Personally I would be lost in class without the verbal instruction, perhaps its just how I process information.
FINDING A GOOD MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOL ON THE FIRST TRY, THE BULLSHIDO GUIDE
1) Executive Summary
2) What Is A McDojo? What is Bullshido?
3) What are you looking for?
4) Initially Shopping for a School.
5) What Is Proper Martial Arts Instruction?
6) Indications that a School Has Low Training Standards or is a McDojo.
7) Indications that the School is Out for the Buck.
8) Ways Martial Arts Schools Make Money off You, the good, the bad, and the Ugly.
9) Contract issues
10) Bullshido tales you might be told.
A) The Black Belt is a historical part of Martial Arts tradition and indicates the high skill level of the wearer.
B) Historical lies
C) Military Combatives Bullshit
D) Latest Trends, Watch out for Krap Maga as verses Krav Maga
11) Lies Instructors Tell About Themselves
12) Selecting a Martial Art for Your Child
A) Most of the Same Rules Apply When Selecting a School.
B) Some Business Considerations
C) We Suggest Grappling Rather Than Striking for Young Children.
1) EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The most common question we get from martial arts novices here at Bullshido is "what martial arts should I take?" The next most frequent question is "which one of the following martial arts schools is the best for me." The unstated question is 'how do I avoid a crummy school?" Most of us at Bullshido have shared the experience of having a bad instructor, but good judgment is often the product of experience which in turn is the product of previous bad judgement. This is a guide to how to find a good martial arts school the first time around, and how to spot schools and instructors that have "issues". Since our detractors tend to accuse us of being "sports oriented" if you really, really desire a "traditional" martial arts school you might want to also consult the following essay by Rob Redmond. He's also much more polite then we are. http://www.24fightingchickens.com/20...d-karate-club/
I especially like the form he has in this article that indicates how martial arts school costs are broken down. You just might want to print it out and bring it school shopping as he advises.
2) WHAT IS A MCDOJO, WHAT IS BULLSHIDO
Here at Bullshido we use the term "McDojo" describe a school in which the quality of instruction and training is watered down by the instructor in order to make money. Similarly a McDojo may be occasionally run by someone who is sincere but is the product of bad training and a martial arts franchise approach. "Bullshido" is bad behavior, typically involving deception, that a martial arts instructor does, frequently at a martial arts school, which is very often a McDojo.
To provide obvious examples, if a school tests people for a black belt within a year after they start this art, they are obviously dropping their grading standards and are a McDojo. If your martial arts instructor is insisting he can trace his martial arts lineage back 4,000 years or that he teaches secret special forces hand to hand combat techniques you are probably witnessing Bullshido which is a substantial deception or untruth in a martial arts context. Either is a compelling reason to avoid training at this school.
3) WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
The most important thing for any martial arts student to know when they are out shopping for a martial arts school is what do they really want? Here at Bullshido most of our members are interested in studying a martial art primarily as a method of fighting, rather then for health and internal cultivation (Tai Chi) a workout, (cardio kickboxing, Tae Bo, and many forms of Tae Kwon Do) or as a study of a foreign culture. (Aikido, Kendo).
Here at Bullshido we believe in Alive training which is training which has "three key elements, movement, timing, and energy (resistance). If you are missing any one of these then it is not Alive." http://www.straightblastgym.com/aliveness101.html Resistance means working out with people who are non-compliant, they resist the application of your techniques and you have to learn how to make them work under pressure. If your training is not alive, it will not be useful in a real fight.
When asked Bullshido tend to favor arts which tend to train in an 'alive' manner. Usually this includes Brazilian Jujitsu, Sombo, Judo, Western Boxing, Western Wrestling, Muy Thai Kick Boxing, Any form of full contact kickboxing, etc. This is not a complete list, and any so called traditional martial art can use "alive" training, in short it is the training methods used, rather than the name of the art that produces people who can actually fight.
The bottom line is if you do not know what you want when you go shopping, you won't find it.
4) INITIALLY SHOPPING FOR A SCHOOL
Before you go to visit a particular dojo you should search on line for the websites of schools in your local area and see what sort of prices they are charging. This will give you some basis for comparison for the numbers that are thrown around when you visit a school in person. It will also help you spot if a school is charging above market value rates. There may be a good reason why an instructor is charging more then the norm for his area. Many of us would for example pay premium rates to study with say, Mario Sperry or someone who has world class grappling skills, but there should be a clear reason why you are paying more to attend this school. Additionally if a school lists its rates openly you are more likely to be dealing with an honest instructor and not be victimized by any one of a number of deceptive sales practices.
Look for other things, Is the instructor claiming to belong to any "Halls of Fame"? What does he call his Youth Class? Do the pictures on the site show techniques that look very complicated and ridiculous? How many martial arts are being offered? Do they list class times for each art offered? We will explain the importance of each of these questions below.
Look on the site to see what organization the training group is part of. Most major martial arts have professional associations that can act as a form of quality control. An instructor should generally be certified through this office. This is particularly true of Japanese arts. When you later visit the school the instructor should be able to produce his ranking certificate (or menkyo, in a koryu art) that certifies that he is able to teach, and he should have no problem allowing you to verify this directly with the home office. Tell him you are not questioning his credentials, but double-checking to make sure you've found a good place.
5) WHAT IS PROPER MARTIAL ARTS INSTRUCTION?
Lets make this simple. Stripped of romantic "Karate Kid" or Hollywood notions, a martial arts teacher is basically a physical education teacher* who is paid directly by you rather than by a school system. If you don't think this individual would be able to supervise a bunch of students playing football then they probably aren't a good choice as your sensi. (*One of our members pointed out that this is a gross simplification and that other roles besides instructor include, coach, trainer, manager, etc. We're doing so here because of space.)
What physical education teachers are supposed to do is the following: Using a basic understanding of body structure, mechanics, learning theory, and sports psychology, they will train you to carry out certain techniques and establish a context or strategy for using such techniques.
a) Here is how to kick the soccer ball.
b) Here is how to pass upfield.
c) This is why you pass instead of trying to bring the ball upfield against three defenders.
d) Now let's practice drills focusing first on kicking accurately, then on passing.
e) Later we will have you practice passing against a defender trying to take the ball away from you."
There are various various teaching methods which first seek to show the move done properly, practice it in isolation in order to build attributes such as the ability to kick the ball far enough, and then reintegrate the movie into the context of either resistant training, or the soccer game itself. If you ever want to see a model for this instruction borrow some Gracie Jujitsu tapes and watch Rorion and Royce go through some of the moves step by step. You are looking for someone who can provide that level of clarity and attention to detail.
Importance of Cross-Training
There are many different types of combat that need attention in order to become a well rounded martial artist. These are kicking, boxing, clinching, throws, takedowns, grappling and submissions. Some schools might rule out a particular range of combat, telling students not to go to that range. This should be a big red flag. Combat is unpredictable, and wishful thinking will do nothing to stop a fight from going to that level. Neglecting any range of combat is ignorance. A system that completely avoids any range of combat will teach its students very one-dimensional skills. An experienced adversary will be able to sense their opponent’s weakness, and take them out of their game to a range of combat where they are helpless.
Just because a school’s style typically focuses on one specific range, it shouldn’t stop them from incorporating other styles into their curriculum. For example: A Tae Kwon Do School could incorporate Judo, a Jiu Jitsu school could incorporate kickboxing, or a Boxing school could incorporate Wrestling. Incorporating additional styles so that all ranges are addressed will make an otherwise limited system more complete. When it comes to martial arts, variety is truly the spice of life. Look for open minded instructors that can help fill your bag of tricks, or risk being trained as a one-trick pony.
We would recommend a teacher who has extensive experience, and if possible, a competition record in a full contact martial art. If it's a boxing gym, see if the owner's are USA boxing certified. Look for Golden Glove contenders, Silver glove contenders, amateur and professional records, etc. Same goes for Muay Thai and BJJ, they should be competing in the area and have some success record to show for it. You may be able to check his records here.
