Considering changing schools (long)

lkblair

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I read here fairly frequently but rarely post. I come to Martial Talk with this because I highly respect the members here for their abilities and principles. I hope you will help me make the right decision.

I am a scant 9mths away from my black belt test with my school, but I am considering leaving for a couple of reasons. My primary instructor is leaving but going too far for me to go with him. But that isn't the main reason I'm considering leaving, as there are other good instructors within the organization. My primary reason for considering leaving is that I have lost respect for our director.

I hit a rough patch in my personal life last summer, and I feel he responded inappropriately to it. At the time, he propositioned me. I refused and thought that to be the end of it. Fast forward to more recent months. Despite my personal issues being resolved (and known to him), he propositioned me again.

In addition to this, I have noticed the smell of alcohol on his breath the last 3wks when he has arrived to teach our jr class.

Finally, despite our organization having a testing policy set in stone, I noticed his 'favorite brown belt' (a pretty young lady) has mysteriously ranked up from 2nd to 1st brown without attending a test.

As I've progressed through the ranks and become more involved in the organization as a whole, I have found that his behavior is creating a poor moral and ethical atmosphere that I am not sure I wish to continue to be associated with (or have my children, who also take karate, subjected to).

However, I have heard that many instructors frown on people who change schools and/or disciplines in the middle of their training. With this in mind, I've thought that I should go ahead and get my black belt before changing. However, continuing to pay, with both my money and my efforts, into this system that has been revealed to me to be morally corrupt seems at best dishonest and at worst as morally corrupt as what I'm objecting to.

I have many friends still in the system and do not want to belittle their skills by spreading anything ill about the organization, so having to explain all of this to a potential new instructor isn't something I relish.

So, what do you think? Is it acceptable to change schools at this point? And if so, how do I go about finding another school with a more respectful atmosphere and that won't be a 'blackbelt factory'?

Thanks so much.
 

JWLuiza

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Don't corrupt yourself just for a piece of cloth. If you can't avoid this individual, feel free to leave. Instructors don't like those who flit from system to system. It sounds like you are looking for a home, and it will be obvious to your new instructor that you are in MA for the long haul. There is not much in life worth compromising your beliefs.

Best of luck.
 

IcemanSK

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The atmosphere in which one trains needs to be a safe one. (As ironic as that might sound for an MA school.) If it's not a safe environment for you, you shouldn't be there.

I'm not there to see what you've mentioned, but it seems as if these things that you mentioned are "deal-breakers" for you. If so, then maybe it's time to move on.

I understand the dilema here: 1) Stay for BB. 2) Leave before & risk not being recognized elsewhere. What is a BB from that school worth to you? You're skills will not disappear overnight if you leave that place. What's the worst thing that can happen if you leave before your test? You start over at white belt because a new school won't recognize your current rank? What's the best thing that can happen to you if test at this school? Is that worth staying there?
 

Deaf Smith

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lkblair,

Tell him to drop dead. Yes leave. Don't even wave bye bye.

He sounds horrible and I would not take that just to get a black belt (or any belt, or anything!)

I know you hate the idea of going to another school and maybe starting back down near the bottom, but your self respect is worth far more than some dojo time.

Here is a thought. Can you contact your old instructor and maybe in a year test under him, even if you have to travel far?

And as for looking at other schools, go watch and see if they really work out! I mean sweat! And ask them about how long it takes to make black belt. If it's 2 years, and they don't work out hard, well it's a cool-aid class. Just watch the class and judge their technique, stamina, and effort they put into it.

Deaf
 

dancingalone

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However, continuing to pay, with both my money and my efforts, into this system that has been revealed to me to be morally corrupt seems at best dishonest and at worst as morally corrupt as what I'm objecting to.

I have many friends still in the system and do not want to belittle their skills by spreading anything ill about the organization, so having to explain all of this to a potential new instructor isn't something I relish.

Does the man = the system? What attracted you to training in it in the first place? If it is solid martial arts to start with, it will still remain so even if the director (your teacher's teacher?) lacks in the morality column. You would not be belittling your friends' skill at all by simply telling the truth, that you found your director's behavior to be unbecoming and unprofessional. Their skills stand on their own merits whatever his shortcomings.

So, what do you think? Is it acceptable to change schools at this point? And if so, how do I go about finding another school with a more respectful atmosphere and that won't be a 'blackbelt factory'?

What will staying give you beyond a black piece of cloth? Is this man someone highly respected in the MA world, such that a black belt from him would be coveted and respected by other martial artists? Do you expect to improve greatly under his direction for the next nine months? Only you can decide for yourself if those considerations are worth putting up with his boorish behavior for yourself and your children.

