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Recovering Bullshidoka

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    Recovering Bullshidoka

    Hiya all. Newbie here putting up my first post. I'll take this opportunity to give my background as a martial artist. I'll list in in two ways- the reader's digest version for those with little in the way of interest and attention span, and an extended version with some more details to it.

    Condensed Version of my formal training:

    I've studied karate in two dojos: Goju Ryu (as a kid), and Kajukenpo (as an adult). I never got past yellow belt in Goju, and I was already a black belt in TKD by the time I trained in Kajukenpo (so I was technically considered a black belt in that dojo).

    I spent twelve years in the American Taekwondo Association (ATA). I was a 3rd Degree Black Belt and certified instructor. I taught full-time for the ATA for several years, but never owned my own school. I eventually left because the BS just became too much to bear.

    I trained in Sinawali (sp?) escrima under Suro Mike Inay while he was alive. I was certified as a Level 3 Instructor by Suro and Guru Klement (who is still active in the Inayan Training Organization, last I checked).

    While in the ATA, my instructor/employer made sure to get us trained in the basics of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Basically, he attended seminars with Rixon and would come home and teach what he learned to us.

    I studied Tai Chi Chuan under Sifu Frank Weston. It is a rare style that traces its history to a Daoist Temple in Tibet. While I've never studied other styles under a real Sifu, I've read about it extensively and picked up things here and there from other practitioners.

    My extended, rambling version:

    I fell in love with martial arts at a young age in the same way I imagine so many other kids from my generation did: watching Shaw Brothers movies every Saturday afternoon. I would watch them over and over, and daydream about learning real kung fu, or even training at Shaolin temple.

    My first teacher, of sorts, was my Uncle Ralph. He wasn't really my uncle, but my mother's cousin. He was a martial arts teacher at the time, having trained in Shaolin Kung fu, Tai Chi Chuan, Wing Chun, and Jiu-jitsu. His only real claim to fame was that he got to spar with Chuck Norris once (he said Chuck was very kind and took it quite easy on him). Ralph didn't really teach me any techniques, but he talked with me for hours about the martial arts, and even taught me the basics of meditation (keep in mind, I was about six or seven years old- to even sit perfectly still for a few minutes was a major challenge). He was willing to teach me, but lived far enough away that we didn't get to see each other often. Those conversations with Ralph dispelled the unrealistic notions I had built up from watching so many kung fu movies, and it also made me determined to seek out real martial arts training.

    Not long after that, I convinced my parents to sign me up for Karate classes. They were held at a local church, and the style was Goju ryu. Training in a dojo was very different than anything I expected. The class began with a grueling (for me, at least) set of calisthenics and strength buildinhg exercises. Afterwards, we would split up by our belt ranks to work on techniques and kata, spending about an hour punching and kicking the air. Sparring was reserved for the end of class- as a beginner, I just sat on the sidelines and watched.

    I went to class for a about a month and then quit. The training was nowhere near as glamorous as it lookedd on TV. It was difficult work, I was sore and bruised, and it took concentration and discipline. Essentially, it was tougher to do than I thought it would be, so I gave up.

    Some time went by, however, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Eventually, I couldn't resist anymore and convinced my parents I wanted to go back.

    This time I stuck with it for a few years, and got better and learned more, evenutally testing for my yellow belt. I got stronger from the conditioning exercises, and tougher through sparring. However, just before I was to test for my green belt, I had to quit due to scheduling and time conflicts.

    I didn't take up training again until high school, when I joined the ATA. I was a freshmen at the time, and quite frankly, high school was a tough environment for me. I was literally the shortest person in school, and I weighed about 98 pounds. While I missed MA training for a variety of reasons, at the time I was basically afraid of getting beat up. I was already the victim of bullying and taunting on a daily basis. When I heard about a new school that was meeting in the local YMCA I jumped at the chance.

