Monday, 12 June 2017

Karate Training for 2nd Dan

At the moment I am training for my second dan karate grading. I passed what we call a 'pre-dan' in March - this is actually the same test (at a lower intensity) but designed to offer guidance on areas to practice and focus the mind for the main test in the future. I passed this in March 2017 and have been working towards the main grading since.

For the grading I look at three main areas to work on - firstly technique. As a student of two very different styles of karate I need to really hook physically and mentally into my main style (Shukokai) and think about stance, kicks, technique names, many of which are different between the two styles. I practice my three combinations (groups of techniques combined together each to work a key area e.g. stance, stamina or kicking ability) which are at the start of the grading and designed deliberately to tire, sapping arms and legs right from the off. My aim however is not to use them as a fitness aid but rather to focus on them as techniques to ensure they are there in the 'databank' and my muscle memory.

I also blast through all 13 kata I am required to know for this level each day. In the build up I tend to do six or seven per day but in the fortnight before I cover them all every day. As I'm a 'rusher' (i.e. I go too fast in gradings) I practice at around 50% speed to get the feel for going slower but work at full strength, almost in dynamic tension style. I go through the kata's from first to last but never go on to the next until the previous one is correct. Can sometimes take four or five false starts especially on the later more complex forms.

Fitness - this is a gruelling two hour thirty minute plus muscle blast culminating in (for black belts at least) free form sparring with all other people grading (sometimes eight or ten bouts in total). I therefore focus most on fitness for this kind of grading. I'm currently running most days (which is the most time efficient way I find of really banking some stamina) and of course am pushing up the intensity of dojo sessions for myself as well. I am in the fortunate position of having built up quite effectively for the March pre-dan so since then I've been in maintenance mode rather than killing myself to build overall fitness - eight mile runs are no issue at the moment and hopefully I've done enough.

As I'm now 46 and 26 years into karate training I'm finding that recovery after training and more specifically keeping focus during an intense session can be an issue. Over the years I've tried a number of strategies and for this kind of grading event I go for a carry meal around three hours pre-grading. Lots of hydration (just water) during and possibly a chocolate bar to keep going around 2/3 of the way through.

Obviously whilst this is going on I am also teaching four karate classes a week and holding down a full time job running my own business - next 3rd Dan in 12 months !!!

The Importance of your Medical Insurance renewal documentation

I have just uploaded the latest edition of my 'weekly' (haha) podcast and one of the subjects covered is the importance of medical insurance renewals.

Listen to the podcast ( then return to read on.

I wanted to cover this subject here in a more general and customer focused way because firstly the audio format doesn't suit a longer discussion and secondly the more I thought about this subject the more important I realised the issue was. Hopefully what I am about to cover will apply equally to both company and personal clients and also be of interest to my professional introducers as well (whose issues on this subject are the primary focus of the above podcast).

First, Private Medical Insurance PMI) 101 :

PMI is an annually renewable general insurance product just like (although I use those words advisedly) car insurance or house and contents. In other words the insurer sends out a new (usually higher) price each year taking into account a number of pricing factors including but not limited to age of the customer(s), changes to the product, where you live, how many claims you've made, do you have an excess and so forth.

So to reiterate, every year just before the renewal the insurer sends out the terms they would like you to accept for the following twelve months. Simple right ? Well you'd hope so but not necessarily.

Firstly insurers sometimes make mistakes. I have several clients who, if not for my intervention would never have received new terms. The insurers (and this is a guesstimate based on personal experience over 24 years) in general will miss, that is fail to issue, around one in every sixty or seventy renewals. So with this scenario the price goes up (according to all of those factors above) but no one tells the client, he or she or they usually notices at some point when a new and unexpected direct debit amount appears on their banking app or statement. This is pure mechanical error and easy to rectify with a diary system. Most brokers, certainly specialists in this area of insurance will have one for their clients (I certainly do).

At this stage I would strongly suggest that any client who is direct with an insurer and not currently using an intermediary like me should do so ASAP. There are two reasons for this. Firstly to avoid not getting the renewal as outlined above - I dread to think how many direct renewals go missing en route to direct clients. But importantly if you only work with one insurer you do not know if you have the right plan at the right price - it really is vital to get professional independent advice in one of the most complex insurance product areas.

