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jitschix
11/12/2009 7:09pm,
I was excited to check out Larry Sanders and his school. After all his website says...

"Dr. Sanders is a walking, talking martial arts encyclopedia. Since age 8 he has studied as many martial arts as possible, earning 53 Black Belts in as many arts. He is one of the highest ranking martial artists anywhere with 3 Tenth Degree Black Belt rankings. He has been inducted into many World Martial Arts Halls Of Fame and is a writer, author, artist, speaker, singer, actor, and head of the Nei Wai Chia System."
[Source: http://www.sijo.org/FAQ.htm on November 12, 2009.]

How many people get to study under someone with FIFTY THREE BLACK BELTS in FIFTY THREE DIFFERENT MARTIAL ARTS?!

For my first visit, just to watch, I went to the school at about 6:45PM. The class was to begin at 7:30 and lasts until 9pm. Most students either train MW or T Th. There were two or three students already present, wearing light cotton karategi and street shoes (sneakers), desultorily stretching in an unsystematic manner. I entered the building and took a seat. I was greeted by a rotund, balding man wearing what appeared to be a smoking jacket or bathrobe in black, with white diamond stitching... this was the eminent Sijo Larry Sanders... and later a friendly but soft-looking young man with a cloud of long ringlets and a black belt who introduced himself as Martin. I note that Sijo's rank stripes were on crookedly and appeared a bit homemade.

They explained that they were a kung fu school that also taught JKD, tai chi, wing chun, kickboxing, self-defense, aikido, ju jitsu, bagua (sp?) and meditation. Sijo pointed me to the wall showing the certificates that he had been awarded and we briefly discussed some items. Sijo emphasized that they do not teach martial arts as a sport or competitive art, but as a real-world self defense fighting skill. Of course, their students "do well" in unnamed competition, but generally "this isn't just a sport." Later, a blue belt informed me that they don't spar "full force" because the techniques were "too dangerous to use unless you really need them and don't mind really hurting, or um, killing someone."

Sijo rattled off what I sensed was his standard new-student speech at full speed, punctuated by an eerie facial rictus on his placid face that apparently was meant to simulate a smile. I felt creeped out, to be honest. He emphasized his fifty-plus years of experience, including some military background, training with Dan Inosanto, multiple martial arts, etc etc.

He says he belonged to the Air Force (graduated high school at age 16, did a year of college, dropped out and went into the Air Force.) While in the Air Force he trained Special Forces soldiers (I think he might have called them something else-- team members?) in the same martial art he was teaching that evening-- Nei Wai Chia (Nay-Wah-Shah)-- and people from the SAS in Britain and Israeli Army personnel. When I probed for more information, he winked and said he couldn't say much more about that.

As we chatted, other students arrived, ranging from whitebelts on up, with most in the yellow-blue-green range. One woman and mostly youngish men aged 20-30 or so. At the second class, the first woman was absent, but another woman green belt appeared as well as a short, stocky, grandmotherly lady who was pointed out to me as Sanders' wife, a 6 stripe black belt who was clearly new and unfamiliar with the movements. All the students made a point of introducing themselves in a friendly fashion and welcoming me to the class. Two young men, maybe mid-twenties, seemed genuinely athletic, agile and focused... the remainder were not in the best shape and had questionable social or hygiene skills.

Prior to class starting, Martin and another individual appeared to initiate some "sparring" in the form of shadowboxing near one each other, and practiced some ineffective and wobbly-looking spinning back kicks. The sparring was controlled in that they weren't really trying to hit each other. Outside of that, the movement was incredibly sloppy and wild. The movement looked horrible and lacked control or balance.

Sijo explained that their classes run for about an hour and a half. The first part of the class starts off with a warmup and stretch, then the drills begin.
In the class I watched, the warmup consisted of rolling the head around while standing to loosen up the neck-- then some arm circles-- some knee bends and ankle twirls... then some running in place, jumping jacks and pushups (not counted or timed and without either discernable rhythm or full class participation)... then oh goodness the funniest part...