    The classes in Taekwondo were very similar to my Goju classes, but very different at the same time. For one thing they were shorter- by about an hour. For another, there was little in the way of exercises and conditioning. Instead, we spent the majority of our time honing our technique and doing many repetitions. We spent a significant amount of time on self defense- mostly learning escapes and joint manipulation, along with some pressure points (I would later learn that these were mostly jiu-jitsu techniques instead of actual TKD). I continued to train there throughout high school, and felt like I was learning good,quality martial arts. I earned my first degree black belt in my senior year, and became a trainee instructor (designated by a red collar on the uniform). My training in the ATA really did a lot for my confidence and self esteem, and I hade a much reduced fear of bullies and getting beat up.

    Thankfully, I managed to get through high school without getting into any real fights (just two minor scuffles, only one of which was in school). Throughout my training, from Uncle Ralph to Goju to my ATA instructor, it was always reinforced that while we study to learn how to defend ourselves, we should still try to avoid fighting whenever possible, even if it means swallowing our pride. I followed that advice throughout high school, and spent my time talking my way out of fights, or just plain getting away. At the time, I consoled myself with scoring the moral victory, but knowing what I know now, I'm pretty sure I would have just gotten pounded. In either case, pacifism served me well.

    I continued with the ATA when I went away to college, earning my second degree, and after quitting college, I went to teach at my school full-time. I had already been teaching most of the classes while attending school, and decided I would love to teach for a living after being so disillusioned with my college experience. I taught for quite a while, working long hours for little money, while my own instructor became an absentee owner. During that time, I got quite into the ATA tournament circuit, and did well enough to place myself in the top ten one year (at the time the ATA used divions based upon gender, rank, and age- for example, my division was 2nd degree men, age 20-29). Competitors earned points for placing in forms and sparring at tournaments, and the top four point holders sparred off for the title of World Champion each year in Little Rock, Arkansas.

    Throughout that time, I considered myself quite a competent martial artist, well-versed not just in competition, but in real fighting. My instructor had even made a point to incorporate escrima into out school's curriculum, so I felt I had even learned valuable weapon-oriented skills, as well as augmenting my punching and blocking skills, which TKD is generally weak in. I had gone out on my own to study Tai Chi Chuan, which improved my hand techniques in taekwondo. I was confident I could hold my own against any martial artist of similar rank in a fight, despite the fact that I had never even attended a tournament outside of the ATA. While I knew tournaments were not real fighting at all (my instructor disabused me of that notion early on), I felt that my own skills and training prepared me to deal with an attacker of any sort.

    I kept in that frame of mind until MMA swept the country.

    I began watching MMA with UFC2, and it was a really rude awakening for all of us. We watched match after match, where a striker that looked in great shape and a skilled technician was methodically defeated by a grappler, who sometimes didn't look impressive at all. This sort of match was typified by Remco Pardeul vs Orlando Weit (not sure if my spelling is correct on these names). We were watching the bout in our school at the time. Orlando was announced first, and he just looked FIERCE- sleek, powerful, like a panther. Then Remco was announced, and we all literally laughed out loud when this overweight, rather dopey-looking guy came out in a judo gi (one of us even described the match as "kickboxer vs human punching bag"). Then maybe two minutes into the fight, Remco had slammed Orlando into the mat, immobilized him with an armbar, and proceeded to pound him unconscious with elbows to the head. So much for the power of punching and kicking.

    We watched the same thing play out in the next several UFCs, where the grapplers won over the strikers, with very few exceptions. I learned two valuable things about martial arts at that time- never judge an opponent by how he (or she) appears, and TKD is virtually useless against someone who knows how to grapple. My instructor must have realized this as well, as he immediately arranged to train in Gracie jiu-jitsu and promptly made it part of the curriculum in our TKD school.

    It was around that time that I was really beginning to fell misled by my previous training. I realized that I placed confidence in a set of fighting techniques that I had never been forced to use in a real fight, nor had I ever seen them used. Any real fight I had seen looked nothing like what happened on a sparring mat. I looked around myself in the ATA, and realized that I was surrounded by a lot of incompetent martial artists, who really weren't even good at TKD, let alone ready to take on another skilled fighter. I began to question what I was teaching, and what good I was doing for myself and my students.

