American Schools Shaolin Kempo (and the BS I have dealt with)
I have searched around a lot on the internet for information regarding the quality of this new school that opened up here in my city of Lake Havasu City, AZ. http://shao-linkempo.com/havasu/ I have been going for around two months so far. Here is my experience.
First off, what the hell is shaolin kempo anyways? I went into this "dojo" (or whatever they call it two times) before I decided to try it out. The first time I went there I thought it was just another BS traditional school. I explained to the owner of the school, a 22 year old (I'm 24) named Zach Pearlswig that I have previous training. I have a black belt in ATA (shhhhh... I know! That doesn't count for damn anything! I can write an entire book on the BS of ATA but this post isn't about that.) and I have a brown belt in Kali, and I have dabbled in a bunch of other arts such as Tai Chi Quan, Ninjutsu (which was ANOTHER mistake, I am convinced that there is no such thing as Ninjutsu anymore and my naive self got burned by that ex-navy guy in SoCal. Grrr... that's a story for another time as well), Fencing, Hapkido, and the MMA stuff. My Kali training (which is by far my favorite I've ever done) has been put on hold indefinitely due to family stuff that my Guro has been taking care of. So I go into the school and ask essentially, "What style do you teach?" He then feeds me some crap about how the heritage I would be inheriting by training with his school goes all the way back to the original Shaolin monks. "So you teach kung fu?" I asked. He said something to the effect of they teach all martial arts. (They wear gis btw) He said by training with them that I would grow to be a "complete" fighter. He was weary about letting me actually watch a class that was going on and said that in order for me to try out a trial lesson I would have to pay $20. I left.
Not sure why but I ended up going back there with a friend but I did around a month later or so and this time we ended up talking to this older gentleman. Turned out this guy is the Grandmaster named Robert Pearlswig. And BOY WAS HE A SALESMAN. Initially I fuckin' hated the guy. For a Grandmaster he was RIDICULOUSLY arrogant. Humility was nowhere to be seen in his actions or words. He talked about violence as if it were a toy to be played with the stories he was telling my friend and me. This put me and my friend off but for some reason we decided to try it out and paid the fee for a trial lesson.
So I guess GM Pearlswig was an 8th degree who trained under Fred Villari. I guess Pearl opened up a bunch of schools in San Diego with Fred Villari and there was some lawsuits or something so he decided to break off from Fred and opened up his own schools in Oregon. (I didn't find this out till I did some internet probing at a later time.)
TRIAL LESSON: And we practice *drum roll please* ...falling.:DudeComeOn: Stuff I definitely have done countless of times in other schools. Zach (the GM's son and owner of this Havasu school) was teaching us. He had us doing horse stances and an on-guard stance that guards really nothing. Luckily the GM was there and he had his son teach us some "advanced" material since we knew what we were doing. The thing that sold me was this cool variation on this arm throw that I do in Kali. It had me intrigued! Heck! Maybe I can learn some cool golden nuggets within this stuff! Then GM Pearlswig said "Hey! Why don't you teach them a black belt combination? These boys got it!" My friend and I were weary because there were other black belts in the school at the time that had their own schools up in Oregon who's faces lit up and were saying "Wow! You are getting to learn Black Belt material? That NEVER HAPPENS! How LUCKY you guys are!" It totally felt like we were being sold. What followed was this convoluted defense combination from a punch where you essentially grab the punch out of the air, twist under their arm, elbow break, hammer fist to the head, instep kick to the back of the knee, and then after all of that you fucking LET GO OF THEM and spinning hook kick them to the back of their head. That's right. A spinning hook kick.
Man... after having time to organize my thoughts by typing them up right now its astonishing at how forgiving I have been with these people. Anyways...
I have been training with this school for around two months and honestly I think I'm done. $95 plus $50 test fees for two one-hour classes a week is considered quite expensive for Lake Havasu City. They told me they have about 50 students where its more like 15-20. They have me in there with no belt. And there are no high ranks in there. Zach (the 22 year old son whom I'm starting to believe was given a dojo by his father because he happens to be old enough) teaches the classes and he talks A LOT. But not as much about technique as one would think. Often about amusing stories in which he totally destroyed a guy in a bar fight or something or how he was sparring some of his brown belts (whom are really amazing but nothing compared to his skill) and he put one in a head lock and while the other brown belt punched in at him he used the one in a headlock to block the punch with his face which knocked him out and he just dropped him to the floor and he went on to easily defeat the brown belt. And I am VERY polite and do not say a damn word about any of his boasting. And I look around at my fellow students and they all eat that **** up.
