I would like to share some experiences that I had with a Karate school last year, 2013. At the time, I was training on Monday and Thursday nights (which I still am and have been for 5 years) at the only place to learn Martial Art in my town, a local part time Taekwondo school. I was feeling more enthusiastic, passionate and excited about Martial Art then I ever had been at that point in my life. I now felt that at this point in my life, training two nights per week was not satisfactory. I started looking on the internet for other martial art schools in nearby towns, with no luck. Then a friend from my club informed me of a part-time Karate club that trains in the same community hall as my Taekwondo club, but on Tuesday nights. It had only been open for 6 weeks. I decided to look at this school to broaden my horizon and decipher what I thought of this new school in general. Plus as I previously stated I was feeling deprived of Martial Art at the time.
I was shocked at what I found.
This club was all hard. There was nothing soft about the 2 instructors who had blood stained on their uniform/Karate Gi. It was all yang without the complimentary balance of the yin. Everyone in the class were white belts. Accept for two senior students who weren't friendly at all. If I were ever to look, smile or even glance at them, they would glare back as if they intended to harm me. No one in the class looked like they were having fun and if anyone were to smile (a paralinguistic expression of positivity and happiness), they were made to do 20 push-ups on their knuckles on the wooden floor. I physically had no problem with it but I thought and still think that it's a bit much for a beginner.
The instructors told us if anyone gave us a hard time we could throw them on the ground and stomp on them as hard as possible to ensure they don't get up. The instructors placed a kicking block on the floor in front of us and we were to stomp it as hard as possible. I thought it was excessive, and this was within 10 minutes of my first class. We then had to lie on the ground up next to each other as the kids under the age of 15 would walk on our stomachs like stepping stones. The instructors said they themselves would soon be walking on our stomachs. Again, a bit much to ask of a beginner in my opinion.
When I arrived home that night, my Dad said that my face looked as white as a ghost. Never in my 16 years of life had I been exposed to such aggression. I did go back as I wanted to give the school a chance.
The classes were vary disciplined and regimented, kind of like a military I think. We also did an exercise where we were to block a low round kick with our shins. This is common in the combative side of Martial Arts but at the time it was completely new to me. However if we were to look down and see if we were executing this new technique properly, we were slapped in the face.
The patterns/kata were simple and comprehensive. They were very similar to the ones that I know from Taekwondo. Unfortunately however, they were all hard and no soft. The head instructor told me that my Kiha/yell, wasn't loud and aggressive enough. So he told me to repeat after him. We stood face to face. He then yelled at the top of his voice, and then I did as was instructed. This process was repeated 3 times. At the end of the form I yelled at the top of my voice and tried to feel aggressive, which isn't easy for me as I am naturally a passive person. I must have done it well, because it made a little girl who was watching the class cry. That made me feel sad.
I only attended 4 classes in total. At the end of class number three, some boys who were aged around 7 or 8 were starting to talk about punching other kids in the face at school. I found that concerning. During my 4th class the instructors told the class that open hand strikes were unique to Karate, and striking with the wrist is extremely powerful. They said they knew some guys that used a wrist strike on a pig. It resulted in the pig bleeding to death from the inside. The instructors said they will bring the photos for the next class for use to see. At the end of my 4th class, the head instructor told me that as a person, I am too nice. He said that I need to be more aggressive in nature. He said that if I stick with him, he will turn my body into a weapon. He also said he has another part-time school in a nearby town where he has 14 year olds fighting like grown men. I told him that I'll think about it and I haven't been back since.
The instructors promote competition and they're egotistical. And I felt they put me down for the fact that I practice something labeled Taekwondo.
More recently, I have heard through word of mouth that the junior instructor, with his senior students go out to bars at night. The junior instructor goes up to random men in the bar and provokes fights. Apparently he always needs his students to come and save him.
This Karate school was far from the truth, far from the way of real martial art and the Tao. Now that I think back, the schools behaviour accurately represented the behaviour of the Cobra Kai Karate School from the original Karate Kid movie, 1984.
After this experience I have no regrets. I'm now older, wiser and far more experienced then I was back then. And experiencing what this Karate school offered was a contributing factor to where I am now. I train at home, aiming to develop a expression of Martial Art that is unique to my inner spirit. I stay up to date with Freddie's Modern Kung Fu on YouTube and wright blogs such as this one when I have the time and head space. I have come to appreciate my Taekwondo school and focus on what it does provide me with rather then what it doesn't. My Taekwondo instructor knows that I don't like competitive sparring and so he doesn't force it upon me. I have to do Olympic sparring in class in order to grade in accordance to the World Taekwondo Federations curriculum, but that's only 4 times a year. It teaches me tolerance. People at my Taekwondo school are not too hard but not too soft. The same goes for the techniques we execute. It is relatively balanced in my opinion. But an external balanced expression is hard to find. And thus I feel privileged to attend a Martial Art school that provides me with tools to assist me in ultimately developing my own artistic expression of Martial Art.
Thank You for reading my blog. :)