I need help turning my Dojang around. (LONG POST)

Discussion in 'Korean Martial Arts - General' started by Choistic, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    (Originally Posted on Reddit)
    I need help turning my Dojang around. (LONG POST) • r/martialarts

    To whoever is reading this,



    I go to a Kukkiwon Studio. I am currently a 4th keup (Red belt) in Kukkiwon Style Taekwondo. Recently, I have gotten very concerned about the quality of my studio.

    It started after one master of mine left the dojang to go to nursing school. He is a native Korean (like me) and studied martial arts at Yongin University in Korea. I started my training under him when I started martial arts 3 years ago. I could still remember the first class that I had with him. I was recovering after a suicide attempt and had anger issues because of constant bullying. I came into the studio to learn, in my own words, "kick my enemies' asses." He was the one to set me straight. He put me to (at the time) strenuous exercises of push ups, punches, kicks, and laps around the dojang. After a few classes, I noticed that I felt very happy whenever I punched a bag, kicked a paddle, or even had a sparring session (albeit a guided one) with some of the other students. I will always be grateful to him for opening up this chance to change my life.

    But after he left, I started to notice that some things changed.

    When he was around, we always had a chance to fail our belt tests. Our belt tests were categorized into several parts. Those were Poomsae, Sparring, Board Breaking, Self-Defense, and learning Korean.

    He was very strict on Poomsae, requiring that we had the form memorized TO THE TEETH. In Taegeuk 4, for example, if someone's backfoot was not parallel to their front foot in a Apgubi (앞굽이) sogi, he or she had a penalty for his or her Poomsae. (Our form tests were based on him and other masters scoring us).

    For sparring, we had to win to receive our next ranks. I failed several times trying to promote myself to the next rank by not scoring enough points during sparring. Even as I failed, each failure would teach me something about my sparring style. My master would comment that I was too slow or that I kicked too low or even that I exhausted myself and even gave me very good tips on how to improve my shortcomings. For example, I have low stamina. He put me to stamina training exercises like speed kicking and ladder footwork.

    In board breaking, we had a set of hand and foot techniques that we had to master in order to pass to the next rank. If we were able to execute the technique correctly, we would pass. If we couldn't do it (like me in trying to do a tornado kick during my blue belt test), then we would fail. We would then be required to break the board with that specific technique. If we did, we passed. If we did not, we failed. We also had to use those techniques in a self defense setting. For example, to apply Taegeuk 1, I had to use the down block and roundhouse kick combination to the chest on my master and successfully strike my master (who had a hogu on) and counter his strikes by either dodging or blocking. Testing for application of Poomsae was one of my most favorite parts of the entire test.

    For the last requirement, my master wanted us to learn Korean. I will admit that in the beginning it was a bit easy for me to do since I am Korean and it seemed to me that it was a bit unnecessary. But after a while, I understood why he wanted us to. When I went to my first sparring tournament, some of the judges were in fact Korean and barely spoke any English. Growing up, I never heard of commands like "Gam-Jeon" or colors like "Chong" or "Hon". Thanks to him, my teammates and I were able to understand any referee's shout. For Poomsae tournaments, our master drilled us in the Sino-Korean and Korean number system. He also told each of the techniques in English and Korean. He also drilled us in basic phrases like Hello, Goodbye, Ready, At Ease. He even taught us the word for Master, Dojang, Taegeuk, and even told the meaning of the phrase that we said in Korean to the flag. 차렷! 국기에 대하여! 경례! (Attention! Salute the flag! At ease!)

    Now that he has left, everybody can pass the promotion tests even if they forget a step. The students who have lost in the sparring match get promoted anyway. We don't do self defense or board breaking anymore. And almost no one understands Korean, yet alone the phrase we say to the flag every class.

    It is not just the tests though. The most of the instructors (except for the ones who studied under him, there are only few left) would sometimes forget the forms. Even during class session, I could point out their steps were different than the ones they did before. They're nice people, but I would rather have someone who is strict and effective than having a friendly one who lost their passion for the martial art they're teaching.

