Has Democracy any place in the Martial arts?

M

Mike Clarke

Guest
When I entered the dojo for the first time back in January 1974, I never for one moment thought I had any 'say' in what went on.
It was clear that I was there to do as I was told by the sensei and the seniors too.

There were no children in the dojo and the training was very 'physical'. If anything happened that you were unhappy with you had one of two choices, you could, A/ stand back up and get on with it, or, B/ leave that night and not go back.

Today people seem to want some 'input' into the things they want to learn. They want to have a say on what they think is fair and what isn't. they want to be able to train at a pace that suits them. In fact, the WANT just about everything !!!

A feeling that "I've paid the instructor, so when do I get my skill then?" has entered the dojo [kwoon, dojang etc...] and some expect to be able to move like they do in the movies.

So, my question is this. When you enter the dojo as a student, is it reasonable to expect to have any 'say' in what goes on?

Mike.
 
for group classes: NO. What the instructor says, and plans, goes. That's not to say you can't suggest "I wish we could add a class devoted strictly to sparring" suggestions are okay, and lets the instructor know how to best meet the needs of the students. Suggesting something to an instructor (after class, never during) is okay provided its a request and polite. Demanding is never okay.

for private lessons: You're paying for individual attention. You should be able to request that you go over a particular kata or technique, because its your time and your buck. If I make an appointment with my instructor to work on sparring, and I'm paying him for that, I'd be pretty upset if he went over a technique I already knew and didn't teach me what I needed to work on.
 
Sorry, NO!

When I teach, I give my students everything possible, and hold nothing back, so as the student is also a consumer, I owe them that. I want them to be the best they possibly can be. That's as far as it goes.

They came to me to be taught, not to teach, or dictate. There is no room for discussion on this. The chain of command must be followed. You see it everywhere. But, if I'm wrong, or do them wrong, I will correct it just as fast too.:asian:
 
. . . but rather commerce.

As a student, I do not know what I do not know. I may, however, have a very clear idea as to what I want to learn. If I come to your studio and give you money in exchange for knowledge, I expect to have some say into what knowledge I am asking you for. If I come to your studio to learn self-defence, and you go about giving me extensive lessons in the history of buddhism, I will determine that I am not receiving the goods and services I have contracted for and take my business elsewhere.

The above situation does not describe a 'One Man, One Vote' type of democracy.

As a teacher, I understand the students have different goals for their education. Additionally, students have differing learning styles. My greater experience allows me know that all learning takes place in relationship to what is already known. While it may be possible to transfer a great deal of knowledge in a very short amount of time, in most cases it is not possible for the student to integrate that knowledge in the same amount of time. Therefore, I must skillfully balance the information transfer with the students learning rate and style. For instance, if a student comes to me to learn how to fly through the air, as in 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', I must first set the expectation as to the time required and prerequisite skill set required. If I do not continue with my student toward the goal of flying, as in CT, HD, I would expect them to find a different teacher.

Now, to bring this out of the theoretical discussion, at my studio, the path of what is taught is clearly posted on the wall; we study the 16 technique version of American Kenpo. Each belt series is posted on the wall ... at any time, I can check my progress against what is listed there.

If my goal is to learn Brazilian JuJitsu, I'm in the wrong studio.
 
No. A training hall is run by beneficial dictatorship.
 
It's a dictatorship. The guy is supposed to train you hard, and you're going to expect to be hurt. Not just physically, but mentally. You will get tired, but the heart and desire to push on... You will get bruises, but you get them so you don't get them later.

At least you have the choice to leave or not. You have little say on what the teacher does. You talk back, expect to get punished. However, one can tell if the instructor's intentions are good or bad.

You can talk with your instructor one-on-one, you can suggest a few things that you would like to add (like more conditioning, or more focus on x and y) and a good instructor will take your inputs in.

