My McDojo's "Point of No Return"
This is a long one...bear with me please...my questions are at the end. It'll probably make some of you laugh/cry for me.
Last Tuesday (Feb 8, 2005), two things happened that I somehow believed never would occur...although in retrospect I realise were inevitable.
1) I walked out of a class.
2) I realized that my dojo is beyond repair as a serious school.
My Sensei has recently been very busy with other aspects of his life and hasn't been around as much to teach. Fair enough, I don't begrudge him the need to support his 3 daughters and wife. He seems to do well enough for himself, so kudos to him for that.
Unfortunately, his absence has extensively affected the quality of instruction at the dojo. There is no clear leadership, nobody has real authority, and everyone wants to teach different things in the classes they choose to cover. The Aiki-JuJutsu / JuJutsu class is the only one of the three Arts that has a decent regular teacher anymore. (The other two are KF, which has always been a joke, and Goju Ryu which is excellent when being taught well, but has fallen to the wayside recently.) On this fateful Tuesday, the regular AJJ/JJ teacher was out of town, so my Sensei chose to take the class himself. He's an 8th Dan in his Jitsu art (Shindo-Ryu JuJutsu under the late Shintani-Sensei) and a very nasty grappler when he wants to be. He's getting older (mid 50s) so he doesn't get into the jutsu as often anymore.
I should've known there were problems the minute I walked into the building. He greeted me enthusiastically...in his gi and red-and-white belt (Master's Belt, he usually only wears it for seminars). I've had a rough time the last couple of weeks and I'd come in just to work out and hit bags and work off the steam...and told him as much. "Come into Jujutsu! I'm teaching it tonight, you'll want to learn this!" He knows my preference for grappling, so I agreed to join.
I haven't been in a JJ class there in almost 2 years now...I wore my old Green rank. I noticed a few things:
1) Everyone was either ranked Black, Brown, Yellow or White. Huh?!?!
2) There were WAY too many people in the class to be able to comfortably perform throws or roll very far.
3) There were a LOT of non-gi wearing people...and a few in their KF uniforms (which runs at the same time in the hardwood dojo).
My heart started to sink...he had combined the two classes together and had at least 3 "trial" students (read: potential membership fees) in the room. That explained the Master's belt.
Then the "warm-up" began. I need those quotation marks there, because without them it would suggest I actually at least broke a sweat. The warm-up consisted of the following:
1) Shaking out limbs
2) A series of one-armed push-ups done in groups...each group forming up next to their partners and the entire group trying to lift themselves off the ground. While he was counting this, he was crowing about how the group that gave up first would have to do extra pushups later. He sounded like a beligerent cheerleader rather than a Sensei barking orders.
3) Partnering up and doing 10 pushup over-unders (leap-frog over and then scramble back under through the legs, doing three pushups and then repeating). My partner ended up being some fat, soft, teenage kungfu kid who gassed after 5, whined about my fingers "digging into" his back during the leapfrogs, and asked "Is That 10?" after EVERY CYCLE following his 5th!
Apparently from there we were sufficiently warm to start transition drills for hip-throws. Not just any entry or transition, but the actual reversal of the hip-throw! We weren't to throw, just to the "lift". Alright...I hate hip throw and any other of those "turn your back" type throws...but I was game to try with my noob partner. They showed the technique 3 times. No explanation, no footwork breakdown. "Go until I say stop!" ummm....ok. Except my partner doesn't know how to hip throw (legs were spread so wide you'd think he was Paris Hilton!), doesn't know how to transition (kept kicking my knee as he passed me) and KEPT WHINING AT ME TO "WATCH MY KNEES!" He also kept going "whoa" when I started to lift him and would squirm, but jerked me around and actually accidentally dropped me at one point. I asked why he was even there if he couldn't handle being lifted or the techniques and he said "I don't want to be here, I was forced to be here, I do kung fu." I was at the point I was actually going to THROW him just to prove a point (he'd have probably quit the dojo right then and there...*GRIN*) Unfortunately, I'm not into hurting soft, fat kiddies so I just asked one of the blackbelts to work him into another group for me and moved to the back of the class. I still wasn't sweating, I was now pissed off, it was about half an hour into the class, and we were doing bullshit "basics" with no apparent build-up to a grappling game.
I moved to the back of the class and waited for the next technique.
"Ok, we're going to work from an attempted one-handed lapel grab to break grip and distract/interrupt."
Sure, it's basic, but it does lead to a variety of decent throws/controls...I'm cool with that so far.
"Step to the inside into cat-stance (neko ashi dachi), sweep the arm down, around and out of the way with your outside arm while striking open-palm up under the chin with your right."
I couldn't believe it. He was now placating the Kung Fu students who had been forced to be there! I couldn't handle it anymore, I didn't care if the rest of the class suddenly was the Best Class Ever Taught (which would've been a COMPLETE 180, which wasn't likely). I waited until he instructed people to partner up and practice the technique, moved to the exit, bowed out, and left to go change into my gym duds and work out during my precious little time left.
In the changeroom, one of the seniors came in "to check on me." (I found out later he was TOLD to find me when Sensei realized I wasn't around. I guess he planned to use me as uke for the class. I guess he likes using bigger people in front of new students for the impression it makes.) I was asked what was wrong, if I was hurt, why did I leave class?
"I didn't come here to do an hour and a half of hip throw and cat stances. I'm going to work out."
He silently stared at me for a second, obviously not expecting THAT answer, nodded and left. I went to the weight room to work out.
5 minutes later, Sensei shows up in the gym and tears into me (verbally). Ranted about disrespecting him and how what I did was simply inexcusable. (I conceded that I was in the wrong to simply leave his class without permission. You just don't do that in someone's school, and apologized. It was a tense apology, my blood was boiling over the Bullshido I'd just witnessed, but it was sincere.) Told me he was disappointed in me and walked out. I would've been ok with that except he turned around and told me that if I "pulled **** like that again, [he'll] have me thrown out of the dojo." Probably just words spoken in anger and for effect...but my first reaction was "BY WHO!?!?" That's when I realized the sad truth that there's only a handful of people who could cause me to break a sweat in the dojo, and none of them were stupid enough to obey blindly and touch me on someone else's say-so.
So now I'm faced with a problem. I recognize the absurdity of paying a place where I actively disdain the classes. However, the weights and bagroom are by far the best in the area and my blackbelt status there allows me to train basically whenever I want, so it flexs around my schedule. My MT and the potential grappling gym I'm looking are only open for a few hours during classes and have limited bag availablity/open time. They're basic, ghetto, but hard-training places. I can't afford them all, financially or time-wise.
My membership is up for renewal at the dojo. Blackbelts pay a flat yearly $550 (CAD, approx. $450 USD at current exchange rate) for full access. The other places cost $600-$800, which is definitely wortwhile on their own. I don't have $2000 to spend on memberships.
I'm not asking for people's opinions on what I should do...only I will decide this.
What I AM asking for are stories of when others had their "final straw" moment? What was it like to finally walk away from your first dojo? Was it under good or bad terms? If similar to mine, how did you handle it? Because no matter how much I rationally know that I must leave one day, there's a definite intangible hesitancy to finally close the door on "my first".