A *new* perspective?

Discussion in 'Schools / Instructors' started by kidswarrior, Feb 13, 2008.

  1. kidswarrior

    kidswarrior Senior Master

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    OK, so I got hit by a lightening bolt today, as some of my MA students whom I see during the regular work week began to line up their excuses for why they can't come to class tomorrow (it's Valentine's day, I would but I have to be somewhere for my Mom, I've got to paint the dog, etc. ad nauseum). They deliver these non-starters in a doleful manner, as if by coming to class they'd be doing me a favor. I think of the thousands of dollars and years of blood, sweat, and tears I--like most veterans of the arts--have spent to get the MA education I have gotten.

    So, I start wondering why the lack of commitment? Why the attrition I've seen since beginning teaching (only) three years ago? What's wrong? Then it hits me: not wrong, but right. There have been several discussion right here on MT about weeding out the wrong kind of characters to receive MA teaching--background checks, etc. I've always argued that the wrong types would weed themselves out, wouldn't have the dedication to stick with it anyway. And now here it is, my own point being proved to me. :banghead: The people who aren't responsible enough even to attend regular classes for more than a few months, certainly aren't responsible enough to handle the power of the martial arts which comes from doing them long enough to become fairly proficient (maybe even dangerous).

    So while attrition is painful for an instructor (OK, for me anyway :D), it's also the self-regulation that I've always believed in. Man, growth hurts. But it always feels great afterwards. ;)

    Or am I just rationalizing?
     
  2. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    No, my good friend, you're not rationalising.

    It's a stance I've ever taken myself on this issue. As soon as those solely interested in a quick-fix way to be 'harder than the next thug' realises that it's actually pretty hard work training in a martial art, their enthusiasm vapourises like morning mist.

    Those that stay beyond the testing period for white sash (or whatever the first belt is) can be seen to have a more genuine interest.

    If their interest is still not of the right sort, in that they are stubborn enough to carry on training but are learning for the 'wrong' reasons, then there is a fairly broad window within which to winnow them out before they start to become 'dangerous' with what they have learned.

    I've come to the conclusion that brown belt is the make-or-break grade for most who are involved more for learning how to fight better as opposed to trying to make themselves better.

    Some make it past there and take a black belt. If those that do have still got the 'wrong' attitude then it is at that point that the sensei has not fulfilled his or her duty to moderate those under tuition.

    It can happen, even to the best of instructors.

    My sensei had a student who he graded up to first dan karate (not sure of that rank, I'll need to ask again to be sure) who went off and made himself something of a local celebrity, in the McDojo sense ('80's style). No names, no pack-drill but that chap is now, twenty years on, in trouble with the law for all kinds of fiscal malpractice and certain claimed intimidations.

    Some of my friends have even been trained by this chap, who must be quite charismatic because they still speak highly of him.

    The end point is, that a martial arts instructor is only human and can end up putting training into the wrong hands but the very nature of how hard it is to become skilled in an art is a governor in it's own right ... just as you have already stated.

    How about that for an elaborate "Me too!" post :lol: :eek:.
     
  3. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    hey, i've always been at odds with the notion that martial arts are for EVERYBODY.

    It's a sales gimmick to make lots of money by teaching low quality martial arts to lots of people. Don't work them too hard, don't expect much from them, stroke their egos, and they keep coming back and keep paying. But if you push them hard, demand high quality and don't coddle them along the way, they don't want to come back. They think it ought to be easy.

    I just do not believe that quality martial arts are for just anybody. It really takes a unique kind of person who wants it badly enough to stay dedicated to training. If they want someone to push them a little bit and give lots of praise, they can go to a health club and hire a personal trainer to watch them while they do pushups and jog a little bit on the treadmill, and tell them how wonderful they are.

    In the nine or so years I have been studying and practicing Tibetan White Crane, I have been the ONLY student of my sifu who has done this. Most of the students are content to practice Tai Chi Chuan for health. White Crane is a difficult and demanding art, and most people are not up to it. In that time, we've had all of three people come in and ask to learn it (the third one just arrived last weekend). Sifu turns them over to me, and I start working them thru the basics. The first guy lasted 4 or 5 sessions. The second guy lasted one. We'll see if the third guy shows up again. He seems enthusiastic enough, but then again, they all do in the beginning. They tell us how committed they will be, and how lucky they feel to learn a rare art like TWC is. And then we never see them again.

    I'm actually content with it, in my own way.
     
  4. kidswarrior

    kidswarrior Senior Master

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    Not a *me too* at all, but a very well-thought-out validation of what I've been feeling. Thanks for that, mate (that's how you say it, right?). Very timely for me. :asian: :)
     
  5. kidswarrior

    kidswarrior Senior Master

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    Music to my ears, podna' (that's a Chinese saying :D). Guess I just haven't been on the instructor end all that long yet. ;)
     
  6. Empty Hands

    Empty Hands Senior Master

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    Granted, this conflation may not be intentional on your part. But it looks like you are conflating "doesn't show up regularly to karate class" with "irresponsible and unable to control self." I just don't think that is true. As Flying Crane notes, the MA's aren't for everybody. Also, people take MA's for different reasons. Should we expect absolute dedication from a student looking for fun and exercise?

