Sunday, May 22, 2016

The World of Martial Arts is Changing…..

The world of Martial Arts today is not the world of Martial Arts I once knew.  Obviously, as times change our passions, the state of the world, education, jobs, etc… all change.  However, there are core values, core basics, core ethics, etc, that must always be upheld.
It is important to preface this by saying that sport form of Martial Arts is not Martial Arts.  It is one aspect of Martial Arts.  In my journey of Martial Arts, I found myself moving from one Martial Arts school to another and yet another.  This was primarily for two reasons: 

1        1.       The caliber of what is taught and level of knowledge from the Instructors has declined.
2        2.     The core values intrinsic to the martial arts world is disappearing.

Now let’s look at each of these individually. 

The first one…the caliber

Instructors cannot be blamed because over time there has been a decline in how Martial Arts is taught. 

However, it is up to an Instructor to seek out the truth.  An Instructor has to understand every detail of what they are teaching in every aspect.  Are certain techniques logical in self-defense situations or not, is one example of how to process learning/teaching.  Am I teaching situational reality or reality is another example.  

With the change in time, the expectation of students has also declined.  Therefore, curricula have been watered down, to accommodate student desires-- Immediate satisfaction versus patience.  In addition there is a  rise of interest in sports.  Therefore, martial arts schools now focus on the sport aspect of the art as the core component of training and teaching versus the art. 
Another example comes when teach self-defense.  When schools focus only on situational reality set-up as a mode of practicing self-defense, the application of the art is not known to teach/explain it for real life set-ups.

When individuals teach/learn a small component of martial arts, then each generation of students/instructors learn less and teach less.   This causes a decline.  Instructors that think Black Belt is the end cannot accurately teach, because a 1st degree black belt is simply the memorization of techniques learned in the last 2+ years.  To go beyond black belt is when learning to teach and understanding awareness comes.  When there is a need to learn a little bit of this and that from other styles, the need to go to seminars, the need to watch videos, etc, then one must step back and question the drive behind doing this.  What is missing in your training?  What is missing in your curricula?  Why are things missing…

A curriculum is not a bunch of techniques at different levels.  A true curriculum is handed to you.  It is a personal growth that is seen through repetition of technique that changes and evolves in each ranking.  For example, a break fall
        --  lower rank starts by sitting,

                ---- next rank you break fall squatting and continue the break fall from sitting
·            -----next rank, you break fall standing, and you continue the break fall from squatting and sitting.    

      And this process keeps going through black belt.  That is how one grows and learns the application of martial art techniques.

I can’t speculate this to be the situation with every school, but in my transitions from school to school, I have noticed this to be an issue.  I am very picky with my learning because I am an Instructor.  As an Instructor, I have a responsibility.  It is my responsibility to teach my best with a strong curriculum.  I have high standards for my students.  If I limit what I expect from my students, I am not being a good Instructor.  Students can achieve everything I desire if I, the Instructor believes in them and help them build on the basics to grow to their potential if not beyond it. 

The second thing I noticed, the core values….

All too often I receive phone calls of prospective students wanting to learn to fight or wanting to challenge me or other Instructors.  Martial Arts is not that.  I do not learn Martial Arts to learn how to beat up someone.  It is a far greater sense of being.  It is a sense of awareness.  It is a sense of inner peace and constant reflection of self-such that we can constantly grow and be confident in knowing that we can protect ourselves if needed but do not desire the necessity to proclaim it.  

We teach aspects of martial arts that can cause harm and kill if done wrong or without understanding. We cannot teach this without ensuring that students understand respect, discipline, responsibility, and integrity, etc.  The bow to Masters, Instructors, and to each other is a sign of respect.  Bowing when coming into the dojang is a sign of respect- all ego is left at the door.  It is a learning environment. 

Again, in my transition from school to school, I felt that I had to prove myself over and over versus learning.  That is not a proper training environment.  I believe in loyalty.  If I am going to dedicate my time to learn, to practice, to train, I expect my Master and/or Instructor to ensure that I am in a safe environment, and he/she will provide the instruction I need to learn and grow.  It is a two-way street.

In order for Martial Artists to grow completely, they must understand the core values such that they understand the responsibility behind the knowledge.  That too is why loyalty is important.  Masters and Instructors do not only teach the curricula.  They create an environment in which every student feels they can grow because the atmosphere is respectful, fun, and safe.

I see a martial arts school like a family.  This is a place where students look out for each other.  Where Masters and Instructors are individuals that become mentors/guides to help a student on their journey.  Masters/Instructors do not say here is your journey; we help guide you on a journey that is formed through training and is unique to you that never ends.

It is my goal to bring ethics and good curriculum back to the world of martial arts.  I want my students to understand the complete art so they can see their growth and learn the beauty of martial arts in its complete form.  I believe that they can achieve the goals that the Grand Masters expected of their students when the arts first began.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ethics of Martial Arts...Why we Keep Searching

I have been training in Martial Arts since I was 18.  Being a female in the martial arts world is not easy let alone with the mindset/atmospheres displayed in the martial arts field currently.

I was searching for a martial art school to train at for a very long time…. Why may you ask?  Because I know what I wanted in a martial arts school and more importantly, my Master/Instructor.  My rankings were not as important to me as my personal growth.

Time and time again, I was put up against the same situations.

This is what I encountered:

Students immediately go into techniques that cannot be performed initially.  Why?
  •      The strength was not built to match the needs for the technique.
  •     There is a process to learning techniques.  You must learn basics first before transitioning.  It is like building a house, you start with a base and move your way up.  If you skip any parts, the house falls apart, or in martial arts, you get hurt or can't perform the technique.