    Over the years, I was also getting progressively frustrated with the blatant commercialism in the ATA. It started with the Karate for Kids program, which lowered expectations so that you could pack your school with children and make a lot of money. While I had my reservations, I must admit I was won over by the kids themselves. Teaching children can be very rewarding, and I must admit I liked the hero worship that my students lavished on me. Then the commercial push moved into the "Protech" programs which were watered down versions of whatever martial art was hot at the moment. I can attest to this, as I had learned escrima before the ATA introduced stick fighting to their curriculum, and what the ATA offered was inferior, to say the least. Since then, the ATA has moved into groundfighting, nunchaku, swords, three section staff, long staff, cane, krav maga, and even MMA.

    I quit working for my original instructor, and took a job teaching elsewhere in the country, still with the ATA. I thought that maybe my frustrations were more with my instructor than with the organization. However, after teaching for a year at the new school, I came to the realization that the ATA was more concerned with money and numbers of students than quality of martial arts. There own rank system enforces this, as they have set goals for number of active students for ranks 5th degree and above, without any corresponding requirements for the quality of students. Essentially, in the ATA, as long as you attend enough classes you will get your black belt and become an instructor, no matter what your skill level may be. This continues through the ranks, and while the ATA maintains strict fitness in order to be named a Master (at 6th degree), I have seen some outright pathetic 5th degrees in my time- they got their rank because they met the required number of students.

    There are some people in the ATA that are legitimately good martial artists, in my opinion, but the majority of the practitioners probably couldn't defend themselves in a real fight, especially against an opponent of any real skill. I really learned a lot about what martial arts is supposed to be in my time with the ATA, and, ironically, I found the organization itself wanting in almost every way that mattered.

    It's been about ten years since I left the ATA. I trained for a year at a Kajukenpo dojo to try and stay fit, but it was too similar to my TKD experience to keep my interest. After so many years in a "hard" style, I wanted to explore a "soft" style more thoroughly, so I have continued to practice and study Tai Chi Chuan, although nowehere near as diligently as I should. I've made contact with my original sifu, and while I don;t get to train regularly with him due to the distances involved, it helps to motivate me in my own practice.

    Tai Chi Chuan continues to fascinate me because it is very well rounded. It enhances fitness and health with a minimum of injuries, and offers many valuable fighting principles if you can find the right teachers. Ironically, I've learned more practical self-defense skills from the slow movements of Tai Chi Chuan than from the dynamic punching and kicking of TKD.

    Well, thanks for your interest, those who have read this far. I'd love to hear opinions and stories from others!

    Good first post (finally paragraphs are used lol).

    I too did TaeKwonDo/Hapkido...switched back to boxing and Jiu-jitsu though...Welcome aboard sir.


      I think most of us here have had similar experiences. Welcome to Bullshido.


        great post! thank you for sharing.

        Kudos to your instructor (back then) for seeing the need for grappling, too. However, that's too bad about tenure = rank as opposed to skill = rank.....

        I started out in TMA in college after I had stopped swimming. But it was Bullshido - a style that was like Shotokan, but the instructor mysteriously didn't want to give details about his past, and we all were warned as lowly white belts not to talk to the master (or make eye contact) or ask questions about the history of the art.

        did competitive kickboxing (with and without low kick) in Denmark, and am trying to get flexible and strong enough to start up again!

        thanks again for the read, Maglut - you're keeping my motivation flyin high :)


          Hey there. This will be my first post...

          1. To get that annoying guy off of the top of the page...

          2. To say: Well at least the TKD helped you with confidence in HS, it is sad to see anything "Sell-out" like it appears the ATA has become (from what I have read.) I have a friend who has trained in TKD for about 4 years now, and after coming on her... I would hate to tell her that it won't hold up if called upon... (though she adamently proclaims she can kick ass.)

          When my friend introduced me to some of the MMA videos I was truly amazed at how much the grappling arts did overwhelm the striking arts.

          I haven't ever trained anything, but I am lucky I ran onto this site before I started.



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