I tend to enjoy the Saturday classes that are taught by Grand Master Pearlswig over the week classes taught by his son Zach. But there are still weird discrepancies that make the training really weird. Such as during a club or knife defense we have to do this 2 step motion they call an L-step (which just takes WAY too long) to get inside their attack and then double outer forearm block their attacking arm, then grab their arm with both hands, twist that arm, and then bring your knee up to break their arm in half and then cross cover. There's no way in hell that'd work beginning to end.
The condescending comments made to the class definitely single me out as well as the fact that I don't wear a belt even though I'm technically a yellow-belt with the other students. The pacing in the class is pretty damn SLOW. And not very productive. He interrupts training time a LOT giving a verbal blowjob to himself and his dad by telling stories about his dad putting two-fingers through sheet metal and how he ran after a car that just did a hit-and-run that was going 40 mph and pulled him out of the driver seat. I just smile and say "Whoa that's awesome!" :itsnotokay:
But I would say the final breaking point happened last night when I was learning the first form we do. You know the form! I know you do! I've been shown it from about 3 different schools. You know, the turn, low block, c-step punch, 180 low block, c-step punch, turn low block, c-step punch x3, etc. etc. etc. I have done that form a GILLION times from other schools. That's not the problem. I was fully prepared to sit through the low rank stuff till I get higher rank and all that. What left me secretly seething was the fact that technically I wasn't allowed to further progress further than the first 7 moves because Master Zach hasn't shown me what to do yet. I wasn't allowed to progress while two of my peers were able to do the entire thing because they happen to also pay for private lessons and have been shown the entire thing. I'm broke and I don't pay the extra $40 so I can't do it even though these (very cocky) fellow yellow belts are flying through the form carelessly fast looking like they are fucking ice-skating. These two students are often snide to me (even though I can completely destroy them, they just don't know it) because they are treated as the "Golden" students because of their hard work, when in reality it is just because they shovel out a lot more money to Master Zach's pockets. They have never done martial arts before and they kind of have this really annoying pissing contest with me every class that is quite wearisome.
And that is why I am pretty sure I am not going to be attending this school anymore. The filter of knowledge. Honestly, what... the... H-E- Double Hockey-Sticks?! In this school you are not allowed to give information to fellow students even if it's something like "I'm pretty damn sure you're supposed to use your OTHER hand to do that technique." You are supposed to watch and let them fail until Master Zach happens to see their mistake and correct it for himself. You are told to completely ignore what the other students (such as higher ranks, even though they are only ONE rank higher) are doing and never, remember, and sure as hell never emulate what they are doing. That just about goes against everything I believe in. My favorite instructors that I have ever learned from (and even some of the dumb ones) at least tell you to help each other out and learn from your fellow students as much as possible. Learning cool things from higher ranks were encouraged and considered a precursor to what you'll be learning in the future. This school's bullshit reason for this is because apparently only they know what level you're at. But combined with all the other experiences I have had with this school I believe it is just a ploy to get you there longer and pay more and more money.
I ignored the constant jabs at other arts (and me and how I have "bad habits" when they practice a lot of STUPID ****) and how Zach uses his dojo as his own personal ego builder but the filter of knowledge just REALLY rubs me the wrong way. I can't ignore all these fact anymore. I talked to both Zach and the GM about this and each time they say they completely understand the fact that I am more knowledgeable than my rank and that they want to work me through to the appropriate rank as best they can so I can learn, but then when class comes around they don't do anything but hold me back time and time again. Technically I am not allowed to throw a ridge-hand strike cause I haven't been taught it before. I think I stayed there so long because I kept finding a tiny little gem beneath all the crap but honestly I don't think it's worth it anymore.
I understand that many of you have been through similar things and that's why I am posting here. The last thing I want to do is come off as arrogant and as if I know everything. I don't and I will be a martial arts student my whole life. I want to learn. I don't want to be hindered. I think that's why I'm going to be leaving.