Many experienced martial artists believe that, of all the different categories of training partners, absolute beginners are the most dangerous. To outsiders, this sounds like a paradox. Shouldn’t those with the least martial arts training be the least dangerous?
It is not truly a paradox, only a misconception. And not all white belts are dangerous, obviously. But those that are, if only on the mat, are so for the following reasons.
Their goal is always to win. They don’t yet understand the difference between trying to win, and trying to cultivate the skills that one uses to win. Real fights are chaotic affairs, and chaos is not a proper breeding ground for skill development; thus, training in respectable martial arts consists of a series of games, first introducing support structures (e.g. rules and conventions), then dismantling them one step at a time.
The need for, or value in this approach is not obvious–and it is not always explained at the outset. So some white belts never appreciate the context of their practice. Others consider themselves above the “organized despair” of the “traditional mess,” and when a rule stands between them and a sparring victory, they break it without hesitation. The conventions and rules of training, they reason, are “unrealistic in a real fight.”
By guest author Matt Klein
Many martial arts schools teach children as a sidelight to their main focus: adults. They are not that interested in children, and only do it because it represents a sizable chunk of their school’s income. Children are routinely thrown into adults classes or treated as “miniature adults.” A school that can focus on the needs of children will be very successful, as there are few that get it right. To be a successful martial arts school for children, it is important to recognize how teaching them differs from the teaching of adults.
My first experience with board breaking was a total humiliation. I was a ten-year-old Karate student, with six months of practice under my orange belt, when my sensei decided we should all break some wood. He asked each of us to acquire a stack of boards, one square foot by one inch in size, and bring them to our next class.
As a bright but naive child, I had no idea that the practice of tameshiwari, or breaking, was an instrument of martial arts fraud. I only knew that it looked cool, and that it required focus–or so my teacher said.
In a recent episode of their hit Showtime series, stage magicians Penn Jilette and Raymond Teller warn viewers away from the universally fraudulent field of martial arts. Now a real expert martial artist rescues us from their half-baked debunkings.
For their own convenience, Penn and Teller divide the world of martial arts into three categories: traditional, mystical, and murderous.
Last week, I asked a random group of martial arts instructors and students the following question:
Do you think dating in the dojo is a good or bad idea? Why?
Here are their answers…
Americans do not usually see themselves, when they are in the United States, as representatives of their country. They see themselves as individuals who are different from all other individuals, whether those others are Americans or foreigners. Americans may say they have no culture, since they often conceive of culture as an overlay of arbitrary customs to be found only in other countries. Individual Americans may think they chose their own values, rather than having had their values and the assumptions on which they are based imposed on them by the society in which they were born. If you ask them to tell you something about “American culture,” they may be unable to answer and they may even deny that there is an “American culture.”
(from Handbook for Foreign Students and Scholars)
A few minutes prior to the start of class, karateka (students) enter through the front door, immediately bowing to the sensei (teacher) and/or the kamidana (dojo shrine). The karateka remove their shoes, and enter the changing room to don their training uniforms.
Around a decade ago, I attended a seminar with a famous Shanxi Xingyiquan master. Aggressive and direct, Xingyi is one of the few boxing arts known to have been used in preparation for organized warfare. Its emphasis on straightforward practicality was combined with enough subtlety to earn a reputation as one of the original Chinese “internal” martial arts.
After the seminar was over, I bought a T-shirt to commemorate the occasion. According to the text on the back of my new shirt, I was now an unofficial member of “The International Association of Defensive Martial Arts”.
Nevermind that we had spent the last 6 hours eviscerating each other with spears, sabers and bayonets, metaphorically speaking. Nevermind that, according to the principles of Xingyi and all other respectable combat arts, the use of purely defensive techniques is forbidden. Despite all this, in public, we were expected to present ourselves as practitioners of self-defense. Not offense.
What is the biggest secret in martial arts today? Is it the mysterious methods of harnessing chi energy? Nope. Is it the touch of death? Guess again.
The biggest secret is a simple matter of dollars and cents…
- Do you know the average martial arts school tuition rate in your area? Probably not.
- Are you paying too much? Maybe.
- Is there anything you can do about it? Absolutely!
By refusing to publish their class tuition rates, commercial martial arts instructors hope to prevent potential students from disqualifying them on price alone. As a result of this secrecy, it was nearly impossible to determine a “fair” market price for martial arts lessons–until now.
Please answer our quick, anonymous class tuition survey. The results will be published here, to help students like you find the best school at the best price.
From The Legend of Master Legend:
Ace and Master Legend
Master Legend races out the door of his secret hide-out, fires up the Battle Truck and summons his trusty sidekick. “Come on, Ace!” he yells. “Time to head into the shadows!”
The Ace appears wearing his flame-accented mask and leather vest; Master Legend is costumed in his signature silver and black regalia. “This is puncture-resistant rubber,” Master Legend says proudly, pointing at his homemade breastplate. His arms are covered with soccer shinguards that have been painted silver to match his mask. “It won’t stop a bullet,” he says, “but it will deflect knives.”
“Not that any villain’s knives have ever gotten that close!” the Ace chimes in.
“I am Nyx–formerly Hellcat, Felinity, and Sphynx (I had a penchant for name-changes). Like the night, I cannot be proven or disproven…”
When Master Legend bursts into a sprint, as he often does, his long, unruly hair flows behind him. His mane is also in motion when he’s behind the wheel of the Battle Truck, a 1986 Nissan pickup with a missing rear window and “ML” spray-painted on the hood. He and the Ace head off to patrol their neighborhood on the outskirts of Orlando, scanning the street for evildoers. “I don’t go looking for trouble,” Master Legend shouts above the engine. “But if you want some, you’ll get it!”