If they talk back, then I tell them, "Fine" and depending on the situation, either make them prove their statements, let them walk out, or punish them accordingly. If a person thinks he knows everything and decides it isn't worth the time anymore, then he is free to leave. If he thinks he can beat everyone up, well, one thing I do is see how tough they think they are. No, I don't fight them... But the people who think they can beat everyone up are usually the same people who think that they can go through my special training process that I like to call, "The State Fair". The name isn't what's important. It involves only conditioning and basic exercises, but it tests both their mental and physical stamina. From balance exercises with two bowls (with water) on each hand while standing on a medicine ball... I make them haul a sled, do sprints, etc. Wall squats, push-ups, drills and more drills. Most will quit, those who survived usually want to come back for more. It's not hatred, and I'm not forcing them to do anything, as they can quit at any time. And this isn't even a martial arts dojo/dojang/studio/specialized club. This is just my little self-defense program that I organize at the local health club during my free time.

My expectations for my students are very high. I do not cut anyone. I do not hit anyone as punishment. I don't even give out a lot of punishments. I am strict, but it's for the best.
 
Originally posted by Mike Clarke
So, my question is this. When you enter the dojo as a student, is it reasonable to expect to have any 'say' in what goes on?

Mike.

No.
I dont charge, therefore my students have no monetary leverage with me. (i.e. I pay you therefore I am a customer kind of relationship)
I dont teach kids because I dont believe in dojo-daycare.
Sometimes I will ask students if they want to work on something specifically or have any questions but only after our normal basic workout is done.

I never ask students to do what is too far beyond their capabilities but I expect them to give a little extra when they think they cant go on.
 
When I first started, I was so out of shape that I could barely
make it through the calisthenics. The last 2 things we did as
part of our warm up was 50 crunches, and then 20 pushups.
Well after the crunches (which if I remember right I couldn't even
complete 50) my stomach was so fatigued that I couldn't do the
pushups. I had to use my stomach muscles to "bear down" (sp?)
and I just couldn't make it. I had/have a lot of upper body
strength and I was just embarassed that I couldn't do ONE push
up. So before we bowed in one day, I raised my hand, and after
acknowledged, I said "would you mind switching the pushups and
crunches with each other, so I can actually DO my pushups?".
He smiled like a knowing 'okay', and started class. Turned out
that the opposite held true, and I ended up not being able to do
many crunches, because my abs were fatigued from pushups.

To those of you saying no ... would this scenario be an
unwelcomed scene in your dojo/kwoon?
 
Kirk,
As far as things go in my dojo, my students are always welcome to talk to me about anything. I know all my students very well [I don't teach people I don't know], so of course conversation is free and easy [but respectful of each others position].

Your teacher let you have that lesson for free [the order you did you warm up]. You 'understand' now that it was not the order of the exersizes but your inability to do them that was the problem. I guess you can do them well enough now and so the order is of little importance.

Everyone,
If you think of the place you train in as a studio , and the people you teach as customers, then you have a very different idea of just what it is you're involved in than I do. If you think you are buying your 'knowledge' from the guy in the Gi, then you have a very different idea of what it is you're involved in than my students have.

I can see how some people have the ideas they have about the martial arts, though this does not mean they have the correct ideas? Thanks for your comments so far, it's been very interesting to see how some of you guys think.

Mike.
 
One fellow I know does refer to his students as "customers" and told me that instructors "offer services" to them.....I think he got this stuff from one of those "how to run a successful martial arts school" things.

I told him that I TEACH. I don't "offer services." My students are STUDENTS, not customers. I don't worry about pleasing them with exceptional "customer service" as one might find in Wal-Mart.
 
A resounding NO on this one. If you research the school that you are going to well enough before hand you should have a pretty good idea of what you will be learning once you put on the gi. If what you discover in your research BEFORE you become a student doesn't appeal to you then keep looking for a school that has it. Having said that, if the instructor makes himself available to suggestions then by all means take advantage of that but don't get angry if your suggestions aren't carried out. Yes, if you are paying for instruction then you are technically a "customer" but the inside of a dojo should be a complete world unto itself and not a commerce based society. I think a lot of this idea of democracy in the dojo comes from the fact that we have gotten so used to being able to dictate the smallest detail in our lives through the almighty dollar that the idea of handing over control to someone else is a foreign concept to us. If you have agreed to learn something from someone then let them teach you, the way they best know how. If you want things done differently then stick to your training until you attain instructors credentials and open your own kwoon/dojo.
 
