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My McDojo's "Point of No Return"

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    My McDojo's "Point of No Return"

    This is a long one...bear with me questions are at the end. It'll probably make some of you laugh/cry for me.


    Last Tuesday (Feb 8, 2005), two things happened that I somehow believed never would occur...although in retrospect I realise were inevitable.

    1) I walked out of a class.

    2) I realized that my dojo is beyond repair as a serious school.

    My Sensei has recently been very busy with other aspects of his life and hasn't been around as much to teach. Fair enough, I don't begrudge him the need to support his 3 daughters and wife. He seems to do well enough for himself, so kudos to him for that.

    Unfortunately, his absence has extensively affected the quality of instruction at the dojo. There is no clear leadership, nobody has real authority, and everyone wants to teach different things in the classes they choose to cover. The Aiki-JuJutsu / JuJutsu class is the only one of the three Arts that has a decent regular teacher anymore. (The other two are KF, which has always been a joke, and Goju Ryu which is excellent when being taught well, but has fallen to the wayside recently.) On this fateful Tuesday, the regular AJJ/JJ teacher was out of town, so my Sensei chose to take the class himself. He's an 8th Dan in his Jitsu art (Shindo-Ryu JuJutsu under the late Shintani-Sensei) and a very nasty grappler when he wants to be. He's getting older (mid 50s) so he doesn't get into the jutsu as often anymore.

    I should've known there were problems the minute I walked into the building. He greeted me his gi and red-and-white belt (Master's Belt, he usually only wears it for seminars). I've had a rough time the last couple of weeks and I'd come in just to work out and hit bags and work off the steam...and told him as much. "Come into Jujutsu! I'm teaching it tonight, you'll want to learn this!" He knows my preference for grappling, so I agreed to join.

    I haven't been in a JJ class there in almost 2 years now...I wore my old Green rank. I noticed a few things:

    1) Everyone was either ranked Black, Brown, Yellow or White. Huh?!?!

    2) There were WAY too many people in the class to be able to comfortably perform throws or roll very far.

    3) There were a LOT of non-gi wearing people...and a few in their KF uniforms (which runs at the same time in the hardwood dojo).

    My heart started to sink...he had combined the two classes together and had at least 3 "trial" students (read: potential membership fees) in the room. That explained the Master's belt.

    Then the "warm-up" began. I need those quotation marks there, because without them it would suggest I actually at least broke a sweat. The warm-up consisted of the following:

    1) Shaking out limbs

    2) A series of one-armed push-ups done in groups...each group forming up next to their partners and the entire group trying to lift themselves off the ground. While he was counting this, he was crowing about how the group that gave up first would have to do extra pushups later. He sounded like a beligerent cheerleader rather than a Sensei barking orders.

    3) Partnering up and doing 10 pushup over-unders (leap-frog over and then scramble back under through the legs, doing three pushups and then repeating). My partner ended up being some fat, soft, teenage kungfu kid who gassed after 5, whined about my fingers "digging into" his back during the leapfrogs, and asked "Is That 10?" after EVERY CYCLE following his 5th!

    Apparently from there we were sufficiently warm to start transition drills for hip-throws. Not just any entry or transition, but the actual reversal of the hip-throw! We weren't to throw, just to the "lift". Alright...I hate hip throw and any other of those "turn your back" type throws...but I was game to try with my noob partner. They showed the technique 3 times. No explanation, no footwork breakdown. "Go until I say stop!" ummm....ok. Except my partner doesn't know how to hip throw (legs were spread so wide you'd think he was Paris Hilton!), doesn't know how to transition (kept kicking my knee as he passed me) and KEPT WHINING AT ME TO "WATCH MY KNEES!" He also kept going "whoa" when I started to lift him and would squirm, but jerked me around and actually accidentally dropped me at one point. I asked why he was even there if he couldn't handle being lifted or the techniques and he said "I don't want to be here, I was forced to be here, I do kung fu." I was at the point I was actually going to THROW him just to prove a point (he'd have probably quit the dojo right then and there...*GRIN*) Unfortunately, I'm not into hurting soft, fat kiddies so I just asked one of the blackbelts to work him into another group for me and moved to the back of the class. I still wasn't sweating, I was now pissed off, it was about half an hour into the class, and we were doing bullshit "basics" with no apparent build-up to a grappling game.

    I moved to the back of the class and waited for the next technique.

    "Ok, we're going to work from an attempted one-handed lapel grab to break grip and distract/interrupt."

    Sure, it's basic, but it does lead to a variety of decent throws/controls...I'm cool with that so far.

    "Step to the inside into cat-stance (neko ashi dachi), sweep the arm down, around and out of the way with your outside arm while striking open-palm up under the chin with your right."


