Posted On:2/17/2014 11:59am
Basically what the header says, I started in martial arts when I was in high school at this school claiming a two thousand years of lineage (as I type this I cringe, my god I was a moron) in "Japanese Warrior Arts". It was a small school with only around seventy people of all different ages, but there weren't any women or girls my age and I was a little put off by being alone, but there was this upper fifty year old lady so my stupid teenage mind thought that was enough to counter that red flag.
It was a really intense martial art, but it was really fun to learn and I ended up making friends and learning a lot (I struggled with social anxiety for a large part of my childhood that extended into my teens. Hell I still get it sometimes). But as girls started joining and then either dropping off suddenly or showing up less and less, I was a minority in every way. Most flexible, so people hating training with me because **** would not work (I assumed that it wasn't sexism, stupid), and a teenage girl. As boys my age filled up the class, and I was last picked for technique, told I was too difficult to train with because of my flexibility and it would look "strange" to outsiders to see grown men grappling a young girl... Well I started getting fed up and started questioning stuff.
Of course the Sensei was a master at manipulation and soothed me when the old woman started being a royal bitch to me all the time over any attention I would get. Meager in comparison to what everyone else got, but any one on one with the Sensei was met with outrage from her. The conflicts were so frequent I started getting lectures from the Sensei on my demeanor, because if she didn't like me it was my fault every single time. Her singling me out on how I taught white-belts in front of a crowded class, completely undermining me at every turn for imagined slights... it was a complete detriment to my training, and made me even more furious because all this woman would do is sit out at every single class. But she was the Deshi so it was cool.
Anyway, after four years of that, as well as other higher ranks being sexist towards me, not allowing me the same facilities male students were allowed, including trips and demos and even classes at the dojo, and me questioning the Sensei every class about a technique I couldn't grasp because he would give conflicting instruction every time he showed up to class (which was already infrequent, what Sensei doesn't show up to his own classes? This one apparently), I was cut from almost all classes while still paying in full as well as scrubbing the dojo every week. When I left to college I was told in no uncertain terms to never come back because of how exhausting I was to teach.
So now I want to get back into a passion of mine, but I don't want to deal with the same **** I got the first time out. I'm looking for advice on what to look for in an art, a Sensei, and what red flags to look for. I don't want to ever deal with a train wreck like that fucking place again guys, help a sister out?
Posted On:2/17/2014 12:10pm
Posted On:2/19/2014 3:08am
What you describe (i.e. poor instruction and leadership, dubious claims) is fairly common in martial arts without a competitive element, but even combat sports are not immune to abusive or otherwise inept teachers.
Firstly, you need to decide what you want out of training. My personal take is that fighting is what makes martial arts uniquely worthwhile, so I train primarily to be better at fighting; if some kind of character building or meaningful relationship develops along the way, it's not unwelcome but it's not necessary either.
Once you sort out your rationale, you'll want to consider what interests you technically; maybe it's grappling of some kind, or striking, weapons, or some combination thereof.
When it comes to evaluating a group, look for a clean facility and friendly people. One advantage of combat sports is that competitions tend to be recorded, so you can get an idea of the performance that's coming out of a gym. Most places offer some kind of trial or allow you to watch the class. Take the opportunities available to get an idea of the instruction provided and the overall culture going on. Red flags are mostly obvious; unhygienic people/places, teachers that can't explain things simply and manage a class, or really anything that strikes you as "off".
Trust your intuition. You have experience with disappointing martial arts and have shown you can be thoughtful of what you do.
Posted On:2/21/2014 11:41am
Style: Judo, jujitsu
I've been lucky enough to never encounter that level of sexism and discrimination, but it's out there and I've heard plenty of stories. Like you said, no or next to no other women is a red flag. There aren't a lot of us, but most schools have a few. Most places will let you try a class or two for free--make a point to talk to any other women there and ask about the atmosphere. You should absolutely expect to be treated no differently than the guys. For that matter, ask the head sensei and a few of the more senior students what their attitude towards teaching and training with women is. If you don't like what you hear, go someplace else. Look for a mix of ages too, esp. in the guys. If there are older men there as well as young bucks, that speaks to a healthy culture in the dojo, IMHO.
I have been very happy with the overall attitude in judo. There's always a few douchebags here and there, but for the most part I haven't had any problems. My biggest gripe is that being older and not light, and competing only at local tournaments, there's a pretty small pool of people to play. I have a friend who does BJJ and she's been happy with it. Good luck--and have fun!
Posted On:2/21/2014 10:16pm
This was a group written article on finding a good MA school. Unfortunately, we did not address the issue of sexism in the article. It also sounds like you were dealing with a rather toxic environment.
Obviously if the Sensi, does not allow female students access to certain programs that male student have access to, that is discriminatory in the absence of a rational explaination. (Sorry Julie, you can't go to power lifting week until you can bench 300 Lbs like all the other participants) I'm getting the feeling from your post, that such did not apply.
If you are going to college or university you will probably be able to find a martial arts class with other females your age. That will serve as an early indication whether they will let someone like you thrive, or wether you'll encounter the politics you did at your last dojo.
I'm also going to send a link to Georgette, I think she would have some useful comments.
Posted On:2/22/2014 1:44am
Absolutely read that article Sam posted.
Line up someplace you like the vibe of, isn't going to break the bank, isn't impossible to get to (either the location or the class times) and is doing something you want to do (striking, grappling, combat vs. fitness, weapons, etc.).
Watch a lot and ask lots of questions. The best instructors I've been associated with would be happy for you to come watch everyday for a month, letting the 'business as usual' of their club do the talking and knowing that when you want to get involved you will.
Good luck and keep us posted.
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