I have never taken part in Martial Arts but I will write an essay in MABS.
I have to say that after reading this entire I am a little dissappointed. I have never taken part in Martial Arts but have wanted to for many years. However, I wanted to wait until I had finished all of my education before beginning training. As a result, I spent many years just researching different types of martial arts and visiting various schools to observe their classes. After a few years I pretty much narrowed it down to BJJ and Saito Ninjitsu.
I chose BJJ because I believe that most "real life" fights end up on the grown very quickly, and I think knowing how to fight on the ground and place someone in a submission hold is vital. However, the down side is that BJJ does not involve much (if any) striking. Accordingly, I think that its very important to be competent in striking to a degree. This is due to the fact that most "real life" fights usually start out with a few punches being thrown, and then quickly end up on the ground.
This is where Saito Ninjitsu became attractive to me. It seems that they incorporate a little bit of everything into their art. Grounding fighting, striking, pressure points, joint locks, etc., all seem to be taught in Saito Ninjitsu.
I visited quite a few BJJ dojos and liked what I saw. I only went to places that were in some way affiliated with the Gracies, so what I saw was consistent at each dojo/school. Again, the only problem that I had is that there was little striking involved, so my remedy, stemming from advice of the teachers at each school, was to incorporate Muy Thai or Boxing into my training. Since most of the schools also offer Muy Thai and Boxing, in addition to BJJ, I found this to be an effective solution.
At the time, the only school teaching Saito Ninjitsu was The Temple of The Full Autumn Moon in San Diego. Sensei Phelps was the head instructor. I visited the school a total of five times (over about a 2 or 3 year period), to mainly observe. However, before I could make my final determination of whether to join or not (Again, I wanted to wait until I had finished my advanced degrees), the school basically closed down.
My initial impresson of the school was good. I liked the way the classes were conducted, the school itself was beautiful, and the atmosphere was nice and condusive to learning the art. However, one thing that really raised a red flag for me, and apparently bothered other students that I talked with, was that Sensei Phelps was rarely ever there! Out of the five times I went to observe, he was only present once. Additionally, the one time he was present I was the only visitor, and he did not bother to acknowledge me, introduce himself, or even make himself available to answer any questions I had about the school. After talking to some of the white belt students, I was told that Sensei Phelps was so busy being a Pastor and attending to his other outside responsibilities, that he rarely made it to class, and that the majority of the classes were taught by Lance Wisdom (I still remember his name to this day, because it sounds so cool : )), and also Steve McGovern. The last time I went to observe I overhead someone saying that Steve had been deployed and would not be back for a while. Im not sure if he came back before the school closed its doors. The other thing that bothered me alot about the school is what I witnessed the one time Sensei Phelps was present. He basically spent about 30 minutes of class time bashing other martial arts, saying why Saito Ninjitsu is so superior to every other martial arts. At one point he was literally making fun of TKD martial artist who "dance around the ring like boxers" in competitions. Sensei Phelps then went on to justify to the students why they never see him performing any of the "rolls" or ground work himself. I didnt have the entire context of why he was addressing the issue, but I surmise that someone had questioned why they never see him doing the "rolls" and "brake falls" that he requires them to do????
He said something to the effect of him already earning his credibility, and that he didnt need to prove it to anyone. The whole dialogue was really weird and uncomfortable, almost like he was indirectly confronting one of the students who called him out on it.
Other than that, I thought the school was pretty cool, and I was very likely to join had it not shut down.
I have since found out that Master Maui Saito is now teaching the original Saito Ninjitsu in Arizona, which was great but also dissappointing since I dont live there.
However, after perusing Maui's website I came across an part of the website that displays a letter discrediting Sensei Phelps and putting him on a "Renegade List"!!!! Wow. Im not quite sure what that means for those who studied under him such as Mr. McGovern? It sounds like from the "Renegade" letter that Phelps was overstepping his boundaries in some way, and not teaching the art as originally intended. This is MERELY MY PERSONAL OPINION of what I gathered from the letter on Maui Saitos website.
I remember Lance Wisdom as being an excellent martial artist, and from what I could tell Steve McGovern was very good too. It would be unfortunate and unfair to punish either of these guys because of Phelps being listed as a 'Renegade".
However, after reading this thread in its entirety it, Im slightly dissappointed by the way Mr. McGovern has handled all of the criticism on this board against his school.
I find it interesting that he has spent so much time defending his school against the OPINIONS of those who post on this board. If his school is adequate, he need waste no time defending it by responding to opinions that he doesnt agree with. Thats red flag number one.
Red flag number two is threatening legal action over an alleged copyright violation. If there is indeed a copyright violation, there is no need to address it publicly on this board. You simply excercise your intellectual property rights via a competent IP attorney.
Red flag number three is challenging a poster to come to your Dojo and prove himself. I thought Saito Ninjitsu taught a quiet confidence? Challenging an anonymous poster on a message board to a confrontation seems a bit beneath a seasoned martial artist.
Red flad numer four is referring to the same anonymous posters in a derogatory manner, for example, "Duh, moron" is not something that a respected martial artist should ever say to anyone.
Martial Arts are supposed to teach self discipline, composure, confidence etc. In my opinion, it almost sounds like someone is just posing as Mr. McGovern under a fake posting name, because the kind of defensiveness and immature dialogue does not seem becoming of those who have studied Saito Ninjitsu.