Martial Arts

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

onesecondglance

pretending to be awake
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 2, 2012
Messages
5,254
Reaction score
1,320
Location
Berkshire, UK
Website
soundcloud.com
His approach is that it's not a test, it's a demonstration. If he has you test, he's already decided that you've passed. Unless you do something colossally stupid or dangerous, I suppose, but that's never happened.

This is the same way our little club runs - sensei can see when you've reached a particular grade, so the grading is a formality to make a clear distinction that you have now earned a rank; if there was no grading at all it probably wouldn't feel like you'd earned the belt, but similarly if it came down to just one successful or failed execution of a technique it wouldn't be a reflection of the skill and attitude sensei has been observing over months of training.

It doesn't hurt that we also give out belts a little "later" than some clubs. Sure, you get the red and yellow ones at the same speed as everyone else, because keeping folks at white forever is just discouraging, but our higher belts tend to come later than some other clubs. It means that when I go and train as a blue belt with another club's blue belt, I often know a bunch more than they do, which is nice. I always feel as though I really own the belt and I haven't been promoted ahead of my ability. I'd rather be an overqualified blue belt than an under-skilled brown belt...
 

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
Sorry, I was unclear.

No worries, these are posts, not final drafts. I was pretty sure what you meant, but just thought I’d check.

Each kyu rank is tested separately - being a small school, we rarely have more than a couple of people testing for the same rank at the same time.

How Sensei actually administers the tests changes depending on what he feels like doing that month, and depending on where the student body as a whole is in terms of how many people are ready for testing. If there's a critical mass of four or five, he might announce a testing date a few weeks out and encourage everyone to show up to the same Saturday morning class to cheer the candidates on. OTOH, just last week he decided a new student was ready for his first test, and on a night he felt he had enough people on the mat he structured the whole class to just be us working through that test, with the (clueless) candidate placed front and center. At the end of the night he just said, "Can anyone tell me what we did tonight?" Our boy said, "That was the 6th kyu test, wasn't it?" And Sensei said, "Yep, and you just passed. Congratulations."

Ours have evolved over time. When I first started there were four gradings per year, and the master expected most students to be ready each time (he was a bit of a grub like that). Those occasions generally had between twenty and thirty students being tested, but one time when we had recruited quite heavily there were fifty. Sorry, but those days were all about mass-production instead of standard and not too many of us were very impressed with how it was managed. The examiner was very abrasive, and as often as not half of the class would quit after a grading because he consistently denigrated people. My poor instructor dreaded those meetings, he was always needing to rebuild his class after the master visited. I remember one time that he failed a student because he had a tattoo on his head. The master was quite happy to take that student’s grading fee, but failed him for a pre-existing ‘condition.’ His solution: “Wear a wig next time.” Dick. Head.

Then it happened that black belts started leaving as soon as they attained the rank because they wanted the belt but hated the man, and the cranky master decreed that there was going to be a freeze on black belt tests until he decided that black belts were committed to the cause. The next time he came to town he asked why I wasn’t doing my black belt test, and I reminded him what he had said regarding the ban. He had no such recollection. And so it went.

Once I started teaching, over time I was able to get rid of the “revenue before standard” mentality in my class, but it came at a cost. That master put the thumbscrews on me to grade more people, and when I told him not until I thought they were ready, he threatened to sack me. The class got behind me and we all defected to another style. I didn’t like doing that, but I’d seen enough of his methods to know it wasn’t for me.
 
Last edited:

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
His approach is that it's not a test, it's a demonstration. If he has you test, he's already decided that you've passed. Unless you do something colossally stupid or dangerous, I suppose, but that's never happened.

I agree with this in principle but I also see it as a kind of job interview, or perhaps a case of seeing how a candidate handles things under pressure. Not everyone who applies for a job will get the job, even if they’re qualified. To me, it prepares people to feel failure in their lives, to know that if they make errors then they’ll have to wait for a few more months before they can try again. And yes, I do realise that I am in a minority with this viewpoint.

These days (unlike the bad old days when it was mandatory) I only grade students when I think they’re ready, but to avoid risking the whims of the master on any given day (been there too many times), we have a panel of black belts decide on passes and fails. It’s not even a majority decision, because if one person on that panel makes more sense than those who may feel differently, reason prevails. The number of stripes on any given panellist’s belt does not factor into this equation. Everyone has a voice – we insist on reasons for a decision, rather than a simple yes / no – and it prevents favouritism / vendettas having a bearing on an outcome.

