Disappointed at the state of martial arts in my area.

I’m disappointed at the state of martial arts in my area.

But that’s no excuse for the lack of common courtesy displayed by most instructors to a visitor walking in the door.  Of several schools I have visited, the most common reception is…nothing, they may glance your way, then ignore you, presumably because they have a class going on.  Not acceptable.  Courtesy is one of the values they supposedly teach, yet given the opportunity with a visitor and potential customer, the teachers neglect it.  At this point the visitor should be passing negative judgment,  I do, just as unapologetically as their pretension of importance.  I have sat through an entire class without anyone greeting me.  It takes a split second to graciously call out. “Hello, welcome, If you can wait I’ll be with you shortly,” and in a gap, and there are gaps, approach the visitor and offer information, or ask them to stay a little longer so you can speak with them.

Which brings me to my next point; the brusque “Can I help you?”  “Yes, I want three pepperoni pizzas and a bottle of coke.”  It’s a martial arts school, what can they possibly be there for, hmmm?  Usually it comes off as “Whaddaya want?” and sort of standoffish.

How about “Hello, Please come in.  I’m Mr./Mrs. Soandso, the instructor,  your name?  Are you interested in martial arts/do you have any martial arts experience?”  In a courteous and pleasant manner.  Respect and engage the visitor, don’t treat them like they are disturbing you, how dare they, you have a black belt…

I’ve had one guy talk to me for twenty minutes, without knowing a thing about me, or asking me anything other than “you lookin to train, you wanna join our school,” telling me all the martial arts he knows, everything they teach, even telling me “I can teach you how to fight…”  I barely got a word in edgewise that I was just visiting schools to get to know instructors, and thanks, I gotta (want to!) go now.

The teaching and training. It is boxed in with kid stuff, public performance, athletics, and tough guy posturing and focus.  What’s missing?  The part of martial arts that is martial, effective, and for everybody including women, and post 40 year olds.  Back to this later.

Some of these instructors can’t do their own class, they are out of shape and look like they don’t really train much for themselves, they just “teach.”  I think you, as an instructor should maintain a degree a training for yourself.  There is a conundrum though.  It”s tricky, because in boxing for example, the world’s best trainers are older, heavier, and some even have severe medical issues.  What’s the difference?  The boxing trainers don’t have the image presumption that they are qualified because they themselves are great fighters.  They are great “coaches.”

Walk into a common martial arts place and they guy will puff his chest, center his belt, and point to a picture of him in a fighting pose “that’s me!  I can make you like that!”  Most great boxing coaches don’t have that air, or anything like that to prove.  They’re valuable because of the quality of knowledge and skills they impart to their “students.”

Rigidity.  I have been fortunate to have instructors who encouraged you to learn from other instructors and systems, and who themselves drew from other sources and even adapted or innovated.

However, most taekwondo instructors and schools “belong” to one organization or another, and stick to the book of that group, nothing outside the tradition permitted, only one variation of round kick allowed.  Most MMA schools springing up all over the place do not train weapons.  Krav Maga is popular, but would never incorporate Systema or JKD training in their space.

Rigidity also presents itself in how they can train students.

Apart from the “kid stuff” and athletic stuff, most are hard pressed to train the more mature individual.  Someone in their 40’s & 50’s who is more stable and can now do things they’ve wanted to but couldn’t in earlier years.  Those individuals will be out of place physically and psychologically in the atmosphere of the Spartan “fighter” and lots of other “conditioning” training which is set to the standard of someone half their age.  With that individual I would go straight to the art and skills training in the available training time, after all that’s what sets martial arts apart from zumba…

So,  I’m doing my own thing.

I train a small group in the outdoors and privately cause schools won’t make a time slot for what I do.   It’s diverse training, based in Kali Silat, and drawing from JKD, Kickboxing, Systema, and my own experience and innovation.

I try to make sure that the average, mature, non martial arts, non athletic, man or woman can learn what I teach, a little self defense, and feel comfortable while at it.  I train for myself pretty consistently.  I continue to expand my knowledge and develop my skills appropriately.  Most of all, I endeavor to live out the values that I learned from the martial arts, including courtesy, respect, sensitivity, and generosity.  🙂

English: Pictogram of Mixed martial arts

7 thoughts on “Disappointed at the state of martial arts in my area.

  1. I like your article because I agree with your vision. Unfortunately, it has also supported my fear of the martial arts industry. I have been lucky enough to experience a gym outside of Rochester, NY that you would love. It has left me assuming that most gyms aren’t like mine however. That’s where I related to your article. You have seen the bad side of martial arts academies and I have seen the good. I’m glad you’re doing your own thing and not settling for being just a nameless face in a gym.

    • Sounds like you got a good place to train in and in your perspective ” Share the knowledge and skills you hold and accept visitors with open arms; make them feel welcome.” With that ideal; YOU should have a gym of your own!

      I’ve been training in martial arts for over 45 years, and been in some great gyms myself. I hope my observations are just a local and temporary phenomenon and not a general trend. Train well, stay in good places and keep your perspective, it is valuable way beyond the isolated punching and kicking sphere of the martial arts. Rick.

  2. I must say, I agree with your angle. I however must praise my Sa Bom, as she (after 30 years in our art and 20years teaching) still takes time to greet every person, will make us hold a stance for a few moments, to notice a new face even in the middle of class…. and is always my favorite sparring partner. 🙂 So, I personally have not encountered your personal experiences. However, if those things are true, it saddens me to think that others arent showing proper respect to themselves, their art, their class and to those interested. That puts a damper on what truly set us apart as artists. Its what draws others to us in interest of what we are and whatwe do. Respect is a major part of everything an art IS ! ((though it has many many other facets)) Without respect, who wants to train ?
    I enjoyed your blog.

    • Thanks. The lack of common courtesy I’ve noticed, is perhaps more profound because I am in a new area, and am approaching these places and people as an outsider. Also, I have been with great teachers who exhibited great courtesy, courtesy that spread to their students. When a visitor entered the door, the instructor would make their way over to greet them and invite them to have a seat and observe, or even have them in the office. Senior students would take over leading the drill, exercise, etc. If you have an open door, storefront business, it’s more than courtesy that’s expected, it’s good, inviting, customer service. I hope never to be guilty of this faux pas.

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