If you've read the prior comments on this school, you know it's a stripmall facility, medium in size, with linoleum flooring... there's a short stack of thin, accordion-style mats in the corner. These were dragged out and lined up, still folded, making a row of mats about 8" tall off the ground. This was used like a bench of sorts to enable (drumroll) TRICEP DIPS. I'm surprised there weren't more sprung shoulders from attempting these such a short distance from the ground, as the weight of the students compressed the thin little mats to maybe 6" thick...

The second time I came prepared to participate in the class. Before things got started, Sijo and I chatted again and I took the opportunity to explore a little more of his military background.

He served in Vietnam, Japan and Australia while in the Air Force. Was in Vietnam as a combat medic from 1968-1969.

Was awarded a Purple Heart for being shot and stabbed by the Viet Cong. He was on patrol in the field, stationed in Cam Ranh Bay, and was about 100m away from the rest of his group "when a bunch of Viet Cong saw me and decided to take out the medic. Only they didn't want to shoot because that would bring the rest of my guys down on them, so they just ran up to me and stabbed me here [indicates lower right quadrant of abdomen] and tried to beat me to death, but it didn't work, so they had to shoot me, which did bring up the rest of my guys. In fact the knife was still sticking out of my belly and one of the guys wanted to pull it out, but I wouldn't let him, and he wanted the knife, but I didn't give it to him." I asked if he had it still and he said yes. He was shipped off to Tokyo to recover from his stabbing wound and the gunshot injury (also to his stomach area) and from there, Australia.

I also asked what unit he was in and he said "Three of them." I said "oh, which ones? because my dad was in Vietnam at that time and wouldn't it be funny? Would you write them down for me so I can ask him?" And he said "yes, I will, later." More on that, later.

Class began with a warmup similar to the previous one I'd seen. Most of the students seemed thoroughly winded though the warmup and shawdowboxing barely got my heartrate above 80 after 20 minutes.

Then we moved on into the self-defense techniques. In my opinion there were some quality techniques in there-- standard aiki-jitsu, small-circle jiu jitsu, and body mechanics principles. Unfortunately, a few problems with the instruction: Sanders demonstrated about 50 variations of the techniques in rapid succession but only granted a minute or less to practice them; failed to articulate what he was doing as he did it (instead he'd say "then you take this and go here"-- useless if your view was blocked or if you're an aural learner) and then worst, the training was completely lacking in aliveness. We did not put out the mats, and could not practice any of the takedowns.

My partner, a slender bookish fellow sporting a blue belt, was so hesitant to grab me that I was able to escape without any technique *or* strength at all. And when I grabbed him (all 5'2" of me) he exclaimed that I was really grabbing hard.

We covered bearhugs from front and back, arm grabs, headlocks, and so on and as I said, about 10 variations of technique for each position. Even with my minimal exposure to martial arts and self defense as a Gracie jiu jitsu blue belt, I could see that some of the reactions he advised were worthless while some were quite useful. We partnered up to run through these drills.

The last ten minutes of class was occupied with ground fighting. We were briefly and inadequately led through a guard pass (dig elbows into inner thighs) and a mount escape (the upa, minus tying up the arm and leg). The mat space was inadequate for the 8 or so pairs of students and the mats themselves so thin I feared injury from an overactive upa. Fortunately nothing to worry about here. I was annoyed by the use of street shoes on the mats and the failure to wipe them clean after class, though no one sweated at all so perhaps a little less to be concerned about.

My overall impression of the school:

Cleanish except the mat issue; well maintained, adequate equipment given the likely goals of the members.

Friendly and welcoming.

Completely a waste of money as far as learning self defense, improving physical fitness, or some combination of the two.

Regarding his Vietnam combat experience, I offer the following email transcript; re-ordered to run chronologically from top down...


