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New York's Martial Outsourcing
Recently I got to talk to our very own Sambo Steve as part of a series of pieces Iím doing for my Examiner article about training options in New York. The article, which can be viewed here, is a profile of gym programs. So, I tried to keep it short and to the point. But some tangential information came up that definitely requires commentary.
First, Sambo Steve is a classy gent. Thatís probably preaching to the choir here on BS, but heís classy enough that itís worth mentioning again.
Second, New York State, especially the metropolitan area, does not treat its martial arts events very well.
Prohibitive costs of doing anything in Manhattan, from organizing a grappling tournament to lunch, have been an issue for so long it almost seems silly to address. Things cost more in New York.
When a gym owner like Steve says that he hasnít done an event in New York for a year because heíd rather spend half the money for twice the space in New Jersey, itís hard to blame him. Itís difficult enough for a relatively small school to even stay open and make a profit, let alone promote events.
And the price tag is just the beginning of the institutional issues with holding events. The current ban on MMA has caused related sports to fall under heavy scrutiny by the state. Promoting an event becomes an exercise in proving how it's different from MMA. A process Steve simply described as ďÖtoo much of a hassle.Ē
Events are part of the martial arts culture. This is the Bullshido mantra. Martial arts are about fighting. Martial arts are about competition. They're more than just a method for promoting schools. Theyíre a fundamental part of the experience. And theyíre being outsourced from New York.
Small schools are also a fundamental part of the culture. When I first trained MMA, it was in a small gym between a body shop and a nail salon. The coach was a BJJ and Muay Thai instructor who understood that a then full time student and waiter needed a break. I paid $150 to train that summer. *
While New York hosts some of the best trainers in the world, many of them are very big and very expensive. Itís in the smaller schools that a lot of us will have our first experience with the sport, no matter what level we reach. And those schools are forced to do a vital part of their business, elsewhere.
Some of the issues canít be helped. As long as MMA is banned in New York there will be some problems with similar sports. The legislation to legalize MMA was confirmed to be held up in Ways and Means until the end of this yearís legislative session. So, whether you agree with the specific wording of the bill or not, that part of the battle wonít be decided until 2010.
But, some issues can be. Identifying the problem caused by costs is the first step to creating a public demand for cheaper, alternative venues within the state. Voter support for state recognized sanctioning bodies that are more specific to individual sports can relieve a lot of the bureaucratic pain associate with promoting an event in New York.
Venues like Bullshido are a place for martial art coaches, students, and fans to be able to come up with comprehensive game plans for situations like this. What goals are realistic? What goals are unrealistic? Is it detracting from the martial arts in the state at all or am I just a proud New Yorker who doesnít want to drive into Jersey for a story?
*Note: They have since moved to a nicer facility, though something of a drive.