How many of us start Martial Arts for the same reason? Really, deep down did we aspire to be the next Cage Fighting Champion? The next big screen star? The next Hall of Famer? I don’t think so. I think most of us sought salvation, salvation from the hands of the bully. It probably took all our courage (which we didn’t think we had) to walk into the dojo for the first time. It probably took more courage to make the visit a second time, and so on and so on.
When we made that move we more than likely looked to the end of the line and saw the Black Belts and thought “Wow! That’s is what I want to be.” And why not? The Dan grades of before were awesome. The early days were filled with people who knew what they were doing, people who could motor when need be. They were to be looked up to and respected. Not a McDojo in sight.
Somewhere along the way our beloved Martial Arts lost its way. As the elders of the village grew older, the young guns took their place and we witnessed the hordes of people making their way to the front of the Black Belt queue, cash in hand with adulations waiting to be paid. But then the training became too hard and the same cash people realised it was easier to visit the local snooker hall and with beer in hand, played their frame.
So the answer was to make the training easier but compromise? Why would the Sensei compromise? Sadly they did. They did in the name of money. Not all compromises are weak; a great Martial Arts instructor said that if we make every student fight a full contact battle then we are denying the mass the right to self defence. Quite right. But some of the compromises were pitiful. They well and truly sold out.
I personally walked out of a club when I witnessed a student forget two katas and get owned in sparring. “Never mind,” the Sensei said.” There is always next time. Pass, Brown Belt!” The fact that the guy bought a mini bus full of kids to the class might have been a factor. Do you see what I mean? The guy now really believes he is an advanced Karate-ka. A lean mean fighting machine. The fact is he couldn’t fight sleep but he had paid in dollars, not effort…cheap magic.
The instructor in question later on got found out for the fraud he was, having doctored his certificates. They showed he was a fourth dan when in fact he was really a brown belt. The fees he fraudulently obtained were never repaid as ‘everyone’ agreed he should just be banned for life from teaching.
In the meantime some of us held our heads in our hands and asked “How do we stop this?” The truth of the matter is it is a battle, no doubt but a battle the good guys will win. I completely accept that not everyone who takes up a Combat System wants to fight all out, completely accept this but as Instructors we have to do our best to nurture our students in an honest, safe but tough way. After all isn’t self-defence in reality tough?
We need dojos that expect their students to work hard and in return so does the instructor. We need honest instructors (and I think we are getting them) to push their students, teach them to grapple, strike, butt and tough it out.
My own experience was being terrified of everything ‘fight’ but I stuck at it and became a good ‘stand up man.’ Then Geoff Thompson told me I need to grapple which was so far out of my comfort zone I couldn’t ever see it, but off I went. Wrestling. Close Quarter Combat, trapping, you name it I tried it. Nobody cared for your ‘previous’ nobody cared for your certificates, they just wanted to train. It taught me. It taught me I was on the right path when I last saw a student who gained his third dan from previously said instructor after a full hour of grading. Really? Third dan after just a one hour grading, no sparring involved at all?
Nobody wants to get battered in the dojo (a no no,) but everyone needs to put in the effort. Everyone needs to walk away at the end of the session knowing they left nothing to chance. That they gave it their all and were still standing. Then, and only then can we really give our students a fighting chance. They have walked the walk others will not, the same people who took a fool’s gold for a bogus Black Belt awarded by a fraud…cheap magic. Let us not make that happen.
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