    I couldn't believe it. He was now placating the Kung Fu students who had been forced to be there! I couldn't handle it anymore, I didn't care if the rest of the class suddenly was the Best Class Ever Taught (which would've been a COMPLETE 180, which wasn't likely). I waited until he instructed people to partner up and practice the technique, moved to the exit, bowed out, and left to go change into my gym duds and work out during my precious little time left.

    In the changeroom, one of the seniors came in "to check on me." (I found out later he was TOLD to find me when Sensei realized I wasn't around. I guess he planned to use me as uke for the class. I guess he likes using bigger people in front of new students for the impression it makes.) I was asked what was wrong, if I was hurt, why did I leave class?

    "I didn't come here to do an hour and a half of hip throw and cat stances. I'm going to work out."

    He silently stared at me for a second, obviously not expecting THAT answer, nodded and left. I went to the weight room to work out.

    5 minutes later, Sensei shows up in the gym and tears into me (verbally). Ranted about disrespecting him and how what I did was simply inexcusable. (I conceded that I was in the wrong to simply leave his class without permission. You just don't do that in someone's school, and apologized. It was a tense apology, my blood was boiling over the Bullshido I'd just witnessed, but it was sincere.) Told me he was disappointed in me and walked out. I would've been ok with that except he turned around and told me that if I "pulled shit like that again, [he'll] have me thrown out of the dojo." Probably just words spoken in anger and for effect...but my first reaction was "BY WHO!?!?" That's when I realized the sad truth that there's only a handful of people who could cause me to break a sweat in the dojo, and none of them were stupid enough to obey blindly and touch me on someone else's say-so.

    So now I'm faced with a problem. I recognize the absurdity of paying a place where I actively disdain the classes. However, the weights and bagroom are by far the best in the area and my blackbelt status there allows me to train basically whenever I want, so it flexs around my schedule. My MT and the potential grappling gym I'm looking are only open for a few hours during classes and have limited bag availablity/open time. They're basic, ghetto, but hard-training places. I can't afford them all, financially or time-wise.

    My membership is up for renewal at the dojo. Blackbelts pay a flat yearly $550 (CAD, approx. $450 USD at current exchange rate) for full access. The other places cost $600-$800, which is definitely wortwhile on their own. I don't have $2000 to spend on memberships.

    I'm not asking for people's opinions on what I should do...only I will decide this.

    What I AM asking for are stories of when others had their "final straw" moment? What was it like to finally walk away from your first dojo? Was it under good or bad terms? If similar to mine, how did you handle it? Because no matter how much I rationally know that I must leave one day, there's a definite intangible hesitancy to finally close the door on "my first".


    if you already have other places to train ... then all you're looking for is a gym with a heavy bag ...

    a membership at such should cost around 400 a year ... so leave and save 150$ ...

    simple ...


      You do not respect your teacher anymore, you should leave.


        If the classes are useless, you can probably get a regular health club membership for less, and do your workouts on your own.


          The end part is hearsay but here goes.

          I trained at a school for 9 years. Now most of it was before the internet so, there was really no way to check. We had full contact sparring once a year and hard contact 4 days a week. We had a 45 minute warm up and the last hour was training techniques and sparring. Well, 7 years went by great. The school grew we had about 100 students. The great part was if someone got hurt sparring my instructor never blinked. The worse we had was 2 broken wrists from people panicking from falling. Well, my instuctor left due to family problems. When the new instructor started teaching sparring became basically point sparring.

          Well, we had a hardcore group so as BB we sparred hard against each other. Then the workout shrank. Then the sparring shrank. Then the high ranking members started leaving. Then suddenly special classes were required for passing to the next level. Talking and promoting these classes took up more time. Then a rank that took me just under three years to reach was reduced to as little as 10 months. I moved out of state so I was considered still a member. I have a really good friend who still trains. Went out to visit my parents and good friend. Jumped into class some 3 year BB was running class who couldn't spar at all before I left.
          Light contact and these people were whining. People would finish their Belt Rank requirment that night and the instructor would pressure them to test.

          That was a wasted monthly fee. Luckily my perspective is weeding my friend out. As I was leaving he told me he was in class one day, listening to the "special class" lecture. Well , the instructor, says all those people who were sparring hard had no control. They thought they were skilled but it was just brawling. I laughed so hard, this is the same guy who broke his shoulder going to hard. That is what made my freind start thinking about quitting. I said who but you and me remember what Old School sparring is like? He said "you and me". Well what was the benefit of bringing that up if not to chastise you? This conversation had happened before I came out for a visit.


            I remember my "last straw" point with WTF pretty well. But first, the context.

            I was a senior in high school. Mind you, our school was pretty decent as far as TKD goes. But as time went on, membership increased so drastically that classes had to be combined. That's right, I eventually had to train with TKD moms and little dragons. In addition, it seemed like people were getting promoted too quickly and fighting at tournaments was being deemphasized.