People switch schools all the time. It would be one thing if you had a true teacher/disciple relationship with this man, but it appears that you do not. You owe him no loyalty, especially if he is using his position to make advances at you and your fellow students.

As for avoiding black belt factories, it's just a matter of seeking out the right fit for yourself. In general, commercial schools will be belt factories. It's just a fact of life with apologies to those of us on MT who do run commercial schools. Bills have to be paid after all. The trick is to find a teacher who does not teach for money, as I did. Some of the best karate is taught in garages and backyards. The other way is to find a high quality school that may be a belt factory, yet will still offer good training to those who put in the effort. In this case, it's up to you to make your belt worth something. You should be experienced enough as a brown belt to tell when a teacher is impressive or not. By the same token, good teachers have good students. If the whole bunch is falling over trying to do a sidekick, you may safely assume it's a poor place to train.
 

arnisador

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I usually counsel a person to get their black belt first--sort of like finishing one's college degree even if one is unhappy with the school's administration and/or policies--but this may be an exception.

I certainly wouldn't continue to be near this person, but are the other instructors authorized to test and promote you if you continue to practice on your own or with them? It is indeed easier to leave as a black belt, I'm afraid, but it isn't easy to compromise your principles, which seem to be rightly placed in this case.

Move on, but if it's reasonably convenient to do so then get your black belt first since you're so close. If not--forget it! Just move. Try something entirely different in the martial arts to clear this away from your memory.
 

tellner

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Leave now. It really is that simple.

Propositioning your students is utterly outside the bounds of ethical behavior. "Don't try to get into your students' pants" is on about the same level as "Don't rape your grandmother in the public square at high noon" You just don't do it. You just plain don't. It should be unthinkable.

By doing so the schmuck who runs the place has declared that he is not fit to teach you. It's not like he's teaching something that you can't find a dozen places within driving distance. Even if it were, this is a hobby, something you do for fun. It's supposed to enhance your life, not force you to fight off sleazy jerks who prey on the vulnerable.

Get out of there. Find a school run by decent people.
 

searcher

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You need to make sure your instructor and the other instructors know the situation and you need to leave. There are other schools out there that will not be like this one. If the advances keep coming, you need to file a legal complaint. What he is doing, is illegal and he needs to be stopped. Leave ASAP and please keep us up on what is going on.
 

Daniel Sullivan

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Just remember this: your tuition contributes to any salary that this director may draw and to the school's ability to meet its expenses. In a crap economy, nobody has to pay for martial arts lessons. In fact martial arts, music, and other such hobbies are generally the first things cut from the budget when money is tight. If this guy can't think with his brain, he is not deserving of your hard earned dollars.

Now, if you are in a contract with the school and cannot get out of it, then go through, get your belt, and be done with it. Just make sure to miss this guys classes.

The fact that you're trying to be honorable about it and that you haven't smeered the school on the web speaks very highly of your character. Such an instructor does not deserve students of your caliber.

Daniel
 

jks9199

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It definitely sounds like you don't want to and shouldn't be there. You may also be able to notify the association. Depending on the rules and policies, they may be able to take steps to address this problem. At the very least, they may want to remove their sanction from this school.
 
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lkblair

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Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies. There is no contract (one of the things that attracted me in the first place), so nothing to worry about there. Our director (yes, my instructor's instructor) is pretty much unavoidable and is responsible for all of the testing of brown and black belts.

I believe I will be leaving; it's time for me to stand on my principles, not only for my sake, but for my children. That is a good idea to contact my current instructor to see if he will be able to test me in a year's time when he is established. In the meantime, I don't mind at all starting over as a white belt; I honestly expected to anyway.

Thank you so very much.
 

ppko

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My questions for you are this is he the director of the school or the organization? If he is a director if the school I am sure the organization or the instructor would rather see him gone than for him to continue doing this. What he is doing is unacceptable and should not be allowed anymore. If you dont feel comfortable staying there and doing this then leave but I would still report what you had encountered. We had a TKD instructor in my hometown stealing from his students his organization found out and he was ousted and now he no longer teaches. Just something to think about.
 

IcemanSK

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Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies. There is no contract (one of the things that attracted me in the first place), so nothing to worry about there. Our director (yes, my instructor's instructor) is pretty much unavoidable and is responsible for all of the testing of brown and black belts.

I believe I will be leaving; it's time for me to stand on my principles, not only for my sake, but for my children. That is a good idea to contact my current instructor to see if he will be able to test me in a year's time when he is established. In the meantime, I don't mind at all starting over as a white belt; I honestly expected to anyway.

Thank you so very much.