Yes as a student you are there to learn so the teacher knows best but as you go along I feel you should be able to suggest things. Why not? I asked my teacher about sparring and now we will be starting soon with sparring. As far as private lessons, of course you should have a say. Private lessons are expensive and most people take them to fine tune their techniques and make sure they're doing them correctly and as well as they can. Or to learn some self defense that isn't taught in class. If you're paying extra and requesting that one on one, in my humble opinion you're paying your teacher to do what YOU want to work on.Maybe the teacher feels a students form is fine but the student might feel they need improvement.
 
We have 2 classes a week, and one is the "instructors time" to teach you what he has planned on his curriculum. The other is "your time" to work on what you feel you need to work on, wether it was reviewing what you learned in the previous class, going back and drilling basics, reviewing material from old belt ranks, or asking "If this happens then what do I do" type scenario questions of the instructor.

So ours works both ways.
 
Originally posted by Kirk
When I first started, I was so out of shape that I could barely
make it through the calisthenics. The last 2 things we did as
part of our warm up was 50 crunches, and then 20 pushups.
Well after the crunches (which if I remember right I couldn't even
complete 50) my stomach was so fatigued that I couldn't do the
pushups. I had to use my stomach muscles to "bear down" (sp?)
and I just couldn't make it. I had/have a lot of upper body
strength and I was just embarassed that I couldn't do ONE push
up. So before we bowed in one day, I raised my hand, and after
acknowledged, I said "would you mind switching the pushups and
crunches with each other, so I can actually DO my pushups?".
He smiled like a knowing 'okay', and started class. Turned out
that the opposite held true, and I ended up not being able to do
many crunches, because my abs were fatigued from pushups.

To those of you saying no ... would this scenario be an
unwelcomed scene in your dojo/kwoon?


I suppose you could have saved a lot of tuition by doing the basic conditioning to get in shape at home.

(sorry for taking it off topic)
 
Quite a few have mentioned the senario of having 'private lessons', and have said that in such cases the student/customer should have some say.

If by 'private' you are talking about a 'one-on-one' situation, and if by this you mean you are paying extra for it, I'm again found to be thinking on a completely different wave length to some of you.

All my students get one-on-one tuition all the time. They may be in the dojo at the same time as each other or they may not, but I always give them guidence in a personal way from me to them. I observe their movements and offer advice when I see it's needed.

I've never been sure how ideas and concepts can be passed from one generation to the next if all the students are asked to do the same things at the same time, and all to the count?

We are all different and we learn at different speeds and in different ways. Given that this is so, how do I as a teacher of karate, teach my students if all I'm doing is 'drilling' them?

The way some of you guys are training and how you see your training is a real eye opener for me. Thanks.

Mike.
 
in the group classes in the school I train at, we work on a different technique each class. The instructors work with the students, and they get a lot of individual attention in a group class, but they are pretty much all working on the same basic knowledge.

I'm in a really weird situation, because I know most of my techniques. I learned them at another school. What I don't know is really how to make them work for me, and sometimes that takes a lot of individual explanation... and in the future, there are some belt ranks (purple, for example) where I know all the techniques except for three. I'm a strange student to teach, because there's a lot of advanced stuff that I know, and a lot of basic stuff that I know, but its like swiss cheese... there are lots of holes, and I'm backing up to fill in the gaps, which is requiring lots of individual attention from my instructors, because it isn't just learning something new, its looking at old things in new ways, and sometimes, flat out unlearning something that doesn't work. Teaching someone in my situation takes a lot more time and patience than teaching someone from scratch, because I'm unlearning years of bad habits. I go with what my instructor wants to do during these lessons, because in this situation, he knows better than I.

If I pay for my instructor's time to help me prepare for a tournament, fine tune a kata, or come up with a self defense routine to compete, that's entirely different than a typical lesson. In a group class, an instructor doesn't have the time to work on something an individual student wants to do for competition, especially when that student is the only one who is choosing to compete. It isn't fair to take up other students class time just because you choose to enter a competition. There's a difference between demanding that an instructor do something and saying "could you help me work on this, because its something that I need help with, and shouldn't take up vaulable group class time with, and I'll compensate you for your time?