Kempo Ryu Karate Sydney (Burwood)
First of all...early HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wishing you bullies all the best in 2012 both in your martial art and other endeavors! Its around noon in Aus right now and I am typing this up as my friends are out shopping in anticipation of the NYE party. So, without further ado...
How it all started:
My eleven year old brother and I went out for lunch around a month ago at the local shopping centre (Westfield's). Since the food court was crowded, my brother bags our seats whilst I went to the Oporto counter to grab both of our lunches. When I came back, he showed me a black and white A4 page given out to him by a man who was circulating the place asking people (both adults and kids alike) if they would like to "check out karate".
On the sheet, stated in classic Times New Roman, was the school's name, the teacher's name and rank, the times classes were held as well as the address. 'Two Free Classes and Free Uniform Upon Joining' were also bolded on the leaflet.
Since my brother have wanted to learn a martial art and the other choices on offer in our suburb were mcdojo japanese jiu jitsu, Jim Fung wing chun, akido and taekwondo (there was also boxing but it was for 16+),both of us ended up signing up for the trial (me there to make it more comfortable for him- not giving up boxing, mate!).
I would have thought having an instructor well-versed in full contact sparring would have resulted in a highly dynamic class with emphasis on techniques which worked when tested under pressure. In fact, the official school website stated that the instructor, Ms Margaret Le, was meant to be a KYOUKUSHIN WOLRD CUP CHAMPION. ( proof: http://www.kemporyu.com/index_files/...ity_Counts.htm)
How disappointed I was.
I was there for a total of two weeks (I went there and got told that two lessons were too short and I could extend my trial to a fortnight provided I show enough dedication in my training) and attended a grand total of four classes. Out of them four, only the last class had sparring- the other was compromised of hitting the air, medication/deep breathing, kata and one/two step drills (to my utter horror, I was matched up to an eight year old who was told to stand five or six feet away from me as we kicked at one another like one will play Kinect). The sparring was put simply...atrocious.
Like any good bullshido forum member, I volunteered to participate but Sensei told me that beginners didn't get to spar- not until they got their green belt (around a year in). I informed her politely that I had experience in western boxing and have just had my first amateur boxing match.
Her *abruptly*: "But boxing and karate is different."
Me *patiently*: "Yes, I understand. I am willing to follow whatever rule set you have..I just want to experience the difference in moves with my own body in real time."
Her "Its not that. Karate is much more dangerous, even life threatening"
....OKAY. I stepped back, intrigued and expecting a bloodfest only to watch middle age men eye up each other for half the round, spam straight punches into each others chest and to throw kicks which failed to reach chest level (and no, they weren't purposely trying to throw low kicks either). There were zero blocking (none of the cross block stuff), little to no movement of any sort (no head movement, no foot work..imagine rock and sock robots) and their hands were down. No wonder it was deadly.
Basically BYO but worse. The guys/gals there are forced to buy official dojo branded sparring gear (at inflated prices I'd imagine) which are as flimsy as they come (I mean, its not even synthetic leather covering those helmets..its plastic!). This includes helmet, shinpads, arm pads, body protector and others...even their gym bag has the school logo on it.
There are no BOBS, punching bags or anything in the dojo since it class takes place in a scouts hall. Well, there is a rock climbing wall on the right of the classroom but that is never used.
Gym Size: 5
They rented the Scouts Hall as previously stated. Around the size of two or three garages I'd imagine.
A senior student gets chosen to lead the warm ups which takes 20 minutes of the 90 minute class whilst Sensei goes to "organize the books". Warm ups are usually stuff that could be done at home and is pretty general (push ups, stretches, jogging around and on). Sensei does not disappear into a room but is visibly distracted from her students.
There are usually around 20 students and there is always but one instructor. Instructor could remember my name and I used to do boxing, but if she personally directed comments at you more than thrice in a lesson you know its a good day.
I am used to having my name called out in welcome the moment I step into my boxing gym as well as the notion of having a cold beer with everyone after a fierce workout. I am also used to the warm handshakes and friendly smiles at the end of the class in a more traditional setting like when I still did judo.
Don't expect anything like this here.
Sure, there is bowing- TONS of it. You bow to Sensei at the beginning, you bow to your seniors and sensei at the end, you bow when you leave the room, you bow when sensei finishes addressing you etc but there is a certain stiffness in the way students interact.
There is no smiling and the politeness seems a little forced. This may be due to the 'no talking at all' rule in class (unless you are a senior helping out a junior student) and that everyone kind of leaves once lesson finishes. I don't think I notice, if there are any at all, extra out-of-class meet ups either.
Striking Instruction: 5
As explained above. Very rigid. Very structured. People are taught with all eight points but the strikes are aimed to be used whilst grading or in a highly restrictive competitions (think WTF tkd rules here...its not that far off).
"You won't have to go to the ground if you have good enough striking skills" attitude
Overall comment/outcome: My little brother ended up not joining and we left once the free classes were over (and this is not out of cheapness. Mind you- if the instruction had been decent, my brother WOULD have signed up). I was meant to have a rest from boxing after my match and arrived back at the gym in due course.
It was good to see female representatives in the martial art world, especially as teachers, but the Sensei was disappointing to say the least.
All in all- the typical image conveyed in Bullshido about TMAs refusing to train in an alive manner.
Details about club:
Class times: Monday- 6:30-8:00pm, Sunday 11:00-12:30pm (adults)
Monday- 6:00-7:30pm, Sunday 11:00-12:00pm (kids)
NOTE: IT IS COMPULSORY TO ATTEND BOTH CLASSES ON MONDAY AND THEN ON SUNDAY IF YOU WANT TO ADVANCE.
Cost: $75 for adults, $60 for kids (per month)- no drop ins.
Affliation: Kempo Ryu Karate Sydney
This is a class run by the headquarters of their affliated association. It is fairly similar of what happened during the two weeks.