Another problem is that of intermediary routing. This (in addition to having a solid diary system) is where I can really add value for my introducer partners. There is a vast tranche of PMI business out there much of it with Aviva and Vitality Health (for historical reasons I won't bore you with) but also BUPA and AXA PPP where the original broker has set up a plan but neglected to ask the insurer to route all documents via the broker. This is where I find a load of problems building up over time.

Think of the PMI insurers who have millions of customers. Some are direct, some via IFA's, some via general brokers some via healthcare specialist brokers. In some cases insurers allow different routing of documents for some types (e.g. renewals) but not others (member certificates). Some just deal with brokers, others not at all. Some clients might have one family member on a group plan with one insurer and others on a personal plan with a different insurer. With all of these splintered outputs it is inevitable that even if the insurer is supposed to send documents to the broker not the client they make mistakes - specialist brokers tend to have better relationships and process in place to mitigate against incorrect routing of renewals and it is a massive reason why specialists can pick up business from IFA's and a big selling point for me in working with my IFA's. As an example Vitality Health have tick boxes on their application form covering routing of documentation out-put but if you leave this section blank when you submit a case then it all, automatically, goes direct to the client. I lose count of how many introducers have had issues with renewals going direct and clients cutting them out of the process. It's an issue easily resolved with a knowledge of Vitality's process.

Lastly timing, theoretically most insurers will say that renewals are issued automatically between four and six weeks prior to renewal. This however can vary based usually on how busy insurers are. Even if the process is automated (which it usually is with the bigger insurers) there are always going to be backlogs at busy times and over the Summer due to holidays. My advice to clients is to consider prepping for renewal no later than three weeks before the due date - this gives us bags of time (even on larger complex SME cases) to receive terms, review the market, meet to make decisions and proceed. Also bear in mind that we can, if required, backdate any changes up to 30 days - time is therefore never as pressing as the renewal sales consultant at the insurer might insist, however shrilly.

I would lastly point out that it is amazing how many cases, even those coming from insurers with an automated process, arrive late when there is a bigger than expected increase. There are I suspect two reasons. Firstly if there are a number of claims on a case it is likely that a manual intervention from the risk/underwriters might be required to establish a final price - that seems fair. However I do wonder if sometimes these larger increases are also held back a little longer so the client doesn't have quite so long to look at alternative options - a little less fair but (insurers might argue) it could be reasonable business practice.

Either way - be aware of your renewal date and beware - make sure it arrives either from the insurer or broker around a month before the renewal is usual - so either put a diary note in your phone/computer or contact me and I will sort it all for you !

Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant
07792 075748

EDC Update for June 2017

Here's a photo taken just now of my current EDC :

So we have the following as of today :
  • Trusty Iphone 7 Plus in a Spigen 'Rugged Armour' case (no matter how rich you are, you still only have an iPhone - must be the best device in the world).
  • Apple Airpods
  • Credit Card sized leather wallet (£ 9.99 from a garden centre !)
  • Paracord bracelet with fishing line and firestarter
  • Victorinox 'Spartan' knife - compact and tidy, really good to have on hand
  • Leatherman Wave - actually illegal for carry/outdoor use in the UK without good reason (i.e. work) as it has a locking blade so when out and about I carry the Spartan.
  • House and Car key on a 'Fossil' leather strap -  belt loop hanging 
  • Apple Watch V1.0 for training, notification and of course - telling the time
  • Casio G-Shock G-SHOCK Men's Watch GW-7900-1ER - recent addition to the team. Wear this in rotation with the Apple Watch - like it on longer runs as the digits are easier to see when in motion. Good stop watch and light plus its solar powered. Suspect it might stop a bullet - it's that chunky !
  • Lastly, Fitbit Charge HR 2 - because I can't decide which fitness track to use I now wear two !
Looking at my last Every Day Carry update I posted here (which predates the Fitbit and the G Shock) I have since purchased the CRKT Journeyer and it is a solid little knife. I keep it in one of the bags I use on a daily basis (canvas messenger - same model as used by Jack Bauer circa early '24') as a back up item and I've moved the larger Victorinox Huntsman knife into a third bag (my cross chest small backpack) - this is a more practical outdoor knife that's useful to have on longer runs in case anything might happen.