Links to fighting records:
http://www.onthemat.com (Fused with BJJ.org Great for finding out if schools or instructors are legitimate in BJJ. )
We also prefer head instructors who; actually teach classes instead of primarily serving as salesman in chief. Who rolls with his students while grappling. Who prefers to be called coach to grand master. Who is level headed and does not tell black belt fables. Who is grown up enough to have decent people skills, not just sales skills. Who explains his fee structure clearly. Who does not look like he's assembling a cult of personality. Who is not overtly paranoid, but who has experience with the way criminals actually function. (Law Enforcement Officers usually have such credentials)
6) WARNING SIGNS THAT A SCHOOL HAS LOW TRAINING STANDARDS OR IS A MCDOJO.
a) There are more then one or two children under the age of sixteen running around with black belts on. This indicates they promote the students in their kiddy program often and early. The school will tend to water its training down to this classes level, for example no contact in their sparring.
b) They let these kids teach their lower ranking belts.
c) They have people under the rank of Brown belt teaching their beginners.
d) They make extensive use of pre-black belt students to teach their full classes, typically for free.
e) Their sparring is no-contact, both for beginners and for advance students.
f) Advanced Students only do "point sparring". A form of light contact sparring in which they simply have to touch their opponent, and the match is restarted. This encourages REALLY bad habits.
g) The higher-ranking students who are not yet fifty or sixty are quite out of shape, this indicates that the art isn't physically taxing enough.
h) People need permission from the instructor to hit the punching bag in the school when class is not in session.
i) Students above the rank of yellow and orange belt, are flailing around and their strikes show no focus or power.
j) The instructor wastes more time in class talking about himself rather than instructing.
k) The school mixes children and adults into the same class, this is bad idea, they need to be taught using different methods.
l) The school says that it teaches multiple martial arts, Karate, Aikido, Bando, boxing, and does not have a separate class for each of these disciplines. "Well we teach the Aikido through our Karate class", yeh, right!
m) The school teaches Extreme Martial Arts, also called X-MA. This crowd pleaser involves the more gymnastic side of martial arts and while kids love the flashy kicks, it's worthless for self defense.
n) A good indication of a McDojo is the ridiculous amount of trophies. While not always true, if a place holds tons of trophies and medals everywhere, it generally tends to be McDojoish. Ridiculous uniforms are also not a good sign. It indicates the school likes to play dress up, which is the first step towards "Live Action Role Play".
o) Goofy stances equals goofy fighting. Real people generally don't fight like insects or dragons.
p) The school or its leader has an at home study program that gives rankings to those who study via DVD and or videotape from home.
q) The Instructor discourages or forbids you against going to open martial arts competitions where you will compete against members of other schools. Similarly he prohibits you from cross training in other martial arts, Gee I wonder why?
r) Schools, typically Kung Fu Schools, that train people using Chi or Qi for self defense. While such internal energy may exist, we are unaware of any documented example in which such internal power was successfully used in a real fight, sport or otherwise.
s) Many McDojo websites put up kanji symbols without understanding what they mean. Find someone who knows Japanese, (on forums like these), and see if the Japanese is actually legitimate. Its hard to have a legitimate Japanese Martial Arts lineage when the words on your certificates make no sense in Japanese.
t) The school teaches ATA Tae Kwon Do, or Ninjutsu, we've had more complaints about these two styles then anything else. For information on the ATA see:
u) The instructor will not let you view a regular martial arts class before you sign up. Most McDojos will not do this but if it happens this is an extremely bad sign. And no we're not talking about their advanced class, we're talking about viewing the one you'd be placed in as a beginner.
8) INDICATIONS THAT THE SCHOOL IS OUT FOR THE BUCK
a) The Instructor will not answer questions about his pricing structure in a clear or concise manner.
b) His rates are well above average for your area without a really good explanation.
c) He makes a point of saying that you will receive certain services and discounts and which are not mentioned in the text of the contract. SUCKER!!!!!!!
d) There is a lot of add on equipment that needs to be bought to test for various ranks. This technique has occasionally included a different colored uniform per rank.
e) Prices for rank testing generally, and over $25 specifically for lower belts, anything over $100 for a Black Belt test is ridiculous.
f) He tries to sign you up for a contract that lasts more then a year telling you that you'll lock in a low price. He might also tell you can cancel but such language is not in the contract. SUCKER!!!!!!!!
g) He tells you that you can sign up for a program that will take you all the way to black belt. (We've known of people who have dropped $5,000 on such programs and wanted out of their contracts a couple months later. SUCKER!!!!
h) His students are wearing various patches denoting their membership in various suborganizations, and competition teams. Yes they had to pay to play :(
i) They call their children's class "little ninjas" even though they don't teach Ninjutsu.
j) The school teaches ATA Tae Kwon do, they're the worst of the large TKD school chains in this regard.
k) The instructor is a member of a Martial Arts Hall of Fame that is not run by Black Belt Magazine. These are generally "pay to play" organizations and/or back slapping circle jerks with a few legitimate members for window dressing and a whole lot of want-to- bes. If the instructor belongs to more then one such Hall of Fame he is almost always a professional credential hunter and his whole resume is suspect. This becomes a certainty if he works this topic into the sales conversation.
l) The instructor claims a Ph.D in the martial arts, these come from unaccredited institutions that could not pass the formal accredition requirements your local university passes. This is a variation of the 'pay to play' Hall of Fame dodge. It indicates that he is going out of his way to puff up his resume.
m) This chain of martial arts schools is expanding very rapidly. This warning sign can also be considered a quality control and McDojo warning sign. Usually what happens is that when many new schools are added, the organization will allow assistant instructors to teach at the new locations who have much less experience then one of their regular black belts. Some organizations have even given these newbie instructors special instructor belts, so that visitors do not realize that the teacher is actually say, a green belt in the art, because he's wearing a combo black and red, or black and white belt around his waist. With new schools to fill with new students, the marketing and sales operation becomes increasingly important and drives decision making within the art. We do not know of any martial arts schools since the 1950s which have expanded rapidly and NOT experienced quality issues at some of their locations.
n) One such martial arts chain to avoid is called Go Kan Ryu which started out in Australia and has now expanded to England. This chain has also shown up in Houston Texas. Based on the discussion at http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=27150 their method appears to be the following. 1) Recruit a bunch of younger students as "self defense consultants" who then go door to door recruiting new students. 2) These SDCs report to a manager who supervises sales and when the SDC make enough sales they are able to teach themselves. 3) The SDCs are in an intensive three nights a week training program, but depending on their success they can be teaching their own class within a year or two and wearing a black belt with a white stripe which conceals their actual sub-black belt rank. 4) They will also charge you, the student up to $160 for a separate insurance fee which is ridiculous for a non-contact Karate school. Even assuming half of what we hear about their business practices is true, we suggest you avoid these people.
o) We're also hearing rumors that Fang Shen Do up in Quebec and Ontario is set to start a rapid expansion in the number of their schools. Please take a look at this article before you sign up with these people. http://www.bullshido.net/modules.php...article&id=224 A search of Bullshido.net will turn up several mega lengthy threads on this art, and one of the points that is made by posters is that that soon after reaching the Black Sash or Black Belt level, students tend to either leave FSD or buy their own school. If this is to be believed, then FSD has already deployed almost all of their black sash caliber students to teach and will have to dip into its lower ranking students to staff such an expansion. If you decide to take FSD we would not suggest doing so with either a new instructor, or at a new school.
8) WAYS MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOLS MAKE MONEY OFF YOU, THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.
A commercial martial arts school will keep itself afloat through the tuition of its students. So there is typically a basic rate. Let's say $120 a month. Sound simple? It no longer is, with the proliferation of Martial Arts Management groups the same school may offer as many as three or four different contract packages to a new student. A student will be offered a "basic membership", a "Black belt membership" or a "Masters Membership", similarly, these could be called silver, gold, and platinum memberships. The point is, that the basic membership is a false economy since you will usually not be able to spar, and will have a limited number of class opportunities a week. However its existence allows the school to offer a low price over the phone. At Bullshido we dislike any plan which implies that by paying your fees that you will become a Black Belt or Master. Similarly we dislike such programs because as soon as the student joins as a basic member there will be efforts to have the student upgrade to a longer, more expensive contract. Bait and switch anyone? We strongly suggest a school that has one basic rate for instruction.
The other way schools make money is by add-ons. You need to buy a uniform, sparring equipment through the school, weapons like sai or tonfa for your weapons tests, and attend paid seminars with the instructor's master. One week camps in the summer are expected in order for you to test for belts and finally the dreaded belt testing fees! Typically these will start at $25 to $50 for the low color belts and go as high as $500 to $1,000 to test for a black belt in many schools of Tae Kwon Do. You may then be charged an additional fee for "registering" the rank with their home office. :P This is a great money making venture but it gives the tester a strong incentive to pass people which has had horrible consequences for quality control in the martial arts. As a matter of fact, we have rarely heard of McDojos that didn't eventually pimp their ranking system. Once they view belts as a commodity, quality control typically collapses.
