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West Wind Schools Stole My Childhood

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    West Wind Schools Stole My Childhood

    So I decided to google "West Wind Schools" for fun, and lo and behold, up pops this site and several stories. After reading a few I just had to share mine.

    I trained at West Wind for 11 years and received my Black Belt. I started at a young age (I won't reveal exactly how young, because if I did, it'd be pretty easy to figure out my identity if you were around when I was). My parents and I picked West Wind over the other schools in my area. Mind you, this was back in the golden years of the system, before they nixed about 4 sites (if I remember correctly), and began selling their souls for monetary gain.

    One thing that West Wind undoubtedly got right was discipline. The rigid atmosphere hardwired a certain attitude in me that lingered even after I left. On the other hand, they put me up to a lot. I dealt with the "you must do this, or you're not a good student" deal that a lot of people mentioned in their stories on here, but so much more.

    Being young and naive, I didn't realize that I was a marketing tool for the system. They kept me on a very tight leash, so that they could show me off to the parents thinking about enrolling their children. "Look how discipline Mr. X is! Don't you want your children to be like that?" I was never very talkative or outgoing in regular life because of how much I had to stay on my toes. One missed bow, weak handshake, missed entrance of a primary figure, or blind "YES SIR/MA'AM!" and I'd be in a world of trouble. I somewhat attribute growing up in these conditions to some social dysfunctions I have now.

    Not to mention, having to go work out, have lessons and group lessons more than any regular kid had sports practice took a toll on my free time. It ate up almost all of it. I didn't have as much time to socialize as other kids did, so I ended up losing a few friends who didn't get why I "always have to go to that karate place". Special events could not be missed, or else I was a bad student and would dishonor my instructor. In fact, on the night before a special event, I got food poisoning. The next time I came in I explained why I wasn't there. My instructors response went something like: "well, at least you could have brought a trash bag in the car and showed up for a few minutes... *deep sigh followed by awkward, dissapointed silence*. Ok, so I didn't really have food poisoning, I had a previous engagment that they deemed unnecessary, but the point is still the same.

    The Black Belt training was hell. Hell.

    That month was proabably the hardest thing I've done in my life. About 50 different kicks, 100's of techniques, several unarmed and armed katas, and original material had to be run through six days a week with unforgiving instructors and one off day that you came and did it on your own in if you were a good student. Then there was the diet. Hard boiled eggs, fruit and water for breakfast. More hard boiled eggs, flavorless, skinless chicken breast, protein shake, and gatorade for lunch after a 4+ hour runthrough of everything. Then salad (only dressing allowed: balsamic vinegar) and round steak for dinner. If you don't know what round steak is, it's like edible leather, basically. Only sauce allowed: Tabasco. This continued until the last few days before your test, in which you were allowed to eat bread and pasta with no sauce. I felt like giving up at so many points during this process. I thought I might die before the end of the first week. The second week, I had to fight to not walk in and tell them I was quitting. The third week my test-mate spewed a mixture of the lunch meal all over the office, making me a nervous wreck for the next few days (I'm emetophobic). But I eventually made it.

    I was in high school, my life up until that point was 98% West Wind and school. They wanted me to become an instructor. More of the marketing ploy that I was. They said that if I put on the Red Belt (the instructor's belt), there was no turning back. I lingered for a while, in limbo. High school was passing me by, and if i commited to this inner sanctum of West Wind, I could kiss my life outside goodbye. I left.

    Comments? Questions?

    #2
    They really put you on a diet that specific?

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by JohnnyCache
      They really put you on a diet that specific?
      Sure did. I learned to eat a hard boiled egg whole in order to cope with the amount I had to eat each day.

      Comment


        #4
        hmm. It seems lazy of them only to do one day of a diet and make you repeat it.

        How much did you guys spar, and what were the rules of the sparring?
        Last edited by JohnnyCache; 6/03/2007 12:22am, .

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by JohnnyCache
          hmm. It seems lazy of them only to do one day of a diet and make you repeat it.

          How much did you guys spar, and what were the rules of the sparring?
          I didn't spar much because most of the kids my age were just starting out, or just not serious about it and there because of parental concern.

          I can't remember the rules, I'm sure they've been covered here.

          Comment


            #6
            To the best of your recollection - what was the level of contact, and what ranges did it cover (IE striking, grappling, etc)

            Did you compete in or outside of the inner-school tournaments?

            Was sparring a part of belt tests and/or instructor training?

            Was the instructor position you were considering paid or unpaid?

            (sorry to hit you with so many questions but we love glimpses into the inner workings of WW)

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by JohnnyCache
              To the best of your recollection - what was the level of contact, and what ranges did it cover (IE striking, grappling, etc)

              Did you compete in or outside of the inner-school tournaments?

              Was sparring a part of belt tests and/or instructor training?

              Was the instructor position you were considering paid or unpaid?

              (sorry to hit you with so many questions but we love glimpses into the inner workings of WW)
              there was full and non-contact sparring. Full contact was anything goes as far as I know.

              yes, it was incorporated into tests and instructor training for those who weren't Black Belts.

              When I became a Black Belt, West Wind had sold it's soul, so what they tried to do, was to tell me that since I was abnormally young for a Black Belt, that they wanted to continue to have me take lessons. I didn't have a job at the point, and any job I could get wouldn't pay for lessons, not to mention my parents were done paying for any training there since I was "done". So West Wind offered to let me pay for lessons by teaching. Which was nice because from what I know of an instructor's salary, it couldn't pay for lessons in reality.