Sometimes people just have a bad night, but I do draw the line. Most of the people who failed gradings were back in the days when the whole show was treated like some crazy mass-production factory floor, where maximum class sizes equated to success (patent nonsense), and students were largely left to fend for themselves when it came time to prepare for their big night. Now that I’m actually able to prepare students properly because I don’t have a money-grabbing moron breathing down my neck, failed gradings are few and far between. I can’t even remember the last time it happened. Four years, maybe? The one before that was in 2009.

I actually hate it when people fail gradings. I’ve sat on panels where the recommendation comes down to fail a candidate and you know who has to tell that person? Me. I would sooner give them good news, but if they screw up too badly then someone has to tell them. I’m a human being, I prefer to be Santa Claus than the grinch. On those occasions when I failed a student I sometimes didn’t sleep at all that night; it feels as though you didn’t do your job properly.
 
Last edited:

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
My shodan test* (and my sempai's nidan) was... interesting. We had 17 people up for various ranks, and a testing date was announced. In August. (The hottest part of the summer here, that morning by 0900 it was already in the 80s and at least 80% humidity. This is important because our dojo is outdoors, with no climate control other than ceiling fans.) The session ran a solid two hours - we all worked through the entire test sheet, from 6th kyu up, and he motioned people out to go sit after they'd got through the part they were being tested on. Of course, that left the dan candidates (three shodan, one nidan) as the last ones standing. Dan test requirements are basically "everything on the kyu rank tests only better, plus also a lot of defending against weapons, and randori." By the end of the morning we were all absolutely exhausted. It was a great day. :D

Ah, these are the stories I like.

When I did my 2nd Dan test it was the middle of winter and bloody freezing. There was no heating in the hall and everyone who came to watch was dressed in scarves and beanies. There were four of us doing the same test together, which I’ve never seen before at that level. One of the others had the flu and the oldest bloke was good to go but he carried a bit of weight.

Even though we were cold, we didn’t stay that way for long. It was bloody gruelling but was the most euphoric thing I had ever done. You get to this place where you think you can’t continue, and then you push through it and can suddenly do things that you had never even attempted. I don’t remember how long that test went for (I think two hours), but we were only allowed a two-minute drink at around the halfway point and three of us were trying to stop the sick one from collapsing. At about the three quarter mark I looked across at my best friend (the fourth candidate) and I sagged to my knees and missed two reps of the drill we were doing (he told me later that I beat him to quitting by one rep, but when he saw me go down he vowed to himself that he was going to keep going just so that he could rub my face in it later – bastard!). When it was all over I went and had a dry retch in the toilet but it was totally worth it. I couldn’t even get out of bed the next day, I was too sore to move. The older bloke (the big fella) told me the next time I saw him that he lost four kilos that night (that’s nine pounds for those who couldn’t be bothered doing the conversion).

I loved that night, one of my best memories ever.
 
Last edited:

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
It doesn't hurt that we also give out belts a little "later" than some clubs. Sure, you get the red and yellow ones at the same speed as everyone else, because keeping folks at white forever is just discouraging, but our higher belts tend to come later than some other clubs. It means that when I go and train as a blue belt with another club's blue belt, I often know a bunch more than they do, which is nice. I always feel as though I really own the belt and I haven't been promoted ahead of my ability. I'd rather be an overqualified blue belt than an under-skilled brown belt...

Agree with this, but sometimes there are complications that arise. Once one of my students entered a tournament but the organisers insisted that he enter in the black belt division because he had put in too many years to be properly considered a brown belt. The rule of thumb used to be: two years to brown belt, one more to black. I don’t follow that guideline anymore, it’s more to do with how much a student applies themselves.

I’ve seen rank comparisons abused, too. I once witnessed a public demonstration which two different schools attended. The first school had some of their black belts do some tiles breaks. The principal of the second school then ordered his brown belts to do the same breaks just so that it would look like the standard of his brown belts was as good as the other lot’s black belts. So much juvenile behaviour from supposed adults.
 