It can be expected that a school will sell you uniforms and sparring equipment, but find out ahead of time what the going rate is for a simple karate and judo gi (the Judo gi is much thicker to prevent ripping while grappling) if they are charging well above the going rate for sparring equipment it will tell you something about their business practices. Similarly ask them what they charge for belt tests and watch to see if they do any backpedaling. Most of these add-ons are costs that are not specified in the contract you will sign, except for a provision that you have to use equipment in class that is permitted and required by the instructor. When you visit the school and the instructor/sales person has their attention diverted make sure to ask one of their students casually about these add-ons.
9) CONTRACT ISSUES
A contract is a legally enforceable promise between two parties in which in exchange for instruction the student promises to pay either month by month, or according to various lengths of time such as three months to a year or more. In most states martial arts studios are regulated as health clubs or gyms and the provisions of their contracts are identical. Therefore before you sign anything it is in your interest to go on-line, or to your the law library at the local court house, yank the index volume to your state statutes off the shelf and look up the law regulating health clubs, gyms or martial arts studios. Many states also require health clubs/martial arts schools to list portions of the law on the contract itself so make sure to check the back of anything you are considering signing for relevant text which may include whether you can cancel the contract within the first day or so after you sign it.
Be aware that regardless of what the instructor/salesman says, if what he promises is not in the written contract it is probably unenforceable. "Attend this school and I promise Winged Monkeys will teach you Oz Fu". Watch out for one-time only offers, "sign up now and get this special one time deal", this is typically a pressure sales technique. If you feel uncertain say you want to go home and think about it. If they don't let you carry the contract out the door something is probably wrong. Ask if you can take a free class, or at the very least watch one. Some schools will also charge you a one class mat fee, this is far preferable to signing up for a year or more on the spur of the moment.
The biggest problems we've seen have come with long term contracts of over a year. Sometimes these are described as joining a "black belt club" a "masters program" implying great skills will be yours if you fork up several thousand dollars. Don't do it, at the worst you'll get locked into a lengthy agreement when you hardly know the school, at the best you will basically be buying rank from the instructor regardless of your effort.
Some tricks to watch out for include, contracts that automatically renew themselves, sales pitches that try to sign you up for longer contracts within a short time after you start at your new dojo, hidden add ons for required equipment purchases through the school store, belt testing fees, and required seminars with Grand Master Cold Cash. Before you sign on the dotted line observe the equipment, uniforms, sparring gear that the students bring in and ask the instructor how much a typical equipment package will cost, and what is required to fully participate at this school.
Many schools will want you to sign an agreement which will allow them to remove money out of your bank account directly. For obvious reasons we don't recommend this however before you do this you might want to take a copy of the agreement to your local bank and find out how you would actually cancel this agreement if necessary. They'll probably tell you something different then Joe Karate Instructor will.
Look especially at the provisions of the contract which covers what happens if you move more then a certain distance from the school, are injured, or what happens if your school closes and the instructor transfers the contract to another school at his pleasure. A fair contract will have provisions for dealing with what happens if the school, or the student moves, or if the school closes or the student gets injured. If the contract does not cover these areas you probably don't want to sign it. We should also warn you about contract transferability, we've seen one case in which a school closed, the instructor claimed he transferred to contract to someone else, and the billing company chose to believe the instructor over the students. You do not want to sign any contract that does not give you a choice in this matter.
In most states if there is a provision in the contract you find unacceptable, you and the instructor can cross this provision out and both initial this change. This does not work in all states however so check with local counsel beforehand. Finally I do not recommend signing a contract for more then a year under any circumstances. It is much better to sign a contract for three months or go month to month when you start at a school in case you change your mind. Never sign a contract for more then three months with a child, they change their minds even more then adults do. "I don't want to do Karate Daddy! I want to do Ballet!" "Just tell that to their ruthless collections lawyer, honey!"
Finally, for a more detailed, better discussion of martial arts contracts read:
This is a guide to martial arts contracts written by a Bullshido member who practices law in Florida. Hmmm, will you have the smarts to spend 20 minutes reading an article that could save you thousands of dollars down the road?
You also might want to read:
http://www.24fightingchickens.com/20...d-karate-club/ which has a good discussion of billing agencies and hidden costs.
10) BULLSHIDO TALES YOU MAY BE TOLD
Bullshido is a substantial untruth told to promote a martial arts instructor or art, often, but not always, for financial reasons. Such lies come in many forms, most typically they include the background of the instructor or the art. At Bullshido we advise you that if you discover such lies you should not train with that art or person. You can find someone better.
Unfortunately, instructors at many types of martial art schools will also make inaccurate claims such as the ease of learning techniques, the effectiveness of their style/system, and the necessity (or lack thereof) of certain techniques in learning a martial art. These claims may be made for several reasons:
- to cover up a deficiency in the style/system (note that most individual martial arts have gaps in their area of instruction, such as Muay Thai's lack of groundwork)
- to entice, scare, or encourage consumers into purchasing lessons
- personal biases on the part of the instructor against another type of style/system
As an example of the second reason, an instructor may try to convince a consumer that their style/system can teach an individual enough skills and techniques to fight off any assailant in a street or bar fight within months, compared to the "years that other styles/systems" take. In other words, a promise of better results faster than what anyone else can provide, very similar to how diet pill companies claim their pill will make you lose more weight with less effort. However, like losing weight, developing martial skill is a long-term investment of time, dedication, and effort. While a consumer can indeed learn a number of techniques within a short period of time, effectively utilizing those techniques is a much longer process. Be wary of any instructor who makes "too good to be true" claims of being a deadly fighter. This also goes for instructional videos and books.
Similarly some teachers of striking-centric styles (such as Karate) may place so much faith and emphasis on stand-up and striking skills that they'll claim these skills can fend off any assailant who tries to tackle them or take them down to the ground. Colloquially, this is called the "anti-grapple," referring to the alleged invulnerability of an expert striker from takedown attempts. This is alleged because in innumerable situations, grapplers and ground fighters have taken down these karateka or kickboxers and submitted them, since the strikers had zero knowledge of what to do.
A) The Black Belt is a deeply historical part of Martial Arts tradition and indicates the high skill level of the wearer.
The black belt was created for use in Judo no earlier then 1886, four years after Judo's founding. http://www.e-budokai.com/articles/belts.htm Later in 1926, Gichin Funakoshi, who had introduced Okinawan Karate to Japan in 1922, awarded this rank to some of his students. According to Isao Obata who received one of these first black belts, Funakoshi at first simply wished to recognize the "fine development" of some of his students. On a visit to his home for Tea, Funakoshi "drew some lengths of black belting from a cupboard and presented these belts to Obata and the others. Since then, the institution has evolved into an official system." ("Karate is Dying" by Richard L. Blair, Black Belt Magazine October 1972.)
In the English language there does not appear to be an explaination by Funakoshi, himself, for why he chose to put in place this designation of rank. However it is known that the Black Belt did not exist on Okinawa as a recognition for rank before Funakoshi arrived to teach in Japan. Similarly, the Black Belt did not appear in Tae Kwon Do and most other Korean arts until after World War Two, because these arts were not officially created until then. Since 1960, various Chinese Martial arts have adopted the rank of Black Sash to designate a similar level of development, but this is an inovation, and not a traditional feature of Kung or Gung Fu.
In short, outside Judo, the Black Belt did not appear in Japanese Karate until the 1920s, and in other martial arts until at least the 1940s. So this rank is a recent innovation that was not present during the vast majority of martial arts history.
Lack of Standardization
Since Funskoshi did not really articulate a general definition for what a black belt means, various arts have assigned their own meanings to this rank. In some systems one can achieve a black belt in less then two years, in other systems one can take ten years to achieve this distinction. In some arts one will have to show fighting proficiency to become a blackbelt. In other arts there is no requirement that the black belt ever spar a resisting opponent with full contact. Similarly a black belt is only recognized within the system that rewarded it. Unlike an university degree from an accredited institution, a black belt in one form of Karate is usually not recognized in other forms of Karate.
There is no government regulations or private uniform standards that maintains any consistency in the skill demonstrated by two different people in two different schools who successfully test for their black belts on the same day, in any town in the United States. So if the martial arts instructor tells you that his "black belt" school turns out highly skilled practicioners, he may have high standards, or this may just be a sales pitch. There is nothing inherent in the rank of black belt that confers skill in fighting. We've seen skilled black belts, and others who couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Please go to http://www.24fightingchickens.com/20...ition-of-rank/ to read an article on what rank does, and does not measure.
By achieving Black Belt you are not joining an international fellowship larger then yourself. You are simply one of a number of students that a particular martial arts instructor has decided to recognize for your development at a particular time. Please enjoy it, but recognize that there is nothing inherent the Black Belt rank, as verses the training methods you used to get there, that will help you in a real fight.
