West Wind Schools Stole My Childhood
So I decided to google "West Wind Schools" for fun, and lo and behold, up pops this site and several stories. After reading a few I just had to share mine.
I trained at West Wind for 11 years and received my Black Belt. I started at a young age (I won't reveal exactly how young, because if I did, it'd be pretty easy to figure out my identity if you were around when I was). My parents and I picked West Wind over the other schools in my area. Mind you, this was back in the golden years of the system, before they nixed about 4 sites (if I remember correctly), and began selling their souls for monetary gain.
One thing that West Wind undoubtedly got right was discipline. The rigid atmosphere hardwired a certain attitude in me that lingered even after I left. On the other hand, they put me up to a lot. I dealt with the "you must do this, or you're not a good student" deal that a lot of people mentioned in their stories on here, but so much more.
Being young and naive, I didn't realize that I was a marketing tool for the system. They kept me on a very tight leash, so that they could show me off to the parents thinking about enrolling their children. "Look how discipline Mr. X is! Don't you want your children to be like that?" I was never very talkative or outgoing in regular life because of how much I had to stay on my toes. One missed bow, weak handshake, missed entrance of a primary figure, or blind "YES SIR/MA'AM!" and I'd be in a world of trouble. I somewhat attribute growing up in these conditions to some social dysfunctions I have now.
Not to mention, having to go work out, have lessons and group lessons more than any regular kid had sports practice took a toll on my free time. It ate up almost all of it. I didn't have as much time to socialize as other kids did, so I ended up losing a few friends who didn't get why I "always have to go to that karate place". Special events could not be missed, or else I was a bad student and would dishonor my instructor. In fact, on the night before a special event, I got food poisoning. The next time I came in I explained why I wasn't there. My instructors response went something like: "well, at least you could have brought a trash bag in the car and showed up for a few minutes... *deep sigh followed by awkward, dissapointed silence*. Ok, so I didn't really have food poisoning, I had a previous engagment that they deemed unnecessary, but the point is still the same.
The Black Belt training was hell. Hell.
That month was proabably the hardest thing I've done in my life. About 50 different kicks, 100's of techniques, several unarmed and armed katas, and original material had to be run through six days a week with unforgiving instructors and one off day that you came and did it on your own in if you were a good student. Then there was the diet. Hard boiled eggs, fruit and water for breakfast. More hard boiled eggs, flavorless, skinless chicken breast, protein shake, and gatorade for lunch after a 4+ hour runthrough of everything. Then salad (only dressing allowed: balsamic vinegar) and round steak for dinner. If you don't know what round steak is, it's like edible leather, basically. Only sauce allowed: Tabasco. This continued until the last few days before your test, in which you were allowed to eat bread and pasta with no sauce. I felt like giving up at so many points during this process. I thought I might die before the end of the first week. The second week, I had to fight to not walk in and tell them I was quitting. The third week my test-mate spewed a mixture of the lunch meal all over the office, making me a nervous wreck for the next few days (I'm emetophobic). But I eventually made it.
I was in high school, my life up until that point was 98% West Wind and school. They wanted me to become an instructor. More of the marketing ploy that I was. They said that if I put on the Red Belt (the instructor's belt), there was no turning back. I lingered for a while, in limbo. High school was passing me by, and if i commited to this inner sanctum of West Wind, I could kiss my life outside goodbye. I left.