I brought up that having to start over at white belt belt being the worst thing that would happen if you left. That doesn't mean that it would neccessarily happen, either.

As far as traveling to test with your current instructor, that is an excellent idea. My instructor & I are on opposite coasts. I travel from Los Angeles to Florida when I test. Good instructors are worth traveling for.

I truly wish you the best!
 

kaizasosei

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I would suggest moving the kids first in a way getting them to scout out places for you all. By keeping distance yourself, you'd be in a good position to move again if it needs be and chances are kids don't mind that much.-The more experiences the better. I bet there are plenty of awesome places and communities to train- maybe better training facilities, gym?, big mats...? fun routines..?-..maybe even good places that are more affordable.

I know i might be wrong on this one, but the way that i see it is that jerks like the one you mentioned above would be more than happy to see you go. Once you're gone, they would gain even more control over the helpless and need not stress about getting busted by a truly sincere practitioner.

Hell, if it's simply a waste of energy, by all means, do what you gotta do, but it seems to me that there are other ways of gaining control aside from leaving...Fight it out- be delicate controlled and sensitive but definately take no crap and demand justice and pure training. You can always leave-nothing is stopping you.

j

j
 

Twin Fist

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for that "trying to hook up with students is outside the realm of acceptable" it is about as common as AIR

seriously, one of the most repsected TKD masters in Tx has been married for 30 years, to a lady that was one of his students

one of MY instructors has been married 4 times, 3 times to students, or the mothers of students.

it happens.

I have always said that I wouldnt do that, and I never have, but we meet people through our activities, and if you spend all your time at the dojo, thats where you will meet someone you are attracted to. That applies to teachers as well as students.

Now then, that being said, him asking AGAIN after you turned him down, thats bad juju. Having alcohol on his breath is VERY bad juju.

now, the truth is, the man isnt the system. I left an instructor because of his attitude and character, but I already had my BB at that point. I stayed as long as I did because I wanted to get my BB from that school, from the people I studied under and was friends with.

It is your call, if you leave, no one could blame you. If you stay and get your belt there, no one can say it was wrong.

Decide for yourself. But dont do so rashly.
 

Brian King

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I am so sorry you are facing this. It is a shame when a bond of trust is broken, but it happens. It has happened in my life and I am sure it will happen again. To live in this world and not to be of this world is difficult. Many self medicate by abusing alcohol, drugs (including nicotine and caffeine) and other self destructive behaviors. It is understandable in todays society (and likely always has been and always will be) that so many avoid the true tension and stressors in their life by self destructive escapism. As a woman you have faced predators both sexual and emotional/physical for most of your life. Children learn by observing and they see far more than we realize. Your children will learn from what is going on right now and how you deal with it and the way that you deal with how it is effecting you and those in your circle.

A black belt is important to many but in my opinion it is the journey that is important. To me, the tests and challenges that we face the friends and bonds that we form are the important things. Not a belt or some other external recognition no matter how much pride that they may give us.

Your children have to learn that there are consequences for bad behavior. You have to have the self esteem to require good behavior around you. So leaving your school with your eyes wide open and your heart sound may be required but your children should know at least the basics of the situation and why you all are leaving or why they are leaving and you are staying.

If you end up staying I might suggest a second reason other than getting the coveted black belt. Your note does not say if the director has always been a jerk and just focused on you because of your vulnerabilities and weakness as you faced your trying times. You said that he propositioned you but did not go into detail so that could range into lets go out for a beer to lets naked wrestle. It was wrong as you are married and he knew that and good for you to resist a decline the invite. It happened again so if you do stay your declining must be more forceful and more public. If it does not put you into danger there might be an opportunity for you to put into practice more than not wanting bad behavior around you and for you to change the behavior around you not by leaving but by affecting the bad behavior. Your director is a human and is flawed. We all are. I wonder if your relationship with the black belts and other brown belts is such that you could get together and discuss this behavior and come up with some helpful suggestions and then have one or two of the black belts (whom your director like respects) confront the director, point out the bad behavior, its consequences and then the suggestions for repairing the situation. For example have some alcohol rehab pamphlets, the number and a volunteer (male) to go to AA meetings with the director, some names and numbers of counselors that the director can go to learn what it is in his life that allows him to feels it is ok to hit his on married students. The addresses and service times for some local churches wouldnt hurt.