            Anyway, I remember doing a drill that consisted of running to the other side of the dojang and doing a jumping front snap kick as high as possible. That's a metaphor for TKD at its worst right there. Do the highest, coolest, flashiest, yet completely non-functional move possible. I was happier doing roundhouse drills on the bag and calisthenics. I thought to myself, this a fucking bullshit drill. After that, I just showed up for sparring nights and then when my membership expired that was it. The terms were basically indifferent, I'm sure they have enough customers anyway. It was a relief to quit the BS but at the same time I didn't know quite what do next.


              Going into college I was leaving my TKD school on good terms. College is where I met the guys I train with personally in MMA, and what got me to sign up at Straight Blast Gym the next summer. The rest is short history.


                I haven't personally came across a school I didn't like the teacher, in fact all of them had been really good, there were some jiffs I had about the schools I went, but not enough to really want to leave. But due to time constraint, I had to drop alot of classes and focus only on sanshou.

                Based on what I have read in this thread, I would recommend leaving the school at the best appropriate time, which would mean finding the next best alternative. I find a home gym is soemtimes the best thing to plug the gaps that might be missing out in your MA scene. Just don't go overboard and start getting stuff off the web to fill up your gym because you think it is innovative, stick to the basics

                I go about with a medicine ball, a banana bag, skip rope and a small mat area of about 9 square metres if you can afford the space.


                  CT, welcome to my world.

                  In my case, my shift was also prompted by something else, namely an instructor eloping with another instructor's wife. Both instructors happened to be good friends of mine.

                  I couldn't really face the one that eloped. The other one closed his club. :(

                  Interesting how the eloper always liked to talk about ethics and martial arts... while he wasn't hitting up on the young female students anyway.


                    Your story somewhat reminds me of mine, only worse, because my school sucked more. We didn't have any heavy bags, weight equipment, or really anything in general.
                    But anyhow, what happened at my school was I stopped doing Karate (kept missing the damn promos for one reason or another and just stopped caring because people I know I could have beaten up were higher then me, pfft). So then I got extremely lucky an amateur boxing club started up very close to the bus station downtown so I started going there. I would go from there straight to Jiu Jitsu, at first it was...alright, but the day I failed to break a sweat (we weren't really doing much) AFTER going there from boxing was the day I lost all faith in it. Luckily my decision to stop going coincided with my payment, so it was all good.

                    I know what it's like to 'lose' your first school, but I have to say, it is kind of nice to experience new things. Wish you luck, make sure you do what 'you' want to do.


                      My last straw with my old kung-fu school came when the new promised sparring nights where actually, uh.. forms night. I also had an epiphany when I did a kick blocking drill with one of the senior students and he started limping around and had to stop the drill because of the *intense* pain after I, very lightly, blocked one of his roundhouses with my shin. I realized that this school just didn't have tough people in it, so I left.

                      In only slightly related, but somewhat amusing, news, I actually ran into my old sifu at a party last saturday. It was three in the morning, and I was getting ready to leave. Then I see the guy lying in a couch, roaring drunk, decked out in an old jeans jacket, looking like an 80's metal head. He shouted at me to come over and started badgering me for quitting his school. I just said I was tired of pretending to be a crane, and that I did BJJ now. He just said "fair enough," and almost looked a little hurt. I would have loved to have had a drunken debate about training methods, but sadly I had to catch the buss home.
                      Last edited by PoleFighter; 2/18/2005 9:58am, .


                        Time to join a bjj school and quit all that nonsense about bags and whatnot.


                          I warned you about Yamanaka and Japanese Goju but,
                          NNNOOOO !!
                          Jou no lisen !!
                          Luke at jou now eh?


                            In my old school, the instructor was moving in a few months. So miraculously this student who was pretty good at forms got promoted 2 belts (over a few months) to where it was the minimum to teach a class, with the understanding that she would be on the fast track to black belt since she would be training us. This woman was very very small, and nowhere near skilled enough to do anything to me when we sparred, except get the 'little tappy shots' that score points but never hurt.

                            So that was it for me. The old instructor was very skilled and had a thirst for learning 'outside the system' that we shared. Several others in the style were very good and we could spar to the point where I felt like I was learning something (just not at my school, since others were leaving also)

                            I was interested in learning to fight as if a full-sized guy or more was trying to beat my head in, not to 'perfect my form' and dance around sparring. I could not respect this student at all, and lost some respect for my old instructor and the whole system for valuing keeping a location open more than keeping standards.
                            Last edited by Chronomorte; 2/18/2005 10:58am, .


                              Last edited by WingChun Lawyer; 2/18/2005 11:30am, .



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