A Revisit to USSD

Discussion in 'Horror Stories' started by Satori, Aug 19, 2005.

  1. Satori

    Satori Guest

    Trip Back to My Roots:
    -An “Intro” class with USSD

    DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to be a self-advertisement or a shameful exposition of my skills. I have several injuries, am relatively out of shape, and I'm a bit rusty. Even though I have 12 years of experience (4 of it with USSD when I was younger), I consider myself an average "Advanced" student. In addition, I have met MANY wonderful Shaolin Kempo practitioners and instructors, and this review is not meant as an insult to the style, but rather the practices of the organization in question.

    EDIT: I wasn't sure where this went, so I apologize if it is in the wrong place. Also, for those living in the midwest or outside of America, The United Studios of Self Defense (USSD for short) is a virus-like franchise that is slowly consuming the Martial Arts economy. Their practices typically include year long unbreakable contracts, "Black Belt Clubs", huge testing fees, and monthly tuition in excess of $200 a month.

    Without further ado...

    --I leave the office to pile my car right next to the mass of moving vehicles clogging the 805 Freeway heading North. I leave at 3:30 pm, and at exactly 4:30 pm 12 miles north are achieved through bumper to bumper, breakdown inspiring traffic. Seeing that the traffic will continue clear on to my exit, I take an earlier one and head for the back roads. An ingenious idea, I thought…of course, everyone else thought that too.

    So, with a long line of cars ahead of me, I turn into a strip mall for a moment of sanity and perhaps a vanilla shake. As my eyes scan the parking lot, I am shocked to see a sign advertising the organization that started me on the path of martial arts, the style that started it all…the style that almost ruined me on organized martial arts for good.

    Yes folks…Bonzai emblazoned boldly through the colored stripes of a horizon met my eyes, and memories of the United Studios of Self Defense and Shaolin Chu’an Fa Kempo Karate (perhaps the stupidest set of words put together) assaulted my sensibilities. In a drunken haze (figuratively), I parked and drifted towards the welcoming open doors of the “Dojo”. No sooner had I stopped to pass gas did the “Chief Instructor” slide towards me like a well-oiled Rattlesnake. With an infectious grin and bubbling energy, he shook my hand furiously and DRAGGED me into the office.

    Young guy, maybe a few years older than me (I’m mid 20s), with a muscular build reminiscent of a boxer and a boy band haircut, the “Chief Instructor” oozed aggression and pushiness. He regaled me with stories about he was a “Street Fighter” and a “Boxer” before he “saw the light and joined USSD”. I asked him where he boxed at, and he replied with “In TJ (Tijuana for all you non SoCal’ers) in the King of the Cage matches”. Of course, I had trained with a BJJ guy who fought in KoC matches, and my step-grandfather is an ex-champion boxer from Mexico (I’m not Mexican…it’s a long story) who trained Cage fighters all over California (including the Lion’s Den).

    Of course, he doesn’t want to go into “That Part of His Life” and he can’t seem to recognize any of the names I drop. Funny…

    Anyway, he easily transitions back to USSD, and begins to go into great detail about the age and posterity of the art of Shaolin Kempo. He explains how old it is, and how it is linked to the temple. To this I say “Really? That’s funny, since all Kempo traces back through James Mitose, leading to William Chow, then heading to Ed Parker for EPAK. Of course, Kajukenbo was developed with the help of Emperado, who then trained Nick Cerio to black belt…”

    As I went on, his eyes kinda glazed over, and he said, “Well…sure, that is how Kenpo came about…but don’t forget about our Sheeeowwwllliiiin roots.”

    To which I reply, “Oh! You mean the undocumented kung fu training Fred Villari claims to have mixed into the system?” Seeing his composure starting to falter, I quickly change the subject to my lack of funding…

    …which is his area of expertise. He asked what I could pay, and I said, “Aww geeze…I’m really strapped for cash…even $100 a month is too much…”

    He immediately ripped into a spiel about how “You get what you pay for”, and that “USSD is the best, and the best isn’t cheap…but I’ll cut you a deal. I’ll give you the standard package for $125 a month.” He then pulls out a calculator, and shows me a 6 point something number on it. “This is the money per week extra you’d be paying…not really that big a deal, is it? Hardly a sacrifice for excellent training in the BEST style”.

    Not only did he not take my verbal cue…but he raised my bet! I couldn’t believe it, but I still smiled and agreed to come back in an hour for the Adult Class.

    20 minutes to drive 1 mile (traffic still sucks) and another 20 minutes for nap time, and I’m dressed in my black gi (with white belt..hehe) and on my way to my “FREE CLASS”. I arrive 45 minutes early, and ask to go warm up and stretch out. This is when I got the “honor” of watching the “Chief Instructor” give a “Private Lesson”.