B) Lies about Martial Arts History
A fighting art raises or falls on its own merits, regardless of its history. However as part of the marketing pitch, the martial arts new comer is likely to hear a number of historical untruths. The first is that a particular art is connected to the Shaolin Temple in China, the second is that the art is two thousand or so years old, and the third is that this particular art was formed for combat purposes on the oriental battlefield. If the instructor didn't bring up this swill, it would be irrelevant but since its being used as a marketing tool we'll discuss it. The greater the role these falsehoods play in the sales presentation, the more likely you want to avoid this place.
Many martial arts have claimed a pedigree to the Shaolin Temple because of the prestige associated with such an institution. Be aware that many Asian martial arts like to claim a heritage that can not be supported by historical methods and is frequently the product of what one master told his student orally many years ago. Such assertion therefore is better described as "folklore", unless your master himself flew over to the rebuilt, recreated Shaolin Temple in China, to train. The martial arts world is deluged by westerners who do not speak any foreign languages who claim that they were trained by a mysterious monk in childhood who left no forwarding address. Generally these claims are worthless, and if you care so much about this connection you can book a flight to the People's Republic of China yourself train at the new Shaolin temple and cut out the middleman.
Other arts, typically Tae Kwon Do, claim that they are the product of 2,000 years of history whereas the best scholarship indicates that TKD was synthesized in South Korea from Japanese Karate, in the late 1940s and 1950s. Similarly arts such as Aikido, Shotokan Karate, and Judo were all synthesized from older arts after 1870. The Black Belt that your to be instructor wears, was not used by any art other then Judo before the 1920s.
There are also arts with no historical connection to what they claim, for example Koga Ninjutsu. The claims of ANYONE to teach authentic Ninjutsu are highly questionable at best and the schools which did not originate through Takamatsu Toshitsugu (who taught Masaaki Hatsumi and Ueno Takashi) generally have no basis in anything that can be traced to Japan's feudal period, the last time there were real Ninjas running around "keeping it Ninja".
In short, martial arts are fluid, not static, and arts change from generation to generation, and instructor to instuctor. Therefore a person who usually tries to sell you on studying an "unchanged" art, directly from the hands of the Samurai, (unless its a few of the sword arts) is fooling himself and you.
In his book "Real Fighting", Payton Quinn properly identifies the following canard that has been circulating in the martial arts community. "Karate is the result of more then a thousand years of development, and its techniques are the ones that have survived and proven themselves on the battlefield" (p. 116) Quinn writes:
"Can you imagine the following scene? A few hundred guys on one side of the battlefield raise their naked fists and cut loose with martial arts cries, while the on the other side of the battlefield, a few hundred guys do the same. Next, the two forces clash and decide the outcome with fists, feet and throws. It has never happened, people, and it is not likely it ever will. Weapons have been the first choice in both war and individual combat since prehistoric times."
C) "I practice the Special Forces Deadly"
Since Jerry Peterson promoted SCARS in the 1990s with the claim that his system was used by the U.S. Navy SEALs, (see http://home.att.net/~erik.mann/atas.htm for an introduction to this controversy.) there has been an upsurge in people advertising that they teach military combatives. The pitch is that since a particular unit of fierce warriors practice their particular hand to hand system, it must be the best. This is a gross simplification because the military spends much less time training people in hand to hand fighting skills then it does training them in gun fu or artillery ryu which are much more effective way to kill your fellow man. The military also frequently switches hand to hand combat programs based on the whims of its commanding officers. For example SCARS was only the official hand to hand program for SEALS for several years before they pulled the plug on this method of instruction. Similarly, in the 1990s the Marines used to learn a system called LINE which has also been replaced.
Certain units have been instructed in various systems of martial arts by their NCOs whose influence did not extend beyond their platoon, company, regiment, or base. Finally, many martial arts instructors have volunteered to teach day long seminars for free, or have taught an occasional class on base to service men and women or their dependants. This has produced a whole slew of people who have claimed to be military hand to hand instructors even if they only spent an afternoon instructing their local national guard unit.
Military hand to hand training is almost always by design, abbreviated in nature. Some simple, usually effective techniques like the chin jab will be taught and its on to the next block of instruction! Those military men who do have a deeper interest in honing the martial arts usually have a more detailed background in a non-military arts which they will use to increase their proficiency. So if some instructor claims that you should study hand to hand combat with him because he taught the Green Berets, take it with a grain of salt. He may know what he is doing or he could have been hired by the same bozo who paid $600 for a hammer, or several thousand for a toilet seat.
Finally to quote Richard Marcinko, formally of SEAL Team 6. "I never engaged in hand-to-hand combat unless their was absolutely no alternative. To me, the combat knife should be a tool, not a weapon. All the whiz-bang, knife fighting, karate/judo/kung fu b.s. you see in the Rambo-Jambo shoot-'em-up movies is just that: bullshit. The real life rules of war are simple and effective: stay at arm's length whenever possible and shoot the **** out of the enemy before he sees you." Rogue Warrior, 1992, page 118.
D) Krav Maga, the Latest Flavor
In the military combatives field in 2006, you are most likely to be instructed in Krav Maga which was originally developed as the hand to hand system used by the Israeli Army. Bullshido has nothing against this system. Unfortunately this art has been over licensed by the largest Krav Maga organization in the United States, Krav Maga Association of America (KMAA) so you are going to have to be careful when choosing a Krav teacher.
There is a conflict in the United States between the Krav Maga instructors like Rhon Mizrachi and Eyal Yanilov who learned the system in the Israeli army, and Darren Levine who learned Krav as a civilian through the Wingate Institute in Israel. We'll skip the politics, but needless to say, Levine typically licenses American Martial Arts studio owners to teach Krav after an abbreviated if intense series of week long courses in Los Angeles before they return to their home school. That being the case, the KMAA instructor in your hometown could have a decade in the art, or have just spent a week or two in LA. You want to avoid the latter. There also seems to be high turnover in the KMAA ranks with a number of schools joining and then dropping the Krav program. For that reason you also want to avoid the brand new Krav Schools.
Under Levine, Krav ranks people according to Belts and Phases. Belts indicate the instructors rank in the system but the Phase indicates what the individual is allowed to teach. Levine's Krav has five belts, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and black. Phase A through C will allow an instructor to teach material through green belt, and he is allowed to award belt rank up to one step lower then himself. So if you have a Krav blue belt he can award a green belt as long as he's completed the courses that allow him to instruct green belt material. Its at Blue and Brown belt levels and their attendant phases that (KMAA) teaches its weapons disarms, and other material that most outsiders think of as Krav. These phases are typically called the 'Expert Series' with KMAA Krav black belts being quite rare. Now the KMAA is referring to ranks up to green belt as Level One, and Blue and Brown as Level Two. Labels aside, for actual information about the KMAA Krav Curriculium see this guide. http://www.kravmagadfw.com/curriculum.html
We would advise you to ask your potential instructor if 1) he is a certified instructor or an instructor trainee? 2) If they have completed Phase A through C, and whether they have completed any additional phases? 3) What belt they are? and 4) How many years have they studied Krav? 5) How long have they taught Krav at this location. (If they keep moving locations they may do so again shortly. They should be a certified instructor, have completed Phase C, and we recommend a Blue Belt with five or more years of experience in Krav. We would also suggest you write the KMAA http://www.kravmaga.com/laselfdefense.asp to confirm what this potential instructor tells you before you sign any paperwork. We've seen at least one example of someone licensed by the KMAA exaggerate their ranking authority, probably to the complete ignorance of this parent organization.
11) LIES INSTRUCTORS TELL ABOUT THEMSELVES
Unfortunately there are many people in the Martial Arts world who are less then truthful about their background, and even tell lies to recruit students. Below are some quick warning signs.
a) Beware of Instructors who sell their Martial Art by mentioning they were in the CIA, SEALS, Special Forces, or did other clandestine work. People who really do that sort of work generally do not publicize their prior occupation in casual conversation.
b) Instructors who claim high military decorations, or POW status from Vietnam. Unfortunately there are a lot of people making such claims who are not telling the truth. Be careful and contact some of the following links to check such claims out.
c) Instructors who show any hesitation to provide the name of those who trained them, or claim such a topic is secret. As soon as you hear the words "Shaolin Monk" and "I don't know where they are now", run for the door.
d) Instructors who claim a full contact, no holds bar fight career, which can't be verified on line or through any sports governing organization. "I swear, I killed him in Hong Kong, but only the Triads were there!" (See Frank Dux for a claim of this sort). Similarly if they claim to have fought in the last five or so years and their name doesn't show up at all at the following links, they many be falsifying their record.