Of, course, I left.  I am here to learn, to learn beyond techniques.

  •  I am thankful to say that I have not had many injuries due to my Martial Arts training.  This is because of me personally going with sparring partners that I knew would not intentionally hurt me or did not have an ego and a sense of "I need to win attitude."  Now think of that statement….
    • Should you as a student go to class fearful of getting hurt by your partner? 
    • Should you as a student go to class thinking how you should change the way you train to ensure your safety?

Again, I left, my safety is paramount, but so is having fun and learning.

And this topic leads to the next thing I encountered.

Ethics and Respect in a Martial Arts School

Going to a martial arts school is now conceptualized as the following or have the following characteristics (just to name a few):
  • I want to learn how to fight
  • I challenge you to a fight
  • Ego before learning
  • Talking over Masters, Instructors, Higher Level Students
  • Changing on the mats versus in the bathroom
  • Talking during class
  • Coming late/not asking permission
  •  No structure
     These are just a few things but if this is in a school, it no longer embodies the philosophy and teachings of  Martial Arts.  Martial Arts is a never ending learning process.   It is about awareness but more importantly Martial Arts is about respect.  Respect for the Master, Instructor, and fellow students.  There should not be an ego in a learning atmosphere.  Training in Martial Arts is not learning how to fight.   Also, ethics/norms/guidelines/codes of conduct cannot have the expectation to be followed if the Master/Instructors do not embody it.  Action speaks louder than words. If those at the top don't follow their own guidelines than how can you expect those following you to follow them

`     In addition, codes of conduct, rules, guidelines cannot be put in place with an expectation of a following when it was never present before. One has already created an environment which is not to say that it can't be changed; it is simply to note that it will take a while to change what has become intrinsic in the culture of the school.  Remember, that the codes of conduct, etc, is intrinsic to the martial arts.  If the respect-the ethics are not present, then injuries happen, challenging each other, feelings of being unsafe, etc….

The real question is the Why.  Why aren't these guidelines present.  Why do we have a lack of regard.  Why?

So again, I left.  I don’t need to prove myself on the mats, I want to learn and grow, physically and mentally without worrying about being challenged or feeling the need to challenge others.

THE WHY!!!!!

Martial arts have watered down:
  • Decline of Instructors who have gone through a system to understand an art and be able to teach it.
  • No curricula or not a good one.
  • No growth beyond techniques
  • Misinterpretation of situation reality versus reality
  • Misinterpretation of what Martial Arts is and what to expect

See, Martial Arts is a never-ending study of an art.  It is about constant self-reflection and growth.  That growth is more mental than the physical (the techniques).  The aspiration to achieve a black belt is truly just the tip of the iceberg.  Think of the growth of martial arts like a baby.  See the colored belt rankings are the points where the Instructors are holding you until you are able to crawl/walk.  The Black Belts is where you begin to run and explore! The Mastery level is are where you are on your own, to learn, grow, and to face the world.  To stop at Black Belt continues a watered down Martial Arts.  A 1st Dan Instructors are teaching with little knowledge of how to expand a student’s desires of learning beyond techniques, thereby causing a loss of interest or a curriculum with tons of techniques but with no understanding to application/awareness.  Growing the mind is what the advanced learning involves.  How does it intertwine. 

Now self-defense versus sport.  Situation reality versus reality.  The following sums it up.

Sport requires guidelines.  Sport and the Art are not the same.  Sport and Self-Defense are not the same.  Yet, they are used interchangeably.  Think of this scenario:

A person can knock you out or kill you in 3 seconds.  Why would you attempt to do a butterfly kick, a triangle, a complicated wrist release, or anything that would involve a defensive motion that lasts longer than 3 seconds.  The goal should be run, and if you are in a position that you can’t run, then quick actions to help you escape.  (ie: poke the eyes, hit the groin, pull the ear, hit the ear drums, etc…)  

Remember, martial art sport should always be based on safety and mutual respect. ie sportsmanship. Just because you make a sport more violent doesn't make that sport more realistic to self-defense. Preservation of self against an attacker in life and death situation is another level of being that is not a situation one should ever be in (Master Stout).”
Sadly, techniques are situational-they are not reality.  The mindset of a person who is ready to kill or harm you is not a situation role played in most martial art classes in this day and age.  However, we misinterpret certain arts as a great way to learn self-defense.  What I ask of you is to put yourself in a situation- imagine it and apply that self-defense and see if those techniques/positions are really what you want or should do.

Again, I left, because I cannot be part of something that stipulates that you can protect yourself with these techniques…because when you envision an attack and the technique… it isn’t applicable. 


As a student I don’t just want to learn techniques.  I won’t grow mentally, spiritually, and physically and be balanced.  I want to achieve the highest possible stature in Martial Arts and I don’t need a ranking to prove it, I just need to train under a Master/Instructor who can take me there because he/she has gone through the process themselves.  I don’t want to train at a school where I am challenged all the time.   Lastly, there has to be integrity to what I learn.  Yes, I can learn technique, but I also want to grow mentally.  Yes, I can also learn technique, but it shouldn’t be conveyed as a way to protect me if it really can't.  Yes, I want to learn technique, but I also need the applications, the art behind the technique.

 As an Instructor, I find it my responsibility to help others be aware of what they should look for in a school and what to expect, such that they don’t have to go 10 years searching to be on this beautiful journey, we call martial arts.