Last edited:

RookieWriter

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
1,745
Reaction score
40
Location
Mojave Desert
As to getting names wrong, this was exacerbated somewhat by one of the other instructors who I was friends with. Not only did he tell our master that my real name was Nerm (which he said I had anglicised because I wanted to fit in with Aussies, using my last name as proof of his claim), but he also used to sometimes tell his class that he was related to Mr Miyagi (of Karate Kid fame). His surname sounds a lot like Miyagi although he wasn’t Japanese, but he tried to sell that lie to anyone who looked even a little bit gullible.

I swear to you, we do train seriously here in Australia, it’s not all about clowning around!

:crazy: Mr. Miyagi isn't even a real person :roll::roll:
 
Last edited:

onesecondglance

pretending to be awake
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 2, 2012
Messages
5,254
Reaction score
1,320
Location
Berkshire, UK
Website
soundcloud.com
Agree with this, but sometimes there are complications that arise. Once one of my students entered a tournament but the organisers insisted that he enter in the black belt division because he had put in too many years to be properly considered a brown belt. The rule of thumb used to be: two years to brown belt, one more to black. I don’t follow that guideline anymore, it’s more to do with how much a student applies themselves.

I’ve seen rank comparisons abused, too. I once witnessed a public demonstration which two different schools attended. The first school had some of their black belts do some tiles breaks. The principal of the second school then ordered his brown belts to do the same breaks just so that it would look like the standard of his brown belts was as good as the other lot’s black belts. So much juvenile behaviour from supposed adults.

I find myself glad once again that our club doesn't go in for tournaments or competitions. Like you said, too many folks see it as a dick-measuring event, rather than a chance to test yourself and learn.
 

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
I find myself glad once again that our club doesn't go in for tournaments or competitions. Like you said, too many folks see it as a dick-measuring event, rather than a chance to test yourself and learn.

Yeah, they’re not my thing either. The last one I went to was in 2003, but I get so many of my people wanting to try them out that I don’t stand in their way. If they want to check out other aspects of MA to give them a more rounded education I don’t have a problem with it, but when I hear all of the stories they bring back I just shake my head.

I’ve actually heard an account of a referee who disqualified a participant for excessive contact… against an opponent who just happened to be the child of said referee. What sort of organisation goes into an event like that? Are they monkeys?

:crazy: Mr. Miyagi isn't even a real person :roll::roll:

Wh... what?! HE IS TOO!
 
Last edited:

edutton

Ni. Peng. Neee-Wom.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 3, 2015
Messages
2,771
Reaction score
667
Location
North Carolina, unfortunately
I find myself glad once again that our club doesn't go in for tournaments or competitions. Like you said, too many folks see it as a dick-measuring event, rather than a chance to test yourself and learn.
Yup. There's only one Aikido lineage I know of (Tomiki) that has tournaments... the rest of us just have seminars. Different mindset! :)
 

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
It’s really interesting how much of what we do depends on mindset.

My friend – the one whose namesake RookieWriter was mocking in his blasphemous post – is a gifted all-round athlete (nevertheless, we are friends). His brother is a year older and has the rare distinction of being more dick than human being, and has a long history of roughing up my friend that goes all the way back to their early childhood. There is a pecking order that we all understand, and “Mr Miyagi” (I’m looking at you, RW – don’t say a word!) happens to be a better fighter than I am (though I have a trophy that says otherwise :), which he never references LOL) but both of us could beat the shit out of his brother, a measure which I have considered many times but exercised only once (wearing gloves, so it doesn’t count). Interestingly, BigBro still sometimes wrestles with MM when he wants to assert himself and MM always gives in. That is truly strange to see, because I know what MM is capable of and yet he has this lifelong habit of submission to his brother that he is unable to shake.

I’ve seen it elsewhere too. One of my other friends was forced into tournaments at the same time that I was, but whereas I quit as soon as I was able, his class fell in love with the idea of cabinets full of trophies and he went along with it until long after he was sick of the whole show. His class dominated that scene for something like a decade, and one of his female black belts did a televised fight on Fox Sport for a national title fight. One day when I rocked into their dojang for a visit, the same thing happened with her, as had happened with MM & BigBroDick.