Links to fighting records:
http://www.onthemat.com (Fused with BJJ.org Great for finding out if schools or instructors are legitimate in BJJ. )
e) Instructors who claim that their art can knock people out through the use of "no-touch" pressure point strikes. See George Dillman or Yellow Bamboo.
f) Young twenty-something guys with high dan ranks. If Joe is twenty five and is a fifth degree black belt something is very wrong. Unless he has been training twenty hours a week it should take him three to five years in a legitimate system to earn each black belt rank. (Or up to 2,000 hours per dan) So even if Joe trained as a child, he is much too young to have so much rank. So there are four possibilities. 1) he made up his rank. 2) He belonged to a system, (most usually a form of TKD but occasionally a variation of Kempo) which has absolutely no quality control. 3) He is the son of the system's grandmaster. or 4) He is incredibly talented and is a martial artist with potentially the skill of Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, or Joe Lewis. The chance that 4) is true is well under 5%.
g) There are more wacky people teaching Ninjustu then any other martial art. As a result unless you really know what you are doing we would suggest avoiding this art.
h) Instructors who claim that they studied the martial arts in the Orient for years but who cannot speak next to any Japanese or Chinese.
12) CHOSING A MARTIAL ART FOR YOUR CHILD:
A) Most of the same rules for choosing an appropriate martial arts school for yourself apply to choosing one for your child. First and foremost you must ask, "What do I want my child to be learning?"
The vast majority of parents who enroll their children in a martial arts program do so because the want their child to develop "discipline." However, this is not something that martial arts can "give" a child. Naturally, a good martial arts program, combined with consistent parenting and a proper example, can absolutely help a child to develop self-discipline. But, despite what modern cinema has so artfully told us, martial arts training is not a magic bullet for the development of a child's character or work ethic. Sadly, if we insist on dwelling here in the real world, we must accept that martial training falls into the same category as any other sport when it comes to character development in children: It can be a very useful tool, but not an end unto itself.
If character development is your primary concern, then your focus should not be on what style your child studies, but the specific instructor who will be teaching the classes your child attends. Go and observe several classes any given instructor teaches. If the instructor maintains an orderly, efficient class, you can expect that the instructor is a no-nonsense guy. If you observe a class and the children are off-task, unruly, loud, and generally running amok, then do not expect your child to develop self-discipline in that environment.
If exercise is the goal for your child, then the same rules apply. The actual class is far more important than the style. If the class is not big on conditioning, then your child will not be getting much exercise. Traditionally conditioning is the domain of competitive arts like judo, wrestling, boxing, Brazilian jujitsu, kickboxing, etc. But highly competitive XMA programs, Capoeira, and wushu are extremely rigorous physically and can be more appealing to young children. Just don't let them become confused and think what they are learning is combat-effective.
The best bet for improving self-discipline, learning effective techniques (for when they are older or for dealing with their peers), and getting plenty of exercise are the sport styles. Wrestling, judo, and boxing are excellent fundamentals for any aspiring athlete or fighter. Training in these disciplines provides the best bang-for-your-buck in that they address perfectly most of the reasons parents want martial training for their children: Discipline, exercise, and self-defense.
B) Some Business Considerations
Many martial arts schools offer their art in an after school "daycare format" complete with transportation from grade school. Such a service should be evaluated as daycare rather than as a martial art when considering its price. We have rarely run into such a program that taught their students in any sort of manner that contributed to the development of real martial art skill. Many School owners or managers will also tell you that it is a proven fact that TKD or Karate will reduce, or provide a remedy, for your child's Attention Deficit Disorder. There are perhaps three studies using a handful of students which mildly support this contention. Grandmaster Coldcash's promises aside, the jury is still out on this issue, and not returning anytime soon.
Often children want to join martial arts schools to be with their friends, or because they simply think something looks "cool". Not surprisingly they can become disinterested in the martial arts equally quickly. For this reason we suggest that you look for short term classes through your local Y, or for a non-profit club or school. You do not want to sign up your child for long term services a week before they change their minds. If your child joins a for profit school, you will probably have to spend a fair amount of time playing the bad guy when turning down multiple requests for new gear, programs, or promotions. Your child's contract will be signed by you, it is up to you to protect your financial interests including figuring out an exit strategy if your child does not want to continue with his particular art.
C) We Suggest Grappling Instead of the Striking Arts for Young Children.
It must be understood that there is a significant psychological difference between striking and grappling for a young child. Striking implies far more violence and anger; and the immediate emotional response to being struck will vary greatly from child to child. Striking is something that a child learns to do out of anger long before they learn to walk or talk. Striking is a primal, animal reaction to a negative stimulus, and as such will require far more emotional maturity before it can be instructed properly. Getting hit pretty much always hurts, whereas grappling tends only to hurt when a mistake is made. Pain avoidance is the average American child’s primary subconscious drive. If something hurts, most children under 10 will avoid it at all costs.
Young children adjust to grappling long before they can adapt psychologically to striking. Children invariably begin wrestling without the guidance of adults as a recreational activity anyway, so providing technique and structure for it is a fairly natural progression. For very young children (under 10) grappling styles are learned most easily and create a solid base in the most prevalent ranges of combat.
Between 10 and 12 (depending on your child's emotional development) it is OK to introduce striking in a full-contact format. Be careful, many children have a hard time differentiating between getting hit competitively and real aggression. Make sure your child is ready for the intensity. A basis in competitive grappling will go a long way toward preparing your child for this. For striking curriculum there is no better or more accessible style than boxing. Many of the kickboxing styles are excellent as well, but their availability for children can be limited.
If you want effective, combat-proven, and high percentage technical instruction, bear this in mind: Children are smaller and weaker than adults. The only effective self-defense techniques for children against adults are awareness, escape, and evasion. Any school that claims that it can teach your 8-year-old to protect himself from an abductor with their techniques is LYING. This is a dangerous mindset and a shameless selling tactic. This does not mean that you can't begin to develop the kind of solid technical fundamentals that will make your child safer in the future, or give them the physical tools to handle bullies, assaults, and other threats from their peer group.
Last edited by Sam Browning; 2/18/2007 5:58pm at .
Okay, does anyone else have any suggestions, corrections, etc?
I know this is a Work in progress, but is it ok if I email it to a few people? I've gotten a few questions from some guys I work with and this answers them all.
Sure, we might as well test it out on them.
this is really brilliant. taught me alot. particularly the last section on grappling for children. never looked at it that way, but now it makes perfect sense.
2 suggestions right off the bat:
1) Section 4 "What does he call his Youth Class? Do the pictures on the site show techniques that look very complicated and ridiculous?" State exactly the sort of bad youth class names to watch out for (eg: little dragons, power rangers, ninjas). Also get rid of that second line unless you're gonna be more specific. To be honest BJJ and Judo classes tend to have the most complicated looking pictures of techniques (guys all knotted up) while Taekwondo and Karate websites seem to look pretty straight-forward (row of students punching).
2) Rather than sprinkle all over the place little references to which arts are more likely to have bad teachers/McDojos, create a section specifically for this. Ranking arts from most risk of McDojo prevalence to least risky categories. eg: Group A is most risky - Ninjitsu, Tae Kwon Do. Group C is least risky - BJJ, Boxing. Group B is in-between. This info is already there but u should consolidate it into an easily readable table in a section on it's own. Also, it really does turn laymen off when complicated sounding names (Krav, SystemA, Aikido, Kenpo, MT) are thrown into a long passage, but seeing them in a list among other more familiar names (Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Boxing) makes the info much more digestable.
This is Bun-Yip's Hall of Fame article on getting the sales pitch at West Wind School in Berkley, California.
The original posts are to be found on this thread. http://www.bullshido.net/forums/show...ight=West+wind
as posts #1, #2, 42, 67, 98, 155
These posts were written between May 27, 2004 and June 2, 2004.
A few weeks ago, I discovered West Wind Karate (also known as West Wind Bok Fu, also known as West Wind Kung Fu), a school that offers "the most expensive training in the world". I suspect I cannot afford the most expensive training in the world, but fortunately, I could afford their free introductory lessons. This is my story.