    Another thing is that there are kids who are 2nd dan or higher. Please note, we have a junior black belt system. However after one sparring class, I talked to one girl who told me she would be testing for her 3rd dan. I couldn't believe my ears. She was a 10 year old fifth grader who I thought was in the junior black belt system. When I asked her how long she had been taking Taekwondo, she told me it was three years. THAT IS DEFINITELY NOT LONG ENOUGH TO GET A THIRD DAN, LET ALONE A LEGITIMATE BLACK BELT!

    The final thing that I am concerned about is that we just started "no contact sparring." As the name implies, it sounds and is very ridiculous.

    Ever since my master left, I have been trying to continue the example set by him. I purchase boards to test my hand and foot techniques, try to apply poomsae on my own time, and even get friends from other studios to train together so we can analyze each other's poomsae and self defense skills. But I don't know if that will be enough to keep my skills sharp.

    I am afraid that my dojang is turning into a Mcdojang.

    Please give me any tips what I can do to turn my dojang around. The last thing I want to do is go to other studio.



    Thank you so much,

    Choistic
     
  2. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Leave....because simply your not an instructor based on what you've said here. It's not /your/ school you don't run it you can't force them to do anything. If you don't like it then leave it's as simple as that. Also the fact the instructors make mistakes isn't a big deal...they're human do you really think the old guy never made w single mistake? Everyone has their own style. Frankly I think you can get a bit to ott with things like foot positioning. If you don't like their style they're not making you stay
     
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  3. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Welcome to the forum. Hopefully you will get some helpful advise. I am a long time student at a WT(F)/Kukkiwon school and will say if my school was only that I would have left a long time ago. Take that for what it is worth. Who is your GM now? The way you say it, you school is being ran black belt by committee. Somebody has to be the leader.
    If you have the option to go workout elsewhere that sounds like your best course. You said you workout with people from other dojangs, why don't you go to several classes at the other schools and really measure the differences?
    Being under a dark cloud with no apparent hope is the wrong place to be. You are not in a position rank-wise to facilitate large scale changes in your dojang. If you believe otherwise, make it happen.
    It sounds like you are at a pretty large school. So there are many pieces you may not understand. I would recommend you reflect and make sure you are not just very sad that your original GM left and refusing to let anyone else take his place in your mind. Keep in touch and let us know how it is going.
     
  4. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Welcome to martial Talk, Choistic.

    Take a deep breath, relax. It's eventually going to be just fine.

    First - why is going to another dojo so awful to you? I ask this honestly.
     
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  5. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    If you’re not happy with the changes that have been made, find a new school. MA has this fantasy loyalty mystique. Truth is a lot of it is BS. If you’re buying into the loyalty aspect, and loyalty is a good thing, who are you loyal to? The person you were supposed to be loyal to (other than yourself) has left. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have.

    I’m assuming you like the people there. That’s all fine and good. I get that it makes the decision harder, but from what you’ve written, you’re not happy even though you like the people around you.

    You’re not in any position of authority to make any changes. Do you honestly think you’re going to talk the people in charge into changing everything back to the way it was? Seriously think about that. They’re in charge and doing things the way they think they should be done. They’re not going to start failing students because you don’t think they deserve to pass. They’re not going to spar with harder contact because you think they should. They’re not going to bring back parts of the curriculum because you think they should be taught. They’re in charge, you’re not. Think about it this way - if you were a high ranking teacher who took over, would you listen to a relatively low ranking student and make changes because he thought that’s how it’s supposed to be? Or would you run things the way you thought they should be run?

    You’re in love with what the place used to be, not what it has become and probably not what it’s going to be as more time goes by. You’re in love with the way your former teacher ran things, not what the current regime is doing. That whole loyalty thing is out the window here, as who you’re truly loyal to is no longer there.

    Keep training there while you look for a new dojo. Training something is better than nothing. No place is going to be exactly the way it was when your former teacher ran things. Visit as many places as you can and keep an open mind.
     
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  6. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

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    You can't fix it. Get a new dojang
     
  7. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    To train as you know is correct is more than enough to keep your skills sharp. There is training at school and training that you do on your own. You can't control the direction that your school is going in, but you can control how you train when you are not in school.

    I went through a similar situation and even after all of my contributions and efforts to keep the school on a similar path that you speak of, I was eventually kicked out for "focusing too much on fighting." Long story short. I stayed truth to my path of what I believed what martial arts should be and who I should be as a person. Later on I found out that I was correct about my belief in the values of the system. I don't have a school anymore. I still train, and the head of the organization doesn't think ill about me or how I see martial arts.