Because I had known her for the entire time of her MA career, and because she had never known me in any other capacity than as a guest instructor who was friends with her instructor, there was a mental barrier. I saw how the other BBs in her class (mostly men) were frightened of her, and I kind of despised them for it, not because she was a scary, but because she was a really decent person who wouldn’t have ever hurt any of them deliberately, so why the reluctance? We are talking about a controlled environment, experienced people with protective clothing. So when I faced off against her, I was surprised to see how her mind wasn’t the same as it was with the others. It’s not that she was scared of me or anything like that, but rather, just more cautious than she needed to be. She was a far better fighter than I ever was, but because we had history that went back to her formative years and I didn’t back down, I was already inside her head. So she didn’t fight according to her normal style, but we did all go out for dinner together afterward.
 

RookieWriter

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
1,745
Reaction score
40
Location
Mojave Desert
Officially singed up as a Karate student today. Went to several different places around town and couldn't really decide what to do so I just decided to give this place a try for a bit and see how it goes. I'm only gonna start out training twice a week so I can get back into it. I'm out of shape and don't want to push too hard too fast. Plus I train Tai Chi once a week already, so three classes a week total. They are both a bit of an experiment and there is no long term obligation to either. I guess I am not sure exactly what I am looking to get out of my training right now but being indecisive was getting me nowhere.
 

RookieWriter

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
1,745
Reaction score
40
Location
Mojave Desert
I find myself glad once again that our club doesn't go in for tournaments or competitions. Like you said, too many folks see it as a dick-measuring event, rather than a chance to test yourself and learn.

I have little tournament experience but I can see how that could happen and how it would be a problem. Too much ego.
 

RookieWriter

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
1,745
Reaction score
40
Location
Mojave Desert
Yeah, they’re not my thing either. The last one I went to was in 2003, but I get so many of my people wanting to try them out that I don’t stand in their way. If they want to check out other aspects of MA to give them a more rounded education I don’t have a problem with it, but when I hear all of the stories they bring back I just shake my head.

I only did two of them, once in 2005 and one six months later in 2006. The first time I found it kind of thrilling even though in my second sparring match I got kicked in the face so hard I literally saw stars. Until that point I always just thought that was something cartoons made up. The second time I participated in all four elements (forms, weapons, breaking, sparring) and got third place in all four. It sounds respectable until I tell you that in all four of those competitions there were only three students competing. I got four third place metals for coming in dead last. I felt like a complete failure and cried on the drive home. I generally feel like a huge loser in life anyway but that was one of my lowest points. Looking back now I tell myself "at least I faced my fears and was in there!"
 

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
I only did two of them, once in 2005 and one six months later in 2006. The first time I found it kind of thrilling even though in my second sparring match I got kicked in the face so hard I literally saw stars. Until that point I always just thought that was something cartoons made up. The second time I participated in all four elements (forms, weapons, breaking, sparring) and got third place in all four. It sounds respectable until I tell you that in all four of those competitions there were only three students competing. I got four third place metals for coming in dead last. I felt like a complete failure and cried on the drive home. I generally feel like a huge loser in life anyway but that was one of my lowest points. Looking back now I tell myself "at least I faced my fears and was in there!"

What do you do? OK, you came third out of three in multiple categories, but it was a beginner's effort. If you were able to rate your opponents, did they hammer you right across the board or do you think the results were closer and just didn’t go your way? You can sort of get a feel for how you went by comparison if you have enough background, though that might not always be how the referees see it.

The last time I was concussed was the last time I fought someone better than I was. I was that badly hurt that it finished me mentally, with respect to full contact I mean. Now I’m exclusively about teaching, which I’d rather do with some decent sparring but now I’ve got other problems as well (knees, ankles, old finger injuries, etc.). On the plus side, that knock gave me material for my first novel, which I was writing at the time, but the difficulty I had there was that I couldn’t see properly and the light from the computer screen hurt my eyes like all fuck. But yeah, I made the effort to write down what it feels like to get concussed, and I deliberately made the MC fairly incoherent in his thoughts (LOL, it wasn’t exactly as I had written it because that wouldn’t have made sense at all, but close). I suppose I had to find a silver lining in it somewhere.