Disclaimer: To anyone who thinks that I was just stringing West Wind Karate / West Wind Bok Fu / West Wind Kung Fu along and wasting their time, I argue that there should be nothing wrong with checking out a school before making your decision. I visited 2 BJJ schools and a TKD school before I even started martial arts. In college, I visited two jiu jitsu schools before picking one, and in Maryland over winter break, I trained at Yamasaki one year, then tried Evolve and trained there the next. When I arrived in Berkeley, I trained with the Berkeley judo club, then took a free lesson at a local MMA school, where I then began training. Since switching to the MMA school, I've taken a free lesson at Ralph Gracie's (decided it wasn't worth the money and commute) and a free lesson at another BJJ academy (which I enjoyed and now also train at). During my introductory lessons at West-Wind karate / West Wind bok fu / West Wind kung fu, I will be respectful, practice all my forms, and will give them an honest chance to prove that they don't teach utter crap. And if they're worth the money, of course I'll enroll. Anyway, on with the story:
On the urging of members here, I gave West-Wind Bok-Fu a call. There are four schools in the Bay area. On the website each lists the same telephone number, which connected me to their "C.O.R.E." office. (C.O.R.E. stands for center of records and enrollment, I assume it's where they talk you into a long term contract.) I told them I was interested in their Berkeley school (open 9am to 9pm), and they scheduled me for a same-day tour. ("We've had a cancellation – can you make it at 4:00?")
Walking into the school, my first reaction was to laugh. There were about four students there, two practicing kata on their own, while the other two were standing stiffly in front of an instructor. This wouldn't be quite so humorous on its own, except that the instructor was wearing a full three-piece suit. The gym itself was pretty good-sized, with plenty of mat space and a rock garden by the door that was almost the size of the whole mat at my tiny gym.
I was quickly greeted by a pale white lady in a kimono who introduced herself as Ms. S__, the head instructor. (Actually, I think she used some asian title, but I can't keep them straight.) She told me about the history of the West-Wind schools (in the area for 30 years). This particular school (right by UC Berkeley) focuses more on adult classes, though children are also accepted if they were disciplined enough. Ms. S explained that the school stresses discipline very strongly, and I saw a couple students bow very low as they asked permission to enter or leave the school. Because they cared so much about attracting respectful students, their school was very exclusive and a decision must be made about whether each student is worthy before they are allowed to begin instruction.
Ms. S explained how the schools hierarchy must be respected, etc, etc. She also asked if I'd had any previous martial arts instruction, so I told her truthfully that I'd been training for about a year and a half, and had experience in TKD, BJJ, and karate (though I didn't elaborate on the proportions).
Ms. S walked me around the dojo, whose walls are lined with various exotic asian weapons, all of which the students must master before their black belt test. The school teaches a variety of styles, but they want their students to develop a solid base in shotokan karate first. As they become more advanced, they are introduced to tiger style kung fu. Then she rattled off a bunch of other martial arts that I can't remember.
Part of the reason I am having trouble remembering was that I was being distracted by the two students in front of the instructor in the three piece suit. He had finished instructing them and now they were practicing their new techniques on their own. One was holding a crane stance straight out of karate kid and doing a little hop kick every so often. After every few of these he would kneel down and think for a while. The other appeared to be meditating, but every few minutes he would stand up and thrust his hands out in front of him with an enormous KIA! (Think Asia in the kamehameha video – EXACT same thing.) I can only assume that he was throwing chi balls. I'm just glad I was out of range.
There are group classes in the evening, but the school is focused on one-on-one lessons. Every student is required to take at least one private lesson a week. (How do they get enough instructors to teach private lessons to 200+ students each week? I think we all know the answer to that.) I asked how long it takes to get a black belt, Ms. S said that it varied based on the individual (because of the private instruction) but the fastest they'd had was 3.5 years.
Ms. S stopped in front of a pressure point diagram to mention that they did some grappling, but it wasn't really so focused on "just holding someone down". They were more focused on ending the fight instantly. Because they taught such deadly techniques, she said, I must understand how important it was that they could only accept students if the students were worthy. I nodded my head. But, she said, I looked like a pretty good candidate so far. Sometimes students are hindered by their previous martial arts instruction, but she could tell that I was willing to empty my cup and learn their ideas. I nodded again.
After the tour, we went into the office, where she explained that the first step in the application process was a few private lessons with an instructor. She scheduled me for a lesson in two days with Mr. X, the guy in the three piece suit. Evidently I was very lucky to get this opportunity, as he was their most sought-after instructor. He had been training for 14 years and occasionally did amateur boxing (one point in his favor, I guess).
She asked if I had any questions, so I asked about price. She said that the instructors here don't deal with billing at all, which is taken care of at C.O.R.E., where I will be sent later if I am deemed worthy to join the school. Instruction is very expensive, but no one is made to pay more than they can afford. For example, there is an Oakland Raider in their Alameda school who paid $40,000 for his whole family, but they certainly wouldn't charge me that. There are also "scholarships" available, but they are very hard to get. (I do hope I am lucky enough to land one. Anyone want to bet on it?) C.O.R.E.'s job is to figure out what the appropriate billing for me is, but the instructors play no part in that, so as not to taint the student-instructor relationship.
We also had a little discussion about how often I was planning to train. The discussion went like this: I had mentioned earlier that I attended Berkeley, so she asked if I was very busy now. I was. She asked if I was working, because that also takes a lot of time. I just do the usual grad student research stuff. So are my parents helping me out now? No, they aren't.
So that was about it for my introductory tour. On my way out, I heard a woman behind me say "Salutation." I thought she was saying hi to me, but then I noticed the 12-year old in front of her launching into some sort of arm-windmilling, head-spinning, weird, wild, and wonderful body gyration, so I assume she was talking to him.
I'm really looking forward to my first lesson.
I had my first lesson at West-Wind Karate today. I'm still not entirely sure what their "style" is. The first person I met with told me they focused on Shotokan Karate, while Mr. X, my instructor today, told me that their style came from Shaolin Kung Fu. He also mentioned that Ms. S___, whom I met yesterday, was probably the best female martial artist in the USA, but that's getting off topic.
Also, I'm getting ahead of myself. My hour-long private lesson today began with the Signing of the Information Form, which had blanks for my occupation and employer, my parents' emergency contact info (including occupations and employers), my driver's license number, and my social security number (none of which I filled in). Then my instructor and I had a little chat about my martial arts history and what I was doing now:
"Electrical engineering? That's very impressive. What are your career goals?"
"Well, for now I’m focusing on the Ph.D. Then we'll see."
"So have you had a chance to do any work with your degree already?"
"Just internships and stuff."
"But you've saved up some money from those, right? You realize lessons aren't free, right?"
"Well, yeah, but no one I've asked has actually told me how much they cost."
"Yes, that's all handled by our Center of Records and Enrollment. The instructors don't have anything to do with these administrative details."
Anyway, after that, we talked about how important respect for the dojo was, then how important respect for the instructors was, then how important respect for your fellow students was. I got a lecture on the history of bowing and handshaking, and then I learned how to bow. Afterwards, I got a 30 minute history lecture on Shaolin-do, which I'm sure would have been hilarious if I knew more about martial arts history. Mr. S talked about the 5 animal fighting styles of kung fu that they teach: tiger, crane, panther, snake, and dragon. I can sort of understand how people at one time may have thought that it would be a good idea to create a fighting style that imitated animals, but dragon style? How can you create a fighting style based on an animal that doesn't exist?
Mr. X traced the history of kung fu into the present until it became kenpo karate (which their style is evidently based on, also), and then talked about the revolutionary changes that Ed Parker and Al Tracy made to the style. Evidently before Ed Parker, monks would spend five years learning a kata, after which they would discover its applications to fighting. Parker's contribution was to teach the applications first, then the kata, which is a much better learning method, and coincidentally, how West-Wind teaches. Then he taught me a kata which went like this:
Step counter clockwise 90 degrees into a deep horse stance. Make a ridge hand with both hands by bending your middle finger slightly so it lines up with your pointer and ring fingers. Hold your palms vertically, facing each other, then extend them forward. Turn your right palm so it faces the ground, fingertips touching your left palm, then extend it to the right and bring it back. Make fists with your hands, hug yourself, then extend your elbows backwards in a rowing motion and bring them back.
Afterwards, he asked me what I had just done. I had no idea. So he showed me how a defense from someone attacking me with a pipe was hidden in the kata, and I was appropriately impressed. (Block the attacker's forearm with your vertical ridge hands, then knife hand to the throat, then elbow to the nose.) Mr. X also explained that the throat and carotid strikes he had just taught me were extremely deadly, as it only requires 4 pounds of force to crush the trachea and 8 pounds of force to crush the carotid, so I must not use this technique unless my life is in danger. I, of course, had no intention of ever using this kata in any situation, so I readily agreed.
He closed up the hour-long lesson by teaching me the West-Wind secret handshake, scheduled me for my second of four lessons tomorrow, and I departed.
Today we got to the good stuff. I arrived early, so Mr. X quickly showed me a chambered front snap kick and a reverse punch and sent me into a practice room to work on those and my kata from last time. I also had a brief conversation that went like this:
"Is that your bike out there?"
