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Captain Spaulding
8/03/2005 10:34pm,
So I'm turning in an application at an apartment complex I want to move to next month, and I notice that there's an ATA (American Taekwondo Assoc) school right around the corner. I stop in to see what's up and ask about watching a class. The instructor (who looks all of 19) tells me that next Wednesday, there's going to be a colored belt test and that the Wednesday after that, there's going to be black belt testing.

Now I'm wondering if anyone wants to read a report on these if I write one. On one hand, I have a background in TKD, so I'll be better able to judge the technical merits than I was for the Temple of the Full Autumn Moon. But on the other hand, I get the feeling that the ATA is pretty looked down upon here (I look down on it too, having been to several schools that sucked). But then I think, it might be a fun read.

So what do you think? Should I write a review of the ATA tests? Or should I just piss off?

SuperGuido
8/03/2005 10:44pm,
Go for it, unseeing one.

I'd toon in to read it.

May you achieve
Satori

TehDeadlyDimMak
8/03/2005 11:05pm,
Definitely review! Every review is useful!

lm2
8/04/2005 1:16am,
IM STATIC.... CANT WAIT, DO SO PLEASE. i WENT 4 YEAR TO JTK.

Captain Spaulding
8/04/2005 10:41am,
Okay, will do. I'll get the review of the color belt test up either next Wednesday or Thursday night (here in California).

I must admit to being a little biased because I've had some dissappointing expiriences with other ATA schools. But I've heard there are good ones out there, so I have hope.

And besides, it's only a ten minute walk from my new (hopefully) apartment, whereas the BJJ place I go is a 45 minute drive. Maybe I'll quit BJJ and switch to the ATA (not goddamn likely).

SuperGuido
8/04/2005 2:13pm,
Drop BJJ for ATA...riiiiiight...and after you do that, you'll sign up for a years worth of classes at "The Temple of the Naked Tengu", run by "Reverend Killowaka Shannon Tweed". Maybe he'll let you be an altar boy, and give you first hand experience of the "Power of the Tengu".

Where is this place at? If my woman will let me (::whipping sound::), I might check it out if the times work.

May you achieve
Satori

Captain Spaulding
8/04/2005 2:29pm,
Poway. Don't know the exact address.

Captain Spaulding
8/17/2005 1:42pm,
Okay, I'm going to go watch the black belt test tonight and will write a review in the "articles" section tomorrow. I also found out there's an "United Studios of Self Defense" school literally right across the street (with a training space smaller than the living room in my crummy apartment). And there's at least three other schools down the street within a mile. I'm gonna have fun.

Captain Spaulding
8/18/2005 10:04am,
So I went to watch the black belt test last night. I’ll write the review later in the day, but I should say that it can be summed up with the dialogue between Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight in Caddyshack,

“This whole place sucks.”
“Su-su-su-su-su-sucks!?”
“That’s right, it sucks!”

Phrost
8/18/2005 10:14am,
Please do report on this, and include names and locations if possible. All evidence tends to point to the ATA being the ass-end of TKD organizations, so an article on this would be a good resource.

Andrew WA
8/18/2005 11:38am,
Arnt ATA schools suppossed to be "military TKD"? Because I have heard that most are run by army guys or marines who are veterans.

I had a friend back before I started MA's who was an ATA black belt and I thought he was soooo good because I never saw him do anything and he liked to talk. I started WTF TKD and could woop him easy! He was in a street fight brawl with me and he was aggressive but not very good.
Anyway his instructor ended up shooting a kid in his schools parking lot because he thought the kid had a gun and was going to kill him. So I think he went to jail and his school closed down. He was a vietnam veteram.

Captain Spaulding
8/18/2005 11:50am,
(For some reason, I can't post this in the reviews section, all I can do is preview it. So here it is)

Poway ATA Black Belt Academy in Poway, CA. On Poway Road.

This review ended up being much longer than I expected. For ease, I have broken it up into five parts: Setup, Forms, Sparring, Breaking, & Final Thought. Read as much or as little as you want. I only hope it’s as painful for you to read as it was for me to witness.


Setup:

When I initially went to the school, the instructor told me that they would be testing for black belts on Wednesday, August 17 at 6:30 and that I should stop by. When I got to the school last night at 6:28, I saw through the big plate-glass window that the testing was already in progress. I noticed a sheet of paper by the front desk that said testing was at 6. Maybe I misremembered.