Reading between the lines I do not think that it would do much good to stay but wanted to offer a perhaps higher mission than staying for a black belt implies. I am thinking that your instructor maybe leaving for reasons other than a new job far away. I am thinking that if you discuss this with the other black belts you will see and hear that this behavior has been going on for a while and that they too are bothered by it. I am thinking that for the director is having his bad behavior rewarded by his implied new relationship with the young brown belt. Something is eating at this guy and others (and perhaps he) do not know what it is and know one wants to face the challenge to find out what it is. Or it is known and he does not want to or will not face it preferring to deny it and to self medicate it away temporarily. You are not married to him, he is not a member of your family or even a close friend so you do not owe it to him to try to fix his behavior, but, I think that you do owe it to yourself to try to understand it. You can perhaps try to attempt to get him some help understanding that it will likely fail but also understanding that your children will see you trying to help another that is hurting. That might be reward enough.

No matter what, your and your directors prior actions at the school have already been noticed by your children. Your leaving will tell them that bad behavior need not be tolerated which is a very valuable life lesson for them. If you stay they will learn that facing a tough challenge with little likelihood of success or recognition (changing the behavior) is sometimes good for the soul. So whether you stay or go there are lessons to be learned by you and your children. How you stay, how you leave are a part of the lessons in my opinion.

Again I am sorry that your faith and trust in this man has been broken. It is a failure on his shoulders and perhaps his black belts (including your instructor) for allowing the behavior to continue. It is a shame that it seems to have fallen onto your shoulders forcing you to contemplate leaving. It is what it is and it is not your fault so you should feel no shame for leaving and you should be honest if asked about your leaving at your next school. You will be forming a bond at the next school and it should not have lies or omissions from the start but rather honesty and grace.

Good luck to you
Warmest wishes
Brian King
 

tellner

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No Twin Fist, it is not acceptable. It is an abuse of power. It undermines the trust between student and teacher. It is completely unacceptable. And if it is "common as air", which it certainly is not in schools with even a hint of ethics, that's an indictment of the industry not a reason to make excuses for it.

If you believe it's acceptable for instructors to prey on their students you have no business with that black belt and should not be allowed to teach. You lack the basic moral and ethical prerequisites to be in a position of authority. I believe you when you say you wouldn't do it. Good on that.
 
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arnisador

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I agree it's unacceptable...but I agree that it's very common. Same in colleges.

Someone said this is illegal...I doubt that. It'd be like outlawing people who meet at a gym or work from dating. The difference here is the teacher-student relationship--not protected by law in a case like this--and the fact that she's made it clear it's unwanted.

This is unprofessional and inappropriate behaviour, but all too common in my experience...and not always unwanted. If a 30 year old instructor is attracted to a 30 year old student and asks the student out, well, to me that's inappropriate behaviour but it could well work out. I've seen many cases where it has.

But pressing after the first no is surely low-class in a case like this.
 

jks9199

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No Twin Fist, it is not acceptable. It is an abuse of power. It undermines the trust between student and teacher. It is completely unacceptable. And if it is "common as air", which it certainly is not in schools with even a hint of ethics, that's an indictment of the industry not a reason to make excuses for it.

If you believe it's acceptable for instructors to prey on their students you have no business with that black belt and should not be allowed to teach. You lack the basic moral and ethical prerequisites to be in a position of authority. I believe you when you say you wouldn't do it. Good on that.
I disagree with the extremity of your view -- but that doesn't mean I think it's necessarily a good idea.

I know plenty of cases where instructors are romantically involved with their students. I know some horror stories, and some that would be too sappy for a Hallmark movie. Most are, like most relationships, somewhere in the middle.

A martial arts instructor is in a position of authority, in a specific realm. As such, being involved with a student is a potential problem area -- but the instructor's authority isn't all encompassing and doesn't really go beyond the training hall. So it's something that can work. (Of course, I'm assuming that ages and relatively maturity are reasonably appropriate, etc.) I would encourage an instructor in situation like that not to judge that particular student, just like a judge in a courtroom will recuse themselves from presiding over a case in which they know one of the parties. Even that's not always possible, though, and if they have to assess that student for promotion, all I can say is be cautious and especially careful to be able to support the promotion.

Please note that I am not at all suggesting the actions of the instructor/director in this case are appropriate! It's one thing to respectfully and politely ask a person out, and to stop when told the interest is unwelcome. It's an entirely different one to crudely and repeatedly hit on a person who's not interested. And that goes for whatever the relationship may be!

Like I said, it's not a good idea, but it's not some sort of inherent evil, either. It's going to happen, just like some personal trainers get involved with clients, doctors get involved with nurses, and so on. Nor is a martial arts instructor an automatic moral authority. Hell, even clergy aren't always the paragons of virtue that we'd hope they would be.
 

searcher

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arnisador-the illegal aspect of it comes from the part where the OP said no and the director continued to push. It is called harassment and is bordering on verbal assault.

It is on pace to escalate to something worse.
 
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