    You know very little about these people apart from their performance in martial arts classes. They could be perfect parents, talented surgeons, or dedicated students, and you wouldn't know it. They may have dedication to burn in plenty of other areas in life. Not everything in life needs the 110% treatment.
     
  7. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I think that is key to the issue. I am really just one of the students in our school, but Sifu has given a small bit of teaching responsibility to me, particularly on the rare occasion when someone wants to learn White Crane. So I do my best to get them started, and it's an art that I absolutely love and hold in the highest regard, yet these people don't last. And I'm thinking "what just happened there? Don't they see the value in this? Why don't they come back? Is it me? Do I have offensive body odor? Was I a jerk?" and the truth it, it IS me and it IS them too. I am pushing them to develop tricky skills in something they don't yet understand, and they aren't really up to the task. It's easy to sort of take it personally, but it isn't that in reality. The truth is, they just aren't up to the task, for whatever reason. I'm doing my best to teach them the method in a fair and encouraging way. But they realize it's gonna be WORK and that's the end of it.

    When I asked Sifu to teach me White Crane, he told me very clearly that it is a difficult art, and it is a young person's art because it is physically very demanding. I was in my late 20s when I started. The latest guy who came in is 19. We'll see what he is made of...
     
  8. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    :tup:

    "Thanks for that, mate" is exactly the right idiom.

    It's hard not to take it personaly when someone starts training and then quits soon after isn't it?

    I'm only really a second-rate assistant at the moment but I still took it to heart when we had one young chap start with us in iai, sensei had me begin to teach him the basics and he turned up a total of three times before disappearing forever.

    Objectively I know he had problems with his ankles, such that he could not even get into seiza properly but it doesn't make me feel less despondent that he never gave me the chance to ease him through that pain barrier :(.

    There is a general attitude in koryu tho' that "The art does not need you, you want the art", so I suppose I shall just have to thicken my skin. I do want to continue sensei's work in the area so I have to learn both how to teach better and how to not feel slighted when the art turns out not to be for them. Hopefully, he's still got a lot of years left yet (he's 70 today) so he can pass on to me how he does it.

    EDIT: Looks like me and FC were expressing the same sentiments at the same time here :lol:.

    EH, I wonder, perhaps, if we don't have divergent views on the arts on this point? For me, you are either committed to your training or you are not, there are no half-measures for this. As Mr Miagi so famously said, I paraphrase, "Do karate 'Maybe so', squish like grape!".
     
  9. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    I like that. With your permission, I may see if I can work that into my signature line.
     
  10. kidswarrior

    kidswarrior Senior Master

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    People don't sign with me for fun and exercise. We're pretty clear up front.

    Actually, I know pretty much their whole life histories, at least the last five years or so of it.

    Oh, but they don't.

    Good points in a general sense, but don't apply for me.
     
  11. Empty Hands

    Empty Hands Senior Master

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    Personally, I come down close to your side of the spectrum. I am committed to my training, I take it seriously, and I do a lot of it.

    For the broad public though, I'm afraid your noble attitude just doesn't square with evidence. There are many, many people that take martial arts on a half-measure basis. They do it for fun, they do it for exercise, etc. There are plenty of people in my own school that show up, regularly even, for technique/kata/set training that never take the extra step and come to sparring class and learn how to apply all of that. Similar examples abound.

    I'm afraid this sort of attitude is quite common. While I don't subscribe to it myself, I also don't think it is the end of the world. Not everyone in martial arts needs total commitment to get something useful out of the process.
     
  12. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    FC, I'd be perfectly happy for you to use my words in your sig, honoured in fact.

    Legal Disclaimer: I can't absolutely swear that the same core concept has not been expressed the same way by someone else in times gone by of course, because the sentiment is central to the Japanese koryu and, from what you've said yourself, to the traditional Chinese arts too.

    EDIT: For EH. Forgive me, I certainly did not mean to imply that you yourself were any less than fully committed to your training :eek:. I think we have had different experiences in the martial arts tho'. I trained in Lau Gar for a decade or more and have, post-accident, got five years odd of JSA under my belt (yeah, MA pun attack :D!) and I've never seen the sort of 'semi-interested in the excercise side' attitude. People either stick with it or realise that it's too much like hard work and disappear. It could just be the arts we've studied, the times we studied them in or perhaps it's an Atlantic-Divide issue?
     
  13. kidswarrior

    kidswarrior Senior Master

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    Now why didn't I remember that?

    Bingo! (Actually, several bingos in this short thread). Thanks guys.
     