Tournaments are different to normal training. I remember at my first one I didn’t even know the rules and asked other competitors to clarify how some of it worked. They didn’t want to tell me until I pointed out that until I knew the limits there was a danger that someone could cop one by accident. What I was most disgusted by was that I placed second in a field of twenty, and all but one of the others (my friend, MM, who came fourth) had extensive experience in that format. I decided then and there that if rookie tournament fighters finished as high as we both did, then there was nothing of value that we were going to learn from any of the other competitors, and that there was a risk of having our skill set eroded by picking up bad habits. So I only did the bare minimum that was required and then got out at the first opportunity.

OTOH, my friend who went on to a long career in tournaments saw it from the other angle: those competitors were of so poor a standard that his class was going to take home every prize on offer. And so it transpired: his hall is chock full of trophies that he won himself, even though he sees little value in most of them. His class didn’t suffer for it either; he knew how to distil the different skills and only teach what each of his students needed, with tournament stuff only going onto the floor when an event was almost due.

I’m not saying don’t do tournaments, but take it with a grain of salt. One of my BBs who I never got along with very well always said he wanted to enter a tournament, but whenever I told him there was nothing stopping him he just said that he was too old. I suggested the veterans’ category, but there was always an excuse. He was one of those people who was competent and talked a good game, but he lacked confidence to put himself into a winner-loser situation. To him it would have been humiliating to have everyone know he had been beaten, he just wasn’t cut out to be anything other than a big fish in a small pond (just my assessment*).

*OK, not just mine, but no need for character assassinations.
 

edutton

Ni. Peng. Neee-Wom.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 3, 2015
Messages
2,771
Reaction score
667
Location
North Carolina, unfortunately
It’s really interesting how much of what we do depends on mindset.

It really is. One of my juniors, who has become a pretty close friend off the mat, told me that I come across as almost ego-less on the mat. He was completely wrong about that, I'm very competitive :D - it's just that the person I'm competing with is myself.
[ETA: I think this says less about me than about default assumptions and mindsets in the MA world at large. Although, it may say a little about me, and why I was drawn to this art rather than to a more competition-oriented style... cooperative training is a goal, and default setting, in Aikido.]
 
Last edited:

Myrealana

I aim to misbehave
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 29, 2012
Messages
5,415
Reaction score
1,883
Location
Denver, CO
Website
www.badfoodie.com
I trained in American Kenpo Karate for about ten years until my bad knee from high school gymnastics caught up with me, and I had to give it up. I reached 3rd degree Brown belt. It's difficult to advance past Blue in American Kenpo. There's a lot of memorization and practice required for the advanced levels.

https://sportsandmartialarts.com/kenpo-karate-techniques-requirements/

American Kenpo is unusual in the world of martial arts. It consists primarily of specific defenses against attacks. You learn one technique for a right handed punch, a different for a left punch, front high grapple, front low grapple, back high grapple, back low grapple. For someone trained in dance and gymnastics like me, it was awesome. In reality, once you get into a sparring ring, none of the techniques ever quite fit and you're left just with your ability to block, dodge, punch and kick.

Still, it was fun, and it was great exercise, and while I don't expect I'll ever actually use "Falcons of Force" or "Squeezing the Peach" in real life, I have taken my share of trophies in sparring contests with opponents who study other forms, so I know it works at least as well as any other form of karate.

I hope I can go back to karate one day. I'm working with a personal trainer on strengthening my knee, and losing some extra weight in hopes that I will be able to take my studies up again soon.
 

RookieWriter

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
1,745
Reaction score
40
Location
Mojave Desert
What do you do? OK, you came third out of three in multiple categories, but it was a beginner's effort. If you were able to rate your opponents, did they hammer you right across the board or do you think the results were closer and just didn’t go your way? You can sort of get a feel for how you went by comparison if you have enough background, though that might not always be how the referees see it.

In the sparring I went against a guy I had met before named Brandon. He was a good guy from a different dojang (though his head instructor was scum, maybe I will share more on that another time) and was a rank ahead of me. We were lumped together because it was such as small turnout. He beat me pretty well but I did get a few shots in. I don't recall the final score. Then I had to compete against a lower rank (green belt) than I was at the time (blue) and he beat me easily. They installed the mercy rule as I lost 7-0. The green belt ended up winning the sparring end of our division. So I got my ass totally kicked there. I don't really recall how the breaking went other than I know at least one of my boards didn't break. For some reason I decided to try and do a double break in the tournament even though I had never practiced it before. It didn't work. LOL. Forms are a little different. What I learned is that many of the judges are simply volunteers with little to no MA experience so you tell them what form you are doing and they don't know what you're talking about. If if screw up the form some of them will not even know. This is especially true in weapons forms competition but even regular forms. I felt my forms were pretty good and I put a lot of work into my weapons form. I know I didn't beat Brandon but I thought I did well enough to win second. Judges didn't see it that way.