"Yes," I said.
"So, do you bike everywhere?"
"Do you own your own car?"
Today's hour-long lesson began with another lecture, but this one was much shorter. Mr. X showed me the picture frame on the wall with all the instructors' photos, pointed out the instructor who had started the school, his assistant instructors, who trained under who, etc., etc. Then he explained how the school is like a family, and if his sensei ever needed him at 2 am, he'd be there for him no matter what, and vice versa, and he hoped we'd have that same relationship someday. I started to feel a little guilty then, but I have a suspicion that once someone finally tells me how much the school costs I'll feel better.
We began the lesson by reviewing the kata from yesterday. I feel confident that if I am ever attacked from the left by a right-handed man slowly swinging a pole at shoulder height, I will be able to kick his ass, assuming that he doesn't resist and that I make my horse stance deeper.
The instructors are very big on the horse stance. We drop into a low horse stance with our feet parallel and pointing forwards, and our hands chambered in our armpits. The horse stance is to maintain stability when we're fighting, and the hands in the armpits are so that when we forget and drop our hands when we're fighting, they'll hopefully stay around our ribs. Other schools, who chamber their hands at their ribs, forget and drop their hands to their sides. Personally, I think I'd rather have my hands by my head, but that's probably just because I'm unwilling to empty my cup.
After reviewing the kata, I learned the inward block. My instructor explained that that most schools teach defenses against haymakers, which no one actually throws. He was a boxer, so he knew that punches are usually much tighter, like this, he said as he threw the biggest haymaker I've ever seen in my life. The procedure for blocking it is to raise my right arm to the side, with the elbow bent at 90 degrees, hand pointed up, then pivot backwards (to my left) into a deep horse stance as I strike my attacker's forearm with my ulna, thereby causing nerve damage and rendering his arm useless.
Of course, with his right arm temporarily paralyzed, the attacker is likely to follow up with a jab (I swear I am not making this up), so I learned the defense for that next. Jabs are faster, so there is no time to chamber this block. Therefore, we must use something faster, which turned out to be just the usual pivot forward into a deep horse stance as I bring my right forearm up into an outward block.
With defenses covered, we moved on to offense. We of course began with the reverse punch, kia! I do a good job of rotating my fist when I punch. It is important to twist your fist at the last second in order to tear your opponent's skin. My kia needs work, though. Mr. X explained that some martial arts spend years just working on their kias. Eventually they get to the point where they can knock a man out just by yelling! (Yellow Bamboo, anyone?) He then showed me the fighting stance, which is as follows:
Step into a deep horse stance with your feet parallel and your left side towards your opponent. So on a clock, with your opponent on the 12, your toes point toward the 3. Your chest also faces the 3, with your feet staggered just enough so that your left toes line up with your right heel. This is the "very stable heel-toe position". Extend your left arm toward your opponent so your arm has a 135 degree bend at the elbow. Your right arm covers your ribs and belly as though you have a terrible stomachache. Once I was able to throw reverse punches from this position, we trained the chambered front snap kick. Not much to say about this, except that Mr. S pointed out that more "sport" oriented schools teach you to kick with the top of your foot, whereas they teach to strike with the ball, which is more powerful and gives you longer range.
At this point, Mr. X had to leave to give a potential student a tour (it was all I could do to keep from screaming, "RUN AWAY! QUICKLY!") so another instructor came over to teach me the upwards block (defense against clubs) and downwards block (defense against kicks). Ouch.
Pretty soon, though, she had to go work with one of her students, so the head instructor whom I met on the first day, Ms. S, came over to work with me. She drilled what was supposed to be an escape from a rear hammerlock/chickenwing, but no one seemed to know how to put it on, so it was more like a defense from a rear wrist grab. Defense is as follows:
If attacker grabs your right wrist from behind with his right hand, regrab his wrist and pull forward as you pivot to your left, into a deep horse stance (of course). Elbow to the head, then pivot to your right 180 degrees into a deep horse stance, locking your attacker's arm so they bend forward at the waist. Snap kick to the head, then forearm to the attacker's elbow for the break, then knee to the head.
Throughout this, I was repeatedly chastised for not having my horse stance deep enough, and forgetting to keep my feet parallel. My front foot kept pointing toward my opponent. Ms. S said as she demonstrated, "That's good enough for TKD, but that's not really a fighting art. We keep our feet parallel so that we have a base like a rock. What if you've got some huge brute running at you? You need to be stable!" I was so sure she was going to follow that statement up with, "In this stance I am invulnerable to T3H GRAPPL3!" but it was not to be.
She did explain that I really had to focus on the basics, like the horse stance, because that's what I'll remember during the stress of a fight. She gave the example of Mr. X's two amateur boxing fights. He KO'd his first opponent, but lost his second fight because he forgot the basics. Of course, she added, he'd only been boxing for 6 months, and his opponent had been training for 2 years. While that may be true, Mr. X had also mentioned the previous day that he'd been training at West Wind for 14 years. I don't care how little boxing experience you've got, if you've been doing martial arts for 14 years and you get beat by someone who's been training for 2, you've got problems.
Anyway, that was where the lesson ended. I've got my third free lesson in a couple days, during which Mr. X will prepare me for the demanding white belt test. I do hope I pass!
I had my third class today. The goal of this class was to prepare me for my white belt test, which will occur at my next lesson. All the head instructors from the local schools, along with the head of the system, will come to observe this test. Mr. X made sure to impress on me how important these guys are and how I must be sure not to waste their time. I'm actually starting to feel a little guilty about this – I can't imagine how someone new to the McDojo scene would deal with it.
The recruiting has been quite impressive. Since my first visit, there has been a concerted effort to schedule my private lessons on consecutive days. I've never been given an opportunity to "go home and think about it", as I have been at every BJJ school I've tried. Now, all of a sudden, the top instructors in the system, whose time is "extremely valuable" will be showing up to grade my final lesson. If my performance is acceptable, the top instructor (Mr. K) will drive me, in his car, to the Center of Records and Enrollment where we will figure out the payment schedule. Mr. X told me to be sure to bring my schedule and an idea of how much I could afford, along with a check so that I could put down a down payment to prove my commitment. And although he has nothing to do with the financial side, Mr. X also managed to work into the conversation some more questions about my career goals and whether my parents were supporting me. Also, since my parents live together, I only listed my mother as my emergency contact, so Mr. X wanted to double check that my dad was still in the picture.
Most of today's lesson was review, to prepare me for the white belt test. I also learned how to kneel properly, and the proper etiquette for receiving my white belt. This took about 30 minutes. (Interesting fact: students wear their belt knots on the side, while instructors wear their knots in front. I think Mr. X said that this shows that the instructors are always ready for a challenge…)
I did learn a couple new moves today. There was the "back kick", or "horse kick". I chamber my right hand high in my armpit, then grip my right shoulder with my left hand. I bend forward at the waist and kick back with my right heel, striking the opponent in the solar plexus (or the shin, for someone of my flexibility). The gem of this technique was Mr. X explaining that I had to leave the kick extended long enough for "all of the energy to transfer to my opponent". Since we must always overtrain, that meant I had to kick my leg back, leave it extended for one second, and then retract it.
I also learned the "defense from kimono grab", which went like this: My opponent (who is presumably Frankenstein) rushes at me, arms extended, to push on my shoulders. As Frankenstein is right handed, there will probably be more force from his right hand, so I use his energy to pivot 90 degrees to my left into a low horse stance. My left hand pins his left hand to my right shoulder as I simultaneously execute an upward block with my right hand, causing a compound fracture in his arm. Next, I drag my arm back down his arm, catching the bones which are now protruding through the skin and ripping them free. This motion also jerks his arm forward, causing his head to snap backwards from the whiplash. I karate chop his throat (we had covered the karate chop earlier this lesson), killing him, because it only takes "3 pounds of force to damage the trachea and 5 pounds of force to permanently close it".
We also covered eye gouges, just briefly. Mr. X told me that most of the school's techniques take years to perfect, but eye gouges are nice and straightforward. If I was only going to be training for a few months, he'd teach me some eye gouges and send me on my way. And just in case any of you with glasses are feeling confident, be assured that they're no impediment: we just attack with a downward tiger claw hand – the thumb and pinky remove the glasses as the other three fingers tear into the eyes.
Next lesson: white belt test and my trip to C.O.R.E.!
Lesson Four, and the Sales Pitch!