Overall in terms of where I am on EDC I'm really enjoying the Spartan. A really useful little knife/tool to have on me at all times (I even transfer it into suit pockets when I go out on business now) which I use every day without fail. My only issue is the differential in utility between this and the Wave - I often have to go to my desk (where the Leatherman lives) and retrieve it to do a more involved job when the Spartan just isn't an option. With this in mind I've just invested in a Leatherman Style PS - one of their small skeleton tools - hopefully this in conjuction with the Spartan will see me for most domestic and out and about jobs. With my EDC I've been careful to comply with UK knife/concealed weapon laws which are strict and the Style PS actually has no blade hence the need to keep up with the Spartan or similar which is a smaller, legal non-locking blade.

I'm also rocking the AirPods - best £ 160 I ever spent - use them constantly now - once you get over the embarrassment of wearing them in public.

My Podcasting exploits

It's been a while (nine months or so to be inprecise) but I've just recorded and uploaded the 69th episode of PMICast covering my work with professional introducers and an issue some have been having with securing medical insurance renewals in good time from insurers.

I often cite work load as the reason for my infrequent recording schedule (the podcast started in March 2013 as a bi-weekly show, then quickly went weekly before settling in at whenever I have chance or something to talk about) but it strikes me, given that I do owe a lot of my marketing success to the podcast that I really should try and record it more often - fingers crossed this time I can work harder to do a few more shows.

You can find my own podcast here.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Learn Traditional Martial Arts in Leeds


Our new beginner classes start in May, June and July 2017 (Monday and Wednesday) at 6.00pm for 30 minutes.

Interested in learning traditional Japanese karate in a disciplined but friendly atmosphere ?

Marital Arts are a superb way to meet new people, get fitter, become more confident and for kids to learn respect and discipline.

We have spaces in our Monday and Wednesday beginners classes at Yeadon Westfield Infants School - LS19 7NQ, off the A65 in Yeadon, Leeds.

My beginners classes last 30 minutes and are fun but focused on teaching the basics to allow students from age 5 upwards to gain the skills and confidence to join my main class.

Syllabus is split into easier fun version for kids and full adult beginner syllabus.

Whether you decide to join the club or not, the first two lessons are always totally free.

Come and learn self defence and get fitter with an instructor with 37 years martial arts experience and black belts in two different styles of karate.

Contact Sensei Phil Knight for more information.

Learn Karate in Leeds

If you're interested in learning traditional karate in Leeds I am now accepting new beginners into my karate classes on a Monday and Wednesday evening at 6.00pm.

You can find full information on the club website or e-mail me on :

Sensei Phil

Congratulations to my new yellow belts

In the last few weeks I have graded several of my karate beginners classes (both the Monday and Wednesday classes) to yellow belt and they now join the main class on their day of training.

For some (especially the youngest) it has been quite a journey and taken a lot of commitment and effort to get there and I wanted to give them a shout out on my personal blog.

So very well done to the following students :

Daniel, Jack, Josh and Matilda.

In particular Josh and Jack who have had to really dig deep and work super hard on that kata !

Look forward to seeing you continuing to work hard in the main class and aim towards that organ belt grading.

Sensei Phil

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

We Stand With Manchester

Woke up this morning and blearily checked my BBC News app on the phone on the way downstairs and I'm not ashamed to say I stood in my living room a little while later and wept as I watched the story begin to unfold on the TV.

Those poor people .....

My thoughts go out to all of those people who have been and will continue to be affected.

Obviously Manchester has been targeted before by terrorists (the Arndale bombing in 1996) but this feels more personally visceral for a number of reasons. Firstly I live in Leeds and in recent years have spent quite a bit of time on business and with the family in Manchester. I've been to the MEN Arena several times myself for concerts and of course I have two children in a not dissimilar age range to the kids that would have been there and affected last night.

I'm not personally affected by the tragedy I would stress but still feel as if I've been punched in the stomach.

