B5 6RD on Friday 2nd August. It’s a 1,400 capacity club with top DJs including Russ Winstanley himself. You can call 07581225027 for more information. It’s £6 on the door, with £4 advance tickets. Go to www.soul-source.co.uk to find out everything that’s going on in your area.

Thanks for reading. I know most of my audience is mostly made up of wrestling fans and this is a change of pace, but you know, it’s wrestling with a pinch of other. I hope you enjoyed the piece nonetheless. While you’re on the interwebs, why not go and find out some more about northern soul music. Maybe you will like it. There are probably some legends near you who are addicted to it. Believe me, they are everywhere. Thanks for reading anyway.

Craig

The Natural Power of Time and Cultural Integration

The following is a very rough draft for an article/idea on future gazing. It’s part of my work for the Birmingham 2022 project. I will be transforming these predictions and opinions into poetry for the publication, and a more articulate version of this will probably appear too. I hope you like it. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

The Natural Power of Time and Cultural Integration

birmingham

Birmingham – Source: http://www.birminghamnewsroom.com

Birmingham is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the whole of the UK. It has the highest population of any district in the country, with over a million inhabitants. The ‘Second City’ also has the highest percentage of non-white occupants in any city. Research conducted by the University of Manchester forecasts that by 2024, Birmingham will become the nation’s second ‘plural city’ where no ethnicity forms a majority.

This mixture of a variety of races, religions and creeds has given birth to a vibrant, diverse community. This community is the foundation for an artistic backdrop, which is sometimes hidden by clouds of negativity. This great, historic city and its current inhabitants (and all of their respective roots) come together to make Birmingham one of the most exciting places to be in the country. Its infrastructure, its business and its educational institutions make it a big player. Its arts and culture give it its true character and identity.

Modern day Birmingham does have its problems. If you believe the media, it’s a year or two away from Armageddon. There are areas with very high crime rates. Gun and knife offences aren’t a thing of legend. Unemployment is an issue. In March 2013, The Office of National Statistics revealed that Birmingham’s Ladywood constituency has the highest percentage of benefit claimants in the whole country, and it wasn’t alone at the top of the list. Hodge Hill came in second.

For young people growing up in the urban areas that surround the city centre, it’s often difficult to escape the everyday problems and drama that take over their communities. The racial and religious differences that exist in Birmingham are often over-hyped and used to distract the people at the bottom from the crucial issues, and divide them. The riots of summer 2011 served as a stark reminder that there is frustration and aggression in the streets of multi-cultural Britain. People are, and will increasingly become more aware of the real divide. A divide in class.

Through all of the negativity, there still has always existed a sense of creativity. A sometimes dark city is given light by performers and artists of all variations. Some of the most famous musicians in the world hail from Birmingham. The roots of heavy metal were developed here. Reggae music inspired by the West Indian population has evolved here. The Irish population gave us its music and traditions, and its mark is still left here in places like The Irish Centre in Digbeth.  Asian culture and music is huge here. Hip-hop, jazz, soul and blues are still prevalent here. Its art, literature and theatre are renowned nationwide. The city is home to some of the most impressive architecture and most famous performance arenas in the country. There is always something going on in Birmingham.

As for the future of Birmingham, I expect more of the same. I see Birmingham in 2022 as a place of colour, vibrancy and life. I expect to see a population more in tune with each other, more united, and more creative. Through artistic expression, I expect to see the people come together more often in celebration and protest. I predict celebrations of the city’s unique roots and styles. I predict protests condemning and holding to account, the powers that be. There may be violence, there may be riots. There is sure to be a lot of creation and a lot of expression. I hope there will be unity. It’s unnatural for human beings not to come together and embrace their unique differences. I don’t see that kind of mindset continuing into the progressive future I expect to find myself in. That is my idealistic vision for Birmingham in 2022.

The Who – Quadrophenia

This is an article I wrote for the May 2013 edition of Area Culture Guide, in co-operation with Fused Magazine. You can pick it up from most venues, bars and cultural areas around Birmingham for free. Check it out! I hope you enjoy the article.

modsThe Who @ LG Arena, Birmingham (Friday 28th June 2013)
Tickets are £60, £65 & £70 (plus booking & transaction fees)

 This summer marks a very historic gig for one of the world’s most famous bands, The Who. On their UK tour, they will perform their iconic 1973 double album Quadrophenia in its entirety, along with some other classic anthems. This tour follows on from a hugely successful tour of North America. Demand is always high for the band that defined its generation.

 The Quadrophenia album influenced every avenue of British culture and its legacy is still visibly marked on our country’s style, art, and fashion. From music legends like Paul Weller to Olympic heroes like Bradley Wiggins, many notable people have been inspired by this album. Rolling Stone described it as one of the band’s “boldest and most fully realized albums” – It was critically acclaimed and reached #2 on the UK album chart.

 Directed by frontman Roger Daltrey, the new concert version of Quadrophenia pays homage to the album, while experimenting with vivid, powerful imagery projected on an array of massive screens. This invigoration of the senses is designed to compliment and enhance the musical content on display. See Roger, Pete Townsend and the rest of the band as they dazzle the LG Arena on June 28th.

 Tickets are available at The Ticket Factory on www.theticketfactory.com or 0844 338 8000. Follow the band on Twitter @TheWho. For more information on the LG Arena, head to http://www.lgarena.co.uk or call them on 01217804141.0