              Comment


                #8
                Did they just really let you go without a fight? No messages on your answering machine? No visits to your house by instructor telling you to come back? Anything threatening or did they try to play around with any legal clauses in your contract?

                Any other general cultlike behavior you'd like to highlight?

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by EternalRage
                  Did they just really let you go without a fight? No messages on your answering machine? No visits to your house by instructor telling you to come back? Anything threatening or did they try to play around with any legal clauses in your contract?

                  Any other general cultlike behavior you'd like to highlight?
                  They let me go pretty easily. I think they sensed that I really didn't want to be an instructor. The time commitment would leave me little time to really enjoy high school, and if they had their way, college too. They tried to convince me to go to a college nearby so that I could still come in and teach and take lessons. They tried their hardest to talk me out of east coast schools and anything out of the Bay Area of California.

                  Other cultlike behavior? Hmmm... They became like a cult (during the latter years) in the way the instructors were organized and how we had to treat them. There were the regular instructors, who were somewhat out of the loop. They garnered the most basic respect. Then there were the elite instructors. This wasn't an official group, it was more about who the higher ranking instructors liked more. They got a little more special treatment. Then there were the Head Instructors who resided over the three schools . If they walked through the door, everyone instantly greeted them. But the Chief Instructor and his right and left hand men... If they walked through the door, you dropped whatever you were doing and went to their aid. If no one held the door, took their coat or briefcase there'd be hell to pay. You'd swear Jesus was at the door with the huge crowd that would form in a matter of seconds.

                  I'll try and think of some more for ya.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Wow, you poor bastard, thats creepy... glad you got out of there.
                    Originally posted by undrcovrbrothr

                    Other cultlike behavior? Hmmm... They became like a cult (during the latter years) in the way the instructors were organized and how we had to treat them. There were the regular instructors, who were somewhat out of the loop. They garnered the most basic respect. Then there were the elite instructors. This wasn't an official group, it was more about who the higher ranking instructors liked more. They got a little more special treatment. Then there were the Head Instructors who resided over the three schools . If they walked through the door, everyone instantly greeted them. But the Chief Instructor and his right and left hand men... If they walked through the door, you dropped whatever you were doing and went to their aid. If no one held the door, took their coat or briefcase there'd be hell to pay. You'd swear Jesus was at the door with the huge crowd that would form in a matter of seconds.

                    I'll try and think of some more for ya.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      You should have become an instructor and then left. That would have been fun indeed.

                      But seriously, that's so messed up I don't know where to begin.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Personally I was glad you left that place. like you said, the place was good before it sold out. I am sad there is no way for corrupt MA schools to change their ways. if you stay and try to make some changes, the higher ups would kick you out. if people start leaving, only the douchebag instructors would stay and the school stays like that till it closes.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Ah I just remembered another juicy tidbit.

                          So part of becoming a Black Belt at West Wind is becoming a part of "The Order of the Cobra". Tradition said, that after your test, you go home, get washed up, get classy, come back to the dojo and go to a fancy dinner with all the Black Belts. There you received your diploma and partook in a special ceremony. They had this giant cup they called "The Chalice" that they would fill with some sort of herbal brew and everyone would partake of it to gain some sort of unspecified health benefit. But the part that I really looked forward to was the ring. All West Wind Black Belts had these giant rings, much like class rings and championship rings for athletes, but a bit beefier. Very nice quality, and would leave a NASTY mark if you got into a scrape.

                          Anyhow, I trained for my Black Belt, and tested with two other students. After our test there was some excuse as to why we couldn't have a dinner. I thought at least they would give me my diploma and ring. How wrong I was. They used the two other symbols of my achievement against me. Now before anyone replies with anything about how "the Black Belt is in the heart, not in the belt/ring/diploma! If you were a true martial artist..." I just wanted them because I'd been told for 11 years that this is what you get when you go through hell and back, and they owed it to me. They kept trying to give me the guilt trip me with them. They kept telling me that they weren't sure about me, that since I was so young, they weren't sure if i was truely loyal and they couldn't give me my ring yet. They sized me for one on 4 different occasions. They kept telling me they'd present our rings in about a month at an event. But no, they kept saying they needed to test me and make sure I was a true Black Belt. By the time I left I was so fed up with the crap I didn't think about the ring.

                          A few months later I saw one of my test-mates at the store. They told me they got fed up with the crap too and left. And then they told me that our other test-mate had received their ring and she hadn't. The one who received their ring was favored throughout the whole process so it didn't suprise me that they got it. But I was furious that they probably had the rings the whole time, and just wanted to get some free labor by guilt tripping me into teaching in order to get my ring. I can't remember if i got my diploma or not, I might have and just tucked it away somewhere so I don't have to be reminded of West Wind.

                          more to come, if i can remember some other things.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            As far as sparring goes, in the 1970's through the 1980's, they sparred full contact with Kendo gear on. It was mostly a lot of hay-makers and windmill punches, as the gear was heavy and kept you off balance. I can't say what they did after that, as the last person I spoke to about training there was in 1991? 1992? I can't remember. MY stay there was shorter, but pretty traumatic and cult like. IT was like a Ponzi scheme- one day a guy was a blue belt (2-3 years training) the next, he was an instructor. I could see West Wind turning people off too martial arts completely, so your story is not surprising.
                            "Coffee is for Closers" GlenGarry Glenross

                            Comment


                              #15
                              hey undrcovrbrothr , why did you choose to go into westwind in the first place?

                              Comment

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