    Now…when I think of a private lesson, I imagine me…alone…by myself…with the instructor…and me…

    Well…apparently “Private Lesson” simply means “Group of Students getting a Lesson”. There were 4 students in this “Lesson”, each of varying rank.

    So, I’m thinking, “Wow…this guy can really multi-task!”

    Not really.

    The private lesson consisted of the instructor walking, telling them to work Kata, then walking out to talk on the phone for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I was treated a kata demonstration by the WORST Brown Belt 1st Degree (right before black in Kempo) I’ve ever seen. The guy was a college student, skinny as hell, and could not perform a good Kata. His techniques were sloppy and shaky, his stances were high and unstable, his *** always stuck out, his kiai’s were more like breathy “Hi!” than a soulful shout…and this was while he was performing a low rank required Kata!

    When the “Chief Instructor” was out teaching, I found that he spoke with a very arrogant, deprecating, condescending tone. He subtly degraded his own students, adding little jabs like “What is that? You call that a block?” and “So your groin is over there, is it?” Now…there is nothing wrong with a bit of teasing…but his tone was very wrong.

    A point worth mentioning is that at the beginning of the lesson, he called for meditation. Apparently, even though I wasn’t taking the lesson, I was also expected to meditate. Well…I had forgotten this little aspect. Of course, the instructor looked at me, flipped his head and pointed his finger to the ground like he was commanding a dog. He chirped “Get down!”

    Now…I’m all about the propriety and humility that goes into learning from someone. In all honesty, I am what you’d call “The Perfectly Polite Student”. I obey instantly, don’t question, don’t goof around, I answer with “Sir” when asked…hell, I don’t make a frickin sound while training. But when he flicked his finger at me like I was some belligerent child, my composure dropped. I fell into “Marine Kill Mode”, and snapped my head up in his direction, shooting him briefly with my worst “WHAT DID YOU SAY PRIVATE?” glare. I didn’t mean to, and such a gesture is very out of character for me…I just couldn’t help it.

    I kid you not…he literally tensed, shifted back, and inhaled audibly. He then stammered out “Well, you know how the rules go…its just for a minute” as he backed out of the floor and went into the office. My composure regained, I meditated like a good tool. I knew the rest of the lesson was going to be good.

    Well…class time! Only one adult (purple belt) and one teenager (orange belt) showed up. Class was assembled, all the bowing commenced, the “Standard Meditation” was called and finished, and we were lined up for our “Special Warm Up”.

    So, you ask, what is the BEST way to warm up a group of cold, stiff adult students?

    Why, elaborate deep crane stances, of course!

    No jogging, no jumping jacks…we immediately begin waving our arms around in “Wing Blocks” and getting down in “Eagle Stances” so low that my butt hit my heel. Of course, since I’m cold, I IMMEDIATELY pull a groin muscle and end up hobbling for the 15 minute exercise…of course, I must simply be weak, as this is the BEST there is. Of course, he left us there for 10 minutes to go talk to some kid in the entry way.

    I sucked it up and moved into the next exercise. He called this a “Kung Fu Line Drill”, which was basically a straight forward, short Kata. He showed this to us once full speed, along with a special “Kung Fu Salute” (which was actually the standard American Kenpo Salute!). He then left and had us “Work on it alone” while he talked on the phone for 15 minutes.

    With 12 years of DAILY martial arts experience, I immediately picked up the kata and was moving through it easily. However, the other two students were suffering greatly. So, being the nice guy I am (and part time instructor), I begin to teach them the kata move by move, in a way that breaks down the set into easy to remember stages. Since the “Chief Instructor” was busy talking on the phone, he didn’t seem to mind.

    I, AS A POTENTIAL STUDENT WEARING A WHITE BELT, TAUGHT TWO OF HIS STUDENTS (ONE AN ADVANCED ADULT) A KATA THAT I HAD JUST LEARNED!

    So he comes out, and begins to work on the Kata. Of course, he repeatedly forgets moves (of which I quietly remind him), changes his hand positioning, adjusts stances, etc… I actually began to feel sorry for him, for I could just FEEL his embarrassment. In addition, he always had to add stupid little useless bits of advice, like “Keep your stance low (even though I’m taller than him and was LOWER than him)” and “Snap those punches (even though mine were echoing and his lacked proper alignment)”

    The class eventually ended, and we were dismissed. The students thanked me for my help, and the instructor BOLTED into the office. I put my shoes on, walked into the office, and shook his hand. He mentioned something about the “Energy Being Better” in his other classes…but no word of contracts, programs, tuition, gear… No oily sales pitches…no canned responses…

    His entire body language said, “I can not teach you anything and I don’t expect you to stay here”.

    I actually felt guilty.