I arrived early for my white belt test. This was in part due to Mr. X calling me and reminding me to arrive early and bring my checkbook. When I arrived, Mr. X seemed surprised that I hadn't invited any friends or family to watch my test, but we moved right on to reviewing everything I had learned: inward block, outward block, the reverse punch, front snap kick, rear donkey kick, and defenses from pipe attacks, collar grabs, and incompetent armlocks. Then he had me kneel while the three judges came in. They were Ms. S, the dojo's head instructor, Mr. Y (Mr. X's instructor), and Mr. K, the administrative head of the system. I stood up, bowed to Mr. X, and then bowed to the judges. Mr. X asked permission to begin the test. Ms. S asked Mr. Y if it was ok, Mr. Y asked Mr. K if it was ok, and Mr. K said to begin.
Mr. X and I then rapidly demonstrated the techniques I had learned. It took about five minutes, and then Mr. X asked if the judges needed to see anything else. Ms. S asked Mr. Y if it was ok, Mr. Y asked Mr. K if it was ok, and Mr. K said that was fine. The judges and Mr. X then went downstairs into the office to talk, and I was told to gather my things and wait downstairs for a ride to the Center of Records and Enrollments (C.O.R.E.).
So I did. Waiting on one of the benches by the door, I watched one of the instructors practicing her forms in front of me. I've never done forms, so I have no idea if she was any good, but Mr. X came out right then anyway. He told me that I was extremely fortunate, since most people in the school never have the opportunity to see an instructor practicing. Therefore, I should avert my eyes out of respect. He said it would be like if I was a really high ranking black belt and he was staring at me while I practiced. Personally, I don't think I would mind, but I guess things are different when you're a black belt. Anyway, we sat there together, our gazes comfortably averted to the left, for about five minutes until Mr. K came out of the office. We left the school and Mr. K and I were picked up by Mr. M (Mr. K's most advanced student) in a shiny black Mercedes SUV, with leather seats and little televisions mounted in the seat backs.
Mr. K made small talk with me on the way down to the C.O.R.E. But Mr. X had warned me that this was really a test! It is always my duty to be respectful and say, "HAI, SENSEI!" or "IIE, SENSEI!" whenever I am addressed. Mr. K is always extremely friendly and informal with potential students on the way to the C.O.R.E., but he is really testing to see if I'll forget my reishiki (formalities/respect) in an informal setting. I think I did ok. I didn’t scream "HAI, SENSEI!" like the other students at the school do when their teachers ask if school's going well or if their mom is coming to pick them up, but I said "yes, sir" and "no, sir", which seemed to be adequate for a prospective student.
When we arrived at the C.O.R.E., I was given a brief tour of the offices, which were extremely neat and clean and done up in a sort of Neo-Chinese style. There were a lot of rough stone tables, and an enormous rock garden inside. I was seated at a large conference table with a video of Mr. K's black belt test (it appeared to involve an excessive amount of katas) playing at one end and was asked to wait there.
After about five minutes, I was called into Mr. K's office. Mr. Y had emailed him his evaluation of my test, and I was informed that I had officially passed! Mr. K went over my evaluation with me. It basically said that I had excellent power in my punches, but I needed to work on keeping my hips from moving. I was also too hunched over, and needed to practice a much deeper horse stance with a much more upright body position. This would ensure that I was stable enough that "nothing could knock me over". In addition, I needed to work on my flexibility, as it was clear that my front snap kick and rear horse kicks could barely reach above my waist.
But those were small critiques. Overall, I had an exceptional test, and therefore qualified to enroll at West Wind Karate. Furthermore, my teacher had requested that I stay his student, which was an exceptional honor. There are three levels of instruction at West Wind, Mr. K said as he pulled out his laptop and fired up the Powerpoint presentation. If you are a black belt or an instructor, you can receive instruction from one of the Sifus. There is also sensei level instruction. The senseis are black belts who teach full time, and this was the level of instruction I had qualified for. There are also just the plain instructors, who are not necessarily black belts, and who only teach part time. Most people begin under an instructor, so it was a great honor for me to have been selected for sensei level instruction. Furthermore, I would receive this instruction for only $1900.00 for my first 17 weeks.
I knew the school was going to be expensive, but this was well above and beyond anything I had imagined.
The first four months are a trial period which I must complete before I will be permitted to sign up for a year-long contract. The "sensei" package for this period included one private lesson and two group lessons each week. I told Mr. K that this was a bit more than I had expected, so he offered me the instructor level package, which cost only $300 a month. Of course, this was still somewhat out of my price range. I told him so, and he thought for a while and then explained that there was a scholarship fund available. However, the fund was very low, and generally reserved for those who really needed it. But I could have a scholarship for my first 4 months, and pay only $400. I said I'd have to think about it, and that I wanted to look at some of the other schools in the area, which clearly upset Mr. K. We talked for a while about the opportunity I had been given, and how I wouldn't have gone beyond my second lesson if they had known I wasn't serious. But I stood my ground, so Mr. K asked Mr. M to bring the car around.
While Mr. M was getting the car, Mr. K called Mr. X and I talked to him on the phone. Mr. X reminded me again about what an incredible opportunity I was passing up, and told me to "think really hard before you walk out that door". I said that I just wanted to look around at what else was available in the area, and he reminded me that he'd trained at West Wind since he was 6, so he knew what else was in the area. He told me I'd find the other schools were smaller, dirtier, and the instructors didn't care as much about the students. (Though it's my opinion that $400 bucks a month would pretty much take care of any of those problems.)
On the drive back, I chatted with Mr. M a little. (Mr. K did not accompany us.) Mr. M told me the biggest benefit of his training was the self-confidence. He said most of the students had never been in a fight, but just the knowledge that you could handle yourself if something came up was invaluable. If someone attacked him with a pipe, or a gun, or even multiple attackers, he knew thousands of defenses, so he didn't need to worry about anything anymore.
I asked if students got to spar at all. It turns out that once they reach the purple belt level (about two years) they're allowed to begin point-sparring. However, the school doesn't really emphasize it, so most students don't.
When we finally arrived back at the school, Mr. X came out as I was unlocking my bike. He told me (in a very nice way) that I had shamed him. Evidently I was the first person he'd sent to C.O.R.E. who hadn't signed up for the school. I apologized and left. Class was about to start at my real school.
Commentary by Ashe at post #146 http://www.bullshido.net/forums/show...ight=West+wind on this sales pitch.
"Notice that they weren't advertising the BEST instruction, just the most EXPENSIVE. Any business that trades on price instead of quality is on my suspect list from Day 1.
Get the address of CORE and post it here. More importantly, plan an alternate exit scenario in case you need it. This whole process follows a pretty straightforward pattern of indoctrination used by many cults:
1. Start by overawing the mark with boasts of "most expensive", "best woman MA in the country", and so forth. Impress them at all costs, even if it means doing stupid **** like teaching class in a 3-piece suit.
2. Tell them how exclusive and selective you are, hammering home the point that you gotta be special just to get in the door. Immediately compliment them by saying that you "think they seem to be the right type" or that you "have a good feeling" about them. Convince them they might be one of the lucky few to be honored enough to receive an invitation to join.
3. Teach them useless crap, but emphasize how deadly every aspect of it is. Amaze them with the mystery and power you are imparting to them in just the first few lessons, without any risk of them walking away with anything of use.
4. Sidestep the issue of cost... emphasize how little money means to you, even though you charge more than anyone else. Make everything relative, not concrete.
5. Use double-speak and circular logic consistently. Unable to figure out what the hell you are really saying (or not!), they will eventually give up trying and simply accept it all at face value.
6. Keep the mark coming back over and over, and make sure they meet lots of bigwigs, and that they know how important and wonderful each bigwig is. Instill a sense of obligation to these people, so that the mark feels like they should keep coming back to jump through another hoop.
7. Give the mark a Rite of Passage, in this case, a White Belt test in front of the high muckamuch him/herself. Impress upon the candidate that this will determine their fate. Make sure they feel it is up to them to perform for you, and not the other way around.
8. Following the Rite of Passage, separate them from their comfort zone and take them to a strange place. Conveniently have some of the others join you and the mark. This will make them more vulnerable.
9. Use the old carrot & stick approach... get'em to feel honored by the invitation, then get to the money. When they start to resist, work the guilt, back and forth until you have rights to their firstborn or at least one gonad. Get a signature.
10. Invite them to keep coming back as they can afford it. Get as much as you can up front so they'll feel stupid if they drop out. Help them rationalize why they feel weird about it with your choice of shitty platitudes "To be the best sometimes costs the most," for example.
After this, who cares? You've got them locked in and collected some fees up front. Give them shitty instruction with enough misinformation and they'll sell themselves on the effectiveness and wonder of the program from there on out."
Good FAQ material. Massive amounts of detail. Nicely Done!