> ________________________________
> From: Larry Sanders <[email protected]>
> To: [snip]@yahoo.com ([email protected])
> Sent: Tue, November 10, 2009 12:34:32 PM
> Subject: Sanders Black Belt Academy
>
> Georgette, just a note to let you know that if you are interested in
> joining our school that our prices are about to go up and that if you
> join in the next week you can save money.
> Larry Sanders

________________________________
On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 1:02 PM, Georgette Oden <[snip]@yahoo.com ([email protected])> wrote:
> Oh thank you! Good to know. I was telling some relatives about you and > I
> forgot where you served-- I know Vietnam, but where? and when? what
> division? I'm originally from Virginia and have several family members
> including my father who served in the military, and they're all curious!
>
> See you Wednesday or Thursday!

From: Larry Sanders <[email protected]>

To: Georgette Oden <[snip]@yahoo.com ([email protected])>
Sent: Tue, November 10, 2009 1:33:35 PM
Subject: Re: Sanders Black Belt Academy

Georgette, as much of my military career is confidential I can not
share that with you. I do however, look forward to giving you the best
martial arts training taht I can. See you wednesday or thursday.
"Sijo"
________________________________

On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 1:58 PM, Georgette Oden <[snip]@yahoo.com ([email protected])> wrote:
Wow, that's weird, because you totally told me where in Vietnam and when, in front of other students, at the last class... and my uncle told me you should totally not have a problem saying what unit you were in, if you were a medical corpsman, which isn't secret ... and since you got a Purple Heart, that would be public record...
He told me it would be very weird if you refused to answer the question... so... you can trust me!
See you soon! :)



From: Larry Sanders <[email protected]>
To: Georgette Oden <[snip]@yahoo.com ([email protected])>

Sent: Tue, November 10, 2009 2:22:40 PM
Subject: Re: Sanders Black Belt Academy



When I've known you for a while I will trust you. Until then ,it's not important. The only reason that you should be at our school is to learn martial arts.
________________________________
On Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 11:30 AM, Georgette Oden <[snip]@yahoo.com ([email protected])> wrote:
Sijo--
I'm not sure I really give a flip, I'm fine with just learning new things-- but my uncle is giving me grief, and to some extent my husband too. Is there anything you can give me like a unit number, where you were stationed, etc that will get them off my back? I'm sure you understand their protectiveness-- thanks!

Georgette
________________________________

From: Larry Sanders <[email protected]>
To: Georgette Oden <[snip]@yahoo.com>
Sent: Wed, November 11, 2009 11:55:17 AM
Subject: Re: Sanders Black Belt Academy

Your uncle and your husband are to be commended . Thank you for doing a class. Obviously,this isn't the place for you.

* * * * * * * * * *[end of emails] * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What more can I say? I have to assume that someone with 53 black belts knows what he's talking about. And I tend to agree-- it wasn't the place for me.

Please do check out the full report on Mr. Sanders for the explicit details regarding his claims of military service, etc. etc.



#|#|#|#|#|#|#|#|#|#|#

EDIT:

Oh, the hilarity continues...

This past weekend, I was out with a training partner from my BJJ school, briefly discussing the experience at Sanders's school. My friend asked me to show him a technique I found useful. I asked him to grab my forearm and then attempted to demonstrate the technique (which, during the class, had resulted in the wilting conversion of my bookish partner in crime to a delicate flower on the ground.)

Um, epic fail. My friend felt nothing and looked at me like I was stupid.

Fortunately, the technique I learned in BJJ worked just fine.

Marc Spector
11/19/2009 4:26pm,
I would have thought Garry Shandling a better class of person than to falsify military experience.

It is Fake
11/19/2009 4:34pm,
Wow. Awesome review.

AlphaFoxtrot51
11/19/2009 4:35pm,
The falsifying military thing is annoying enough, but adding the purple heart in there is a straight kick in the nuts...