The school is about average sized for the area with all the candidates sitting against the back wall of the training floor. There was a table at the front with, I assume, a panel of judges. Five of them. From left to right: a middle aged white man with a beard, a kid who looked to be 11 or 12 years old, a middle aged woman about 5’1”, a middle aged Korean man (who looked like most every instructor from TKD Times), and a huge asian man who looked like Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket only taller and much fatter (you know that expression he has on his face when the drill instructor is reading assignments, where you can tell Pyle has lost it? This man had the same expression for the entire time he was sitting at the table). Standing to one end of the table with a clipboard, acting as MC, was a girl who looked about 13 or 14. These were all black belts.

When I got there, there were three adults who were testing for their 1st Dan (or 1st dan decided, or 1st dan undecided so they can vote in either primary or whatever). They were color belts (two had a half red/half black like a poom dan, and one had a belt that was 1/3 red, 1/3yellow, & 1/3 black). I don’t know their color belt system, but these people were going from being color belts to being black belts. Two women and one man.

Forms:

They were doing forms. Now, I don’t know the ATA forms, but I do know 15 ITF forms and 11 WTF forms (I like doing forms, what can I say) so I feel that I can say with legitimacy that these three were atrocious. Their blocks and punches were uncommitted and had no power behind them, their stances were shaky, and their kicks were just bad (all three did that kind of kick where it’s kind of a roundhouse and kind of a side kick; I’m not sure which it was supposed to be). They had a hard time doing good front kicks. This really gets me, because I love TKD but am the first to admit that it over emphasizes kicks. But if you’re going to overdo something, at least do it well. None had even decent balance, and the man couldn’t do any of his kicks other than front higher than waist level.

The worst bit about the forms is that all three stopped dead at least twice, trying to remember what came next. No, that’s not true. The worst part was that both of the women did straight punches with the wrist bent, so that the first thing to hit a target would be the first knuckle of the fingers instead of the knuckle connecting the fingers to the hand. Damn, these were people testing for black belt. I didn’t let white belts get away with that crap. It was literally the first thing I taught them (after tying the belt, of course).

After this was done, the three candidates went up to the table, where they joked around with the panel of judges. That was the thing that I found oddest out of anything, Everyone was joking and laughing throughout the entire test.

Then the two women went up, one at a time, to do forms. These forms took at least five minutes each because both kept forgetting what was coming next. The older of the two kept looking at the ceiling and was literally talking herself through the routine (I could hear her, and I was outside looking through the window I mentioned earlier). The younger woman was blindfolded for her form. Normally, when someone can’t see, their technique suffers. However, after green belt or so, they should be at the place where it goes from “pretty good” to “good”. Her techniques went from bad to worse. It was painful, but the other students and parents of some of the kids (whose forms I had missed) loved it.

Sparring:

The middle aged woman on the panel called for sparring and asked if anyone wanted to get a mouthpiece. The six kids who were testing faced off (three pairs) and proceeded to do no-contact sparring for 30 seconds. During the sparring, everyone not sparring (students, panel, people watching, parents) clap rhythmically.

Then the three adults sparred, one at a time (again, no contact) five of the black belts for 30 seconds each. When a new person came in to spar, they high-fived. Again, clapping. Even the instructor (the only one with good kicking technique and obvious athletic ability) and the Gomer Pyle guy sparred. It was painful to watch; I can barely describe it. The hand position during sparring was the same as Daniel-san used at the tournament at the end of Karate Kid.

Some of the men and the younger woman, I got the feeling, could be decent fighters if they were taught something other than the crap I was witnessing.

Breaking:

It seemed like to become a black belt, you had to do at least one hand break and one foot break, using rebreakable boards. Pretty straightforward. I asked some of the parents standing outside about it and they said that you can choose what you want to do, but you have to get it approved.

I also asked one of the fathers how long it takes to get black belt. This was the response I got.

“Well, that really depends on you. (girl doing MC) got hers in a year-and-a-half, but she was coming three and sometimes four times a week.”

The woman standing next to him starting going on about a man who had done a jumping kick break and how it was incredible that he had used a real wooded board. She mentioned the “real wooden board” thing three times. Wow. Nice people, but wow.