I am not a journalist nor an investigator and it is not for me to say, at this stage, who may or may not have been responsible. I will leave the investigation to the police and the recriminations to the politicians.

What I will say is that this is an absolute outrage. A cowardly attack on innocents. It should not go unpunished.

Personally I would consider myself a liberal and a non-reactionary but moments like this make me want to devolve to my baser instincts. That however is what 'they' want. Terror attacks are designed to frighten, to disrupt, to change behaviour and ultimately to make us lash out at those responsible, or rather those we think responsible and thus give justification and legitimacy to the terrorists.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Factors to consider when reviewing medical insurance for personal clients

The other night as I was falling asleep I tried to count up in my head how many personal and corporate medical insurance client reviews I've done over the last seven years since I first set up my practice.

I lost count very quickly.

Looking at my master client folders on my Mac there are over 640 files for clients and prospects and I must have done multiple reports and reviews for some of the earlier clients for whom I've now handled six or seven renewals.

Looking at one insurers whose quotes I can tally, just for individual clients their system is showing that I have keyed 1029 separate quotes onto their system. That's just personal clients where they were not the holding broker for the case and were appropriate to consider for the client.

Over the years I'll bet I've easily done between 2,000 and 2,500 individual reviews and reports for new and renewing clients.

Each one is slightly different as you might imagine but there are some basic underpinnings that sit behind the thought process when starting a review for each client :

1) What do they want/need to achieve ?

2) Is what they have/ want appropriate ?

3) Can they afford it. Is it good advice for them to have a particular plan, benefit or feature ?

4) What do they have at the moment, is it suiting their needs - is it expensive or overpriced ?

5) What is their underwriting requirement - if they're a new client what type of underwriting might be appropriate. If they have cover already have they made recent claims, can they consider a move of insurer.

6) Will an insurer accept them on switch (some insurers won't accept scheme leavers on certain types of underwriting). Some insurers will not accept certain professions e.g. doctors.

7) Can we create a plan that fulfils the clients needs and is within their budget.

For each of those 600 odd clients, over 2,500 plus reports there are a series of up to a dozen individual decisions to consider as above. That's before we even get down to the literally hundreds of plan options the 15 or so insurers I regularly use and quote have on their plans.

10,000's of choices, features, ideas and other important issues to consider over time.

Medical insurance is on of those weird products that seems on the face of it quite simple : Private treatment once you've been referred by your GP for out-patient tests, consultations and then, if required in-patient or day case treatments and follow ups.

This apparent simplicity hides the basic sometimes forgotten premise : when you're dealing with people's money and health things get complex real fast. I've been looking after medical insurance for client and professional introducers for decades now and I still learn new things every day.

If you need a review of the cover you have in place. If you'd like new cover or if you're an adviser of some kind (IFA, General Broker or Accountant) who'd like help with a client - let me know. I'm happy to provide another review for you, for free.

Let me help you through the maze of decisions.  

Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant
07792 075748

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

IFA's - the importance of reviewing medical insurance clients

It's very easy when a clients medical insurance renewal arrives from an insurer for an adviser to follow the path of least resistance. To send the terms straight out to the client without considering a review of the market, assuming the terms and benefits are still ok.

Over the last 23 years I have been involved in literally hundreds of such cases both as a broker consultant for insurers and then since 2010, as an adviser working primarily with professional introducers. In both parts of my career I've said the same thing : I don't think you can ever assume that the renewal terms offered by an insurer (and indeed the benefits package) are fine moving forwards. More particularly a PMI plan, personal or company sponsored needs reviewing in-depth and detail at least every two to three years.

The FCA now asks intermediaries and insurers to formally suggest clients might want to 'shop around' at each renewal and whilst this will not apply to every client (those claiming or who have done so recently for example) it is advice I do adhere for my clients.

So if within your practice you have some legacy PMI clients who've been with their current insurer for while without review it's certainly worth giving someone like me a call to look at a full market review.

I've worked with IFA's since 1994 and as professional introducers to my practice since 2010 and would be happy to chat to any IFA, general broker or accountant who has potential business to look over.
Phil Knight - Independent Healthcare Consultant
07792 075 748