By the way...that is an AWESOME and in depth review. Thanks so much!!

aldecoa
11/19/2009 5:41pm,
Very good review. Bullshido at its finest.

nointro
11/19/2009 6:12pm,
He was on patrol in the field, stationed in Cam Ranh Bay, and was about 100m away from the rest of his group "when a bunch of Viet Cong saw me and decided to take out the medic

Can someone with military experience enlighten me whether it's SOP to have a medic walking 100m away from the rest of the patrol? You'd have to have the legs of Usain Bolt to get to any immediate casualties.

CoffeeFan
11/19/2009 6:18pm,
Great Review!!

Arskanator
11/19/2009 6:25pm,
Jesus. How can something like this still exist in this day and age? Seriously, this guy makes Ashida Kim look legit.

aldecoa
11/19/2009 8:35pm,
My math may be a bit off, but I feel that he's counting each martial art and each aspect of the martial art as something he's mastered and thus has received a black belt in.

For example, here ( http://www.sijo.org/ChineseArts.htm ) he lists 6 styles of Wing Chun, when he probably knows just one and a few moves here and there of the others. The same mathematics can be applied to this page ( http://www.sijo.org/JapaneseArts.htm ) and this one ( http://www.sijo.org/ModernArts.htm ).

My guess is that he's done a bit of kung fu and tai chi; he knows a bit of aiki jiu-jitsu stuff and karate; and he's learned some JKD concepts, and Krav Maga as self-defense tools. I'd say he has about 6 or so black belts (or equivalents), if he has any. As to the level of skill, who knows.

patfromlogan
11/19/2009 9:09pm,
Brilliant. It could go with "I've started training at a McDojo! " in classics!

core1065
11/20/2009 12:23am,
Q. Tell me about your founder Dr. Sanders.
A. Dr. Sanders is a walking, talking martial arts encyclopedia. Since age 8 he has studied as many martial arts as possible, earning 53 Black Belts in as many arts. He is one of the highest ranking martial artists anywhere with 3 Tenth Degree Black Belt rankings. He has been inducted into many World Martial Arts Halls Of Fame and is a writer, author, artist, speaker, singer, actor, and head of the Nei Wai Chia System.

MUBAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH!!!.........HAHAHAHAHAAHAH AH!!!! Hilarious!!
This guy must have a time machine because it can take a lifetime to reach 10 dan. 53 McDojo black belts doesn't equal to one real yellow belt.

mdf2
11/20/2009 9:55am,
Good review. The guy clearly has an inflated opinion of himself, not to mention inflated credentials.

I wouldn't pay my hard-earned money to study there!

snakey12
11/20/2009 10:51am,
The Stolen Valor Act springs to mind re phoney medal claims

Marc Spector
11/20/2009 12:59pm,
MUBAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH!!!.........HAHAHAHAHAAHAH AH!!!! Hilarious!!
This guy must have a time machine because it can take a lifetime to reach 10 dan. 53 McDojo black belts doesn't equal to one real yellow belt.
Maybe it would take an ordinary man that long to achieve such proficiency in so many disciplines, but this guy is clearly the Doc Savage of slappy-hand bullshit.

lucistius
11/20/2009 4:23pm,
Can someone with military experience enlighten me whether it's SOP to have a medic walking 100m away from the rest of the patrol? You'd have to have the legs of Usain Bolt to get to any immediate casualties.


How about this, I am a medic. No, walking that far away from your patrol is downright stupid. The medic will be close to the controlling element of the formation, depending on it's size. (i.e. Platoon Sergeant, Squad Leader...)

PitilessPewee
11/21/2009 1:52am,
Can someone with military experience enlighten me whether it's SOP to have a medic walking 100m away from the rest of the patrol? You'd have to have the legs of Usain Bolt to get to any immediate casualties.

No this is highly unlikely if absolutely not possible. Was a hospital corpsman in the Navy and I have not heard of any medical personel doing anything that stupid.