The only break of note was that the man testing tried to do four one-inch boards with a turning side kick. Except that his kick sucked (same lousy technique I saw the younger woman use to break with) and after four tries, it was time for me to leave for BJJ class.

Final thought:

I don’t like prejudging things. I’ve met people who automatically say that something isn’t good (such as TKD) before seeing the school involved. I try my best to give people the benefit of the doubt. That being said…

I’ve seen very good TKD schools and people, and I’ve seen very bad TKD schools and people. This school was one of the worst and the only person who didn’t suck was the instructor (the girl doing MC was okay, but not black belt level, which she was wearing).

I tried to think of words to describe what I saw. The best I can come up with are “suck” and “blow”. How much did this blow? It blew so hard that I wanted to put a sail on my car so I could save on gas going to BJJ class. How much did it suck? You remember the line in Full Metal Jacket about a golf ball and a garden hose? Yeah, like that.

I can't really say the school is a McDojang, because I have no idea what they charge (but I want to find out, I also want to find out if the people passed the test). And I can't really say it's bullshido, because there was no mention of ki or wearing weighted clothes to increase power ratings, or anything like that. It's just bad.

I love TKD. That made going to see this test all that more painful. These were people testing for black belt. For me, they would be about yellow belt level (lower is some cases, a yellow belt can do a better front kick and knows not to punch with the wrist bent). And everyone was laughing and joking and the audience and students were eating it up.

And I feel bad, because I get the feeling that these people were good people who have been thoroughly misled. Some of them could be good at TKD with proper instruction.

But when it comes down to it… No, there aren’t any more words. Suck. Blow. That sums it up better than anything else. The only highlight was when one of the moms (total milf) sitting with her back facing the other side of the window from me stood up with a camcorder, giving me a nice view of the back of her tight jeans. Other than that… well, I’ve already told you.

JKDChick
8/18/2005 12:14pm,
When I get home tonight, I'll get it into the reviews for you.

Edit: This is good work. I just got to the breaking portion and it reminded me of watching a TKD demo where a guy failed to break 2 boards he hit with a FLYING sidekick. Like, just LANDING on the things right will break'em.

Captain Spaulding
8/18/2005 12:29pm,
Thanks. God, it feels good letting that out. I was so pissed last night; I had to vent.

Thank you Bullshido. And there are many more reviews to come. Before I went to the ATA school, I stopped at a place down the street with a big sign that said "KARATE". Turns out the place is split in half. One side is a total commercial Kenpo place, and next to that is a boxing and muay thai gym. Apparently, when you sign up, you can take classes at both. Both had good looking facilities, but the rates were absurd. The startup fee alone was $195.

Will check out a class and write more.

CanucKyokushin
8/18/2005 12:48pm,
Oh, my god!!! That was a good read!!!

At a Kyokushin BB test here in Montreal there is always a trained medic. He keeps an eye on everyone that is passing. Because a BB passage is an all day affair. So some could be affected by exhaustion .Then of course the 15 full-contact fights the a person has to complete.
The medic is always there at every tournament and BB passage.

That just goes to show you how tough a full-contact style is compared to a group which has no contact fights and high-fiving for everything going on for its Blackbelt passage. I wonder what the guys from the other thread will say.

Captain Spaulding
8/18/2005 1:27pm,
When I was doing TKD, tests were always set as being less physically intense than class. It was sort of agreed upon that if you were good enough to take the test, then you were good enough to pass. Occasionally people screwed up and didn't pass (I didn't pass my blue belt exam because I was told my sparring wasn't good enough, so I was given two months to get up to where I was expected to be. If I made it, then I'd get my blue belt. If I didn't, I'd have to test again later. I made it.)

During the black belt test, you had to do one three-to-five minute round of "full range" sparring (sometimes two rounds, if there was an odd number of people testing). This meant striking (fists, feet, knees, elbows, and head) anywhere other than the groin, knees, or neck, takedowns and ground fighting. But you weren't supposed to hit too hard (which didn't stop people all the time). However, during the sparring class, you were expected to hit as hard as you could. And you had to become decent during the classes in order to be allowed to test.

It always strikes me that, at my old TKD school, I wasn't that good of a fighter (something my instructors gave me a hard time about). I was about average. But when I go to other TKD schools, I'm usually one of the best fighters there. There's something wrong there.