    All in all, he was a nice guy. The school was nice and clean, and the full trappings of USSD were in effect. His technique was good, and his enthusiasm was ok. Overall, I’d say he was a good STUDENT…but he didn’t have the right attitude, skill level, and people skills to be an instructor. I felt like he should have been training next to me while someone much older and better taught US.

    All in all it was an interesting experience, and reaffirmed why I choose not to shell out $125 a month.

    I just might go to the Monday class, though…

    May you achieve
    Satori
     
  2. MJS

    MJS Administrator Staff Member

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    Mod Note-

    Thread moved to Horror Stories

    MJS

    MT MOD
     
  3. Old Fat Kenpoka

    Old Fat Kenpoka Master Black Belt

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    Wow Satori... that was a beatiful story.

    It is really encouraging to hear that the quality of USSD schools in So Cal is so much better than the ones up here in Nor Cal. :idunno:
     
  4. Gemini

    Gemini Senior Master

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    I know, I know. I'm not kenpo, but I very much enjoyed the story anyway. Good thing there are no TKD schools like that. :rolleyes:
     
  5. Satori

    Satori Guest

    It was very disappointing, to say the least. In all honesty, I had really high hopes for this school. Since I attained a brown belt there when I was younger, I've always wanted to go back and at least get to shodan. I refuse to lose hope, though, as I continue to visit every USSD that I stumble upon.

    When I was younger, my instructor charged half of what they charge now, was in his late 40s, and was a very patient and kind instructor.

    Now, every "Chief Instructor" is my age (I'm mid 20s), a 1st through 3rd degree black belt, and usually has less than 6 years experience (probably even less teaching). Young, inexperienced teachers aren't a bad thing...I also teach children part-time (not USSD material, of course...they'd probably sue me)...but they charge over $150 a month (minimum), while my company charges about $20 a month.

    I find it really upsetting that my childhood style that I once adored is now ridiculously overpriced and represented by too many inexperienced practitioners who are obsessed with how much money they can suck from their students.

    I'll keep searching, though...

    "Some day I'll find my dojo..."

    May you achieve
    Satori
     
  6. kungfulee

    kungfulee Guest

  7. mantis

    mantis Master Black Belt

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    i went to 2 of those USSD in socal, and I did not like them a bit.
    I wanted to go talk to the instuctors, and as i was walking in i looked at the students doing the same technique supposedly. In reality each one of the students was doing his own thing living in his own world, the teacher standing there talking to strangers outside of the school leaving the students do whatevers!
    It seemed they (or to be fair, that particular teacher) doesnt care!
    so i understood the message and left.
     
  8. mantis

    mantis Master Black Belt

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    im a bit confused here
    was that in NorCal or soCal?
    isnt the 805 in nor cal?
    i dont get that part
     
  9. AdrenalineJunky

    AdrenalineJunky Black Belt

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    I've never heard of the 805.
     
  10. Old Fat Kenpoka

    Old Fat Kenpoka Master Black Belt

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    Interstate 805 is near San Diego.
     
  11. mantis

    mantis Master Black Belt

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    lol
    i confused that with 580 or 80 in SF
    my bad!
     
  12. kungfulee

    kungfulee Guest

    Anyone here of damasco leaving USSD?
     
  13. dianhsuhe

    dianhsuhe Blue Belt

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    Satori- Did you ever "find your Dojo"?

    I hope you have :)
     
  14. Satori

    Satori Guest

    Oh no! My instructor found one of my rant threads!

    ::runs and hides::

    I certainly have, as I'm sure you can tell. The quality of instruction and the friendly environment won me over...and this is the only school I've been to where I have access to over a dozen instructors!

    So long as I keep my job and can afford tuition, I'll be there for my routine pounding :D
     
  15. kungfulee

    kungfulee Guest

    What style did you pick?
     
  16. Satori

    Satori Guest

    By using the support gained from several members here and from MAP, I actually managed to track down and gain entrance into the El Cajon Kara Ho Kempo dojo.

    Dian Hsuhe is one of my instructors now, as is Pacific Shore. Seeing is believing :)
     
  17. DavidCC

    DavidCC Master of Arts

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    That is the best end to a "where should I train" thread ever :D :D
     
  18. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Another MartialTalk success story!
     
  19. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

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    Was there a Scott Woods affiliated with this group in the San Francisco area a few years ago?
     
  20. dianhsuhe

    dianhsuhe Blue Belt

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    Satori is a heck of a nice guy and we are fortunate to have him join us. He brings knowledge from several different arts and I plan to learn from him as well...

    The really good news is that the El Cajon Dojo is Grandmaster's house and Satori will get a chance to eat Grandmaster Kuoha's cooking!

    Welcome Satori, may you find enlightenment!

    James
     

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