    From what martial arts has been for most of my life, I've come to accept that sometimes it's going to be lonely and that it's really about me and my development. If I stay true to a good value system and train well, then people will acknowledge that. While it's nice to be acknowledge or "save a school" it's more important to train what you know is correct training and stay true to that, knowing that you will benefit from it. Eventually your dedication will become the standards by which others will train. Other's may not see it, but you will and you will be happy that you played a quiet but important role in "helping your system." As for the school, no matter how good your are, there's no saving it as you aren't the one calling the shots. Train hard become a certified instructor so you can open up your own school, and from there you can keep your teachers training a part of your school.
     
  8. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Master of Arts

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    Talk to your instructors and the chief instructor. Respectfully. They will be interested what their membership's wishes are, and the fact that you are passionate about what you do will never be bad news to any instructor.

    I tend to look for this kind of attitude - it's the sign of a future instructor. I tend to train people differently when they are passionate and serious about what they are learning.

    Modern expectations and lifestyles have led to what I would call a 'layering' within TKD - there are people who view it as a hobby, and people who view it as more than that, to the point of it being a lifestyle. A hobbyist will never be as good as a lifer of the equivalent grade. Grade is not absolute, and each grade has a huge bandwidth from acceptable minimum to overqualification.

    Skills are absolute. You either can or you can't. Be a lifer, and don't compare yourself to others, especially hobbyists. Hold yourself to a higher standard, and hold your future students too it too. The problem only exists if you worry about what other people are doing. Get your own house in order and keep it that way. You will find that other lifers will be drawn to you, and instructors will treat you differently.

    Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk
     
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  9. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    This - both the advice and the question.

    I can understand not wanting to change schools. Can you help me understand why that is the worst option to you?
     
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  10. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Do MMA.
     
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  11. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Couldn't resist could you!
     
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  12. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Nope.
     
  13. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Master of Arts

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    Hahaha.. time-honoured classic, its versatility has no bounds ;)
     
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  14. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    Thanks for your reply Headhunter.
    That is true. I can leave if I want. It is just that the place has given me a chance to change my life around. I know that people might say it is "Bullshido" to say that staying because of "dojang loyalty", but I can't really bring myself to do it.
     
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  15. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    Thank you dvcochran.
    My grandmaster has not changed. The current teacher that I train under is a returning teacher who "substituted" when my master who left couldn't make it. But in reality I am mostly taught by the "black belt leaders." These are students who had already received their black belts and "volunteer" their time to teach at the dojang. As I already had said, most of the leaders (except for the ones who studied under my last master, there are only few left) would sometimes forget the forms, don't know how to execute proper techniques, and don't know the applications of those techniques. They're nice people, but I would rather have someone who is strict and effective.
    Yes. The dojang is run by a committee of black belts. Their leader is the original founder of the dojang, the Grandmaster.
    Visiting other dojangs seems like a great idea! I never really thought about it. I'll make sure to do that!
     
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  16. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    Thank you so much for answering Buka.
    That dojang was the place that helped me to recover after my suicide attempt. It is like a second home to me.
     
  17. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    Thank you JR 137.

    I guess I haven't thought about who I was loyal to. Thank you for that input.
    Yes it is true. I like the people there, but I am not happy.
    I can understand your point. I do think that it would be quite annoying if a single student asked to do things like how I used to do. The studio is a business after all.
    I guess that I am blinded by what how the past was like. Truth be told, I got emotionally attached to the dojang. I just wanted it to be how it was. That idea just only continued to be more persistent after I found out what Mcdojangs/mcdojos are.
     
  18. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Well then basically you're going to have to suck it up and get on with it. Because it's not your place to change anything. The instructor has the right to teach whatever he wants
     
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  19. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    Thank you so much for telling me about your story JowGaWolf.
    How could you be kicked out for "focusing too much on fighting?"
    And thank you so much for giving that motivation. I promise I will train hard to be Kukkiwon certified.
     
  20. Choistic

    Choistic White Belt

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    Do you think it would be okay if I asked them to test me like how I used to test?
     

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