  14. Empty Hands

    Empty Hands Senior Master

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    What do they sign up for, out of curiousity?

    Fair enough.
     
  15. shesulsa

    shesulsa Columbia Martial Arts Academy

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    I would agree to the generality that it makes more sense to show long-termers (a.k.a. people who are 'serious') the "good stuff" than just show anyone with a buck and an entitlement attitude.

    But I'd like to ask for a little clarification ... are they just not wanting to come in on Valentine's Day, or is it on a more-often-than-you-originally-expected basis? Your initial statement said they were lining up their excuses for tomorrow, specifically - that's why I ask.

    Because I gotta tell ya ... I've been doing this for 10 years, have had my ups and downs in training and ... well, every occasion is what you make it.

    I've trained the day after Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Valentine's Day (busted my knee on 2/14/02) Dec. 26, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, my anniversary, my birthday, my kids' birthdays, my husband's birthday.

    You know what? I don't anymore unless there's a big event. I figured my kids are going to remember the importance I placed on family during times traditionally spent with family. When they're old enough they'll make their own choices, of course, but they will always remember MY choices on those days.

    One of the reasons I train is to keep my family safer than I could have before. So I make sure I invest time in them as well.

    :asian:
     
  16. kidswarrior

    kidswarrior Senior Master

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    Naw, Valentine's day is just tomorrow's handy excuse. What really smacked me in the face today, for some reason, was just how many bodies have come and gone. But part of it, I have to believe, is that in the case of my population we're talking about teens. And by definition, they're a group in flux.

    So, guess I've just come back to my original conclusion, that those who persevere in the art and get to the point of actually being capable of doing damage--even in self defense--are those who've been responsible enough to sacrifice for it over the long haul.

    And I know what you mean about family. Made the mistake of putting business first all through the 80s, and my family paid--maybe is still paying--a heavy price.
     
  17. shesulsa

    shesulsa Columbia Martial Arts Academy

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    Gotcha.

    I concur.
     
  18. Xue Sheng

    Xue Sheng All weight is underside

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    My taiji sifu has people show up train and leave all the time and he doesn't seem to mind at all. He on occasion asks what happened to this one or that one but generally he feels people come and go but the serious stay

    My Sanda sifu takes this to the extreme. He teaches no one he does not know and trust because he does not want to teach anyone that will miss use it. Also even if you are known and trusted if you are not serious he will stop the training.

    Me back when I taught I had a real problem with people leaving and not practicing on thier own and I took it personally for a bit, right up until a student got mad at me and walked out in the middle of class because I said taiji was a martial art, I wasn't teaching the martial arts of it in that class, I just mentioned that is was. After that I realized it is not for everybody and some will stay and practice, some will stay and not practice and some will not stay.
     
  19. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    It's interesting...

    When I first started, the only times we didn't train were the first day back after our national tournaments, a few rare holidays (like Christmas if it fell on the same day as class), and once in a blue moon, when there was some sort of huge conflict. We had a core of 9 or 10 people, I guess, who were always there.

    When I gradually assumed the role of instructor for that class, at first, it was the same way. We tried adding a second night, after students begged for it and promised to be there. We discovered that they would show for one and not the other... or (eventually) make excuses for both. Then we went back to one night a week... We still got excuses. Then we ended up with a youth class... and we started making exceptions around school. We get more excuses. (Especially since we don't question a "I've got homework" excuse."

    I've come to a simple conclusion. For most of the last 20+ years... Monday night has been class night. That's where I plan to be on Monday; it's an exception (or I was stuck working when in patrol) when I'm not there. And that's my mindset. I've noticed that serious students develop that same mindset; if it's class night/time -- they're supposed to be in class, not watching football or anything else. When things in their life complicate that -- they find a way to make it work.

    The others? You're not going to convince them. Their training is a hobby or something "kewl" to do. You won't change that mindset (a rare few change it on their own). The best of them are the ones who get a black belt, and drop out. Most? They train till something catches their interest or gets in the way.

    And that's fine. Enjoy them while they're there... but shape your training for the folks who are going to make training important.
     
  20. Kacey

    Kacey Sr. Grandmaster

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    Students come and go - that's the reality. The more junior the rank of the student, the more likely they are to go... In Ch'ang H'on TKD, there are 3 ranks where students are most likely to drop out - white belt, green belt, and I Dan. When white belts leave, it means they've decided it's not for them. When green belts leave - that's usually students who were getting by on athletic ability, and around green or blue belt it starts getting hard, and they leave. When I Dans leave, it's because they think they've "made it".

    Years ago, I heard a statistic; I don't know how true it is, or where it came from, but it was this: 1 student in 100 will reach black belt; the proportion remains roughly the same for each succeeding rank. I can't substantiate that statistic - but I will say that my ITF I Dan number was in the 9000s; my ITF II Dan number was in the 3000s; my ITF III Dan number was in the 300s, and those numbers were for the US from the founding of the USTF.
     

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