I had gotten up to blue stripe before I ever did a tournament. Tournaments were not the reason I got into MA but I did want to get the experience of being in a couple. I probably got too competitive and took the results too seriously. I'm not against people doing tournament competitions I just don't think I will be doing anymore.
 

RookieWriter

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 7, 2012
Messages
1,745
Reaction score
40
Location
Mojave Desert
I trained in American Kenpo Karate for about ten years until my bad knee from high school gymnastics caught up with me, and I had to give it up. I reached 3rd degree Brown belt. It's difficult to advance past Blue in American Kenpo. There's a lot of memorization and practice required for the advanced levels.

https://sportsandmartialarts.com/kenpo-karate-techniques-requirements/

American Kenpo is unusual in the world of martial arts. It consists primarily of specific defenses against attacks. You learn one technique for a right handed punch, a different for a left punch, front high grapple, front low grapple, back high grapple, back low grapple. For someone trained in dance and gymnastics like me, it was awesome. In reality, once you get into a sparring ring, none of the techniques ever quite fit and you're left just with your ability to block, dodge, punch and kick.

Still, it was fun, and it was great exercise, and while I don't expect I'll ever actually use "Falcons of Force" or "Squeezing the Peach" in real life, I have taken my share of trophies in sparring contests with opponents who study other forms, so I know it works at least as well as any other form of karate.

I hope I can go back to karate one day. I'm working with a personal trainer on strengthening my knee, and losing some extra weight in hopes that I will be able to take my studies up again soon.

Cool. Thanks for jumping into the conversation. I'd like to read more about your experiences. I just signed up for Karate yesterday.
 
Last edited:

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
So we have two more karate peeps here now.

Itchy: Welcome, Myrealana. Please pile on the stories.

Knee: How was the first lesson, RW?

(sorry, I had to scratch an old joke)
 

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
It really is. One of my juniors, who has become a pretty close friend off the mat, told me that I come across as almost ego-less on the mat. He was completely wrong about that, I'm very competitive :D - it's just that the person I'm competing with is myself.
[ETA: I think this says less about me than about default assumptions and mindsets in the MA world at large. Although, it may say a little about me, and why I was drawn to this art rather than to a more competition-oriented style... cooperative training is a goal, and default setting, in Aikido.]

Some people just don’t get this. So far as I was concerned, the best way to improve is to work out who is a little bit better than you in class and try to compete with that person without them giving you any freebies. The better they get, the better you get. One of my teenage students from a decade ago (not the one who went to China) used to do a lot of break dancing. He was a big lad and had incredible body strength and balance. He was able to fight just with his legs while he was doing a handstand and was strong enough that once he lifted me over his head like I was a little kid. The only time I ever beat him was when I put a compression technique on his lower leg and he tapped out straight away. Then he asked me what I had done and I told him. Then he asked me why I had told him and I said I wanted him to be the best he could be. He was the one whose father was teaching me stick fighting.

I was talking about this mindset to my class some time ago, and told them that if they set realistic goals, i.e. newbies try to catch up to mid-ranked colour belts instead of black belts, then they would not be discouraged in their training as easily. One of them asked me who I had used as my inspiration and I told him the name (it was one of my friends), and then he asked the same question of someone who had always been the #1 practitioner in our class (in his mind, at least) and he said, “Bruce Lee.” (Yes, there were some sideways glances exchanged.) I was talking about the same stuff a long time ago with the first bloke I put through to black belt and he saw it differently. At that time our class was in a rebuilding phase and we pretty much only had black / brown belts plus a few kids. Then this other fellow signed up and there were no intermediate ranks for him to strive towards. I asked him about this afterwards, and he said that he actually loved it because he was able to fight as hard as he could without worrying about if he was going to hurt his partner, and that when he eventually caught up with the class it was completely on merit.
 
Last edited:

Norman Mjadwesch

vacuous eyes, will bark at shadows
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 17, 2018
Messages
1,763
Reaction score
1,102
Location
Far Far Away
In the sparring I went against a guy I had met before named Brandon. He was a good guy from a different dojang (though his head instructor was scum, maybe I will share more on that another time) and was a rank ahead of me. We were lumped together because it was such as small turnout. He beat me pretty well but I did get a few shots in. I don't recall the final score. Then I had to compete against a lower rank (green belt) than I was at the time (blue) and he beat me easily. They installed the mercy rule as I lost 7-0. The green belt ended up winning the sparring end of our division. So I got my ass totally kicked there. I don't really recall how the breaking went other than I know at least one of my boards didn't break. For some reason I decided to try and do a double break in the tournament even though I had never practiced it before. It didn't work. LOL. Forms are a little different. What I learned is that many of the judges are simply volunteers with little to no MA experience so you tell them what form you are doing and they don't know what you're talking about. If if screw up the form some of them will not even know. This is especially true in weapons forms competition but even regular forms. I felt my forms were pretty good and I put a lot of work into my weapons form. I know I didn't beat Brandon but I thought I did well enough to win second. Judges didn't see it that way.

I had gotten up to blue stripe before I ever did a tournament. Tournaments were not the reason I got into MA but I did want to get the experience of being in a couple. I probably got too competitive and took the results too seriously. I'm not against people doing tournament competitions I just don't think I will be doing anymore.

There are more scumbag instructors in the world? OMG, I’m not on my own! (LOL, that came out wrong.)

It sounded like that green belt was in a league of his own. There are people around like that, normally they advance fairly quickly because their instructors like to have belt colours reflect ability, or it might be more that they don’t like senior ranks getting shown up by junior ranks. When I first started TKD I thought that green was one of the highest grades because the ones we had were of a really high standard compared to the other grades*. And in my very first class I asked one of the blue belts who hadn’t bothered wearing her uniform if she was a newbie too, based on her not doing anything properly. LOL: “No!” (use the offended sullen teen tone for best effect)

*For point of reference, the progression when I started was: white, yellow, green, blue, brown, black. (Red was later slotted in between blue and brown as a substitution for brown stripe.)

About tournaments. I think that part of the reason that I performed as well as I did in my first tournament was because I didn’t really want to be there. It was kind of interesting, but not a motivator, and therefore I didn’t really care how I performed. But I did want to test myself against strangers, but for some reason the outcome wasn’t anything I was concerned about. Hence, no pressure and more freedom led to a good result. Effectively that is the complete opposite to real life situations, which are more about managing stress and where good technique takes second place to walking away in one piece.

About referees. When I was expected to participate in tournaments, as an instructor I was also expected to get my refereeing certificate. That news got dumped on me without warning and I was given two flags (white and red, each denoting a specific competitor) and told to adjudicate in some points sparring with my class. I was a cornerman, with my master acting as the main ref, and Mr Miyagi was given his own flags and was in the opposite corner. We all saw the same things, but bloody hell we were hopeless in the corner. Sometimes we accidentally raised the wrong flag, sometimes we did nothing because we couldn’t decide which flag was which. It was a complete balls-up. I actually felt like an idiot. So did MM. instead of asking us to do it again, the master said we had passed the basic exam for referees and were now allowed to act as cornermen in his tournaments. FYI, we never did. Just another story in the long line of stories where some masters live in their own world of WTFery.

But: that doesn’t mean that refs need to know the specific forms to be able to judge them. What they are looking for is a combination of flow, execution and focus. I have always said to my class that I don’t care if they get the forms wrong, so long as they do it wrong well. This was highlighted once when I had an opinionated newbie in my class a few years ago. We were prepping for a grading and I had people get up one at a time and asked if anyone had any critiques. This newb raised his hand and said that the red belt pattern was done wrong and I heard a few people have a quiet chuckle to themselves that he should presume to know anything about red belt. I asked him to explain, and he said he saw some hesitation halfway through and that the student in question looked a bit lost after that. He was spot on. I said: “If you are going to do the pattern wrong, do it wrong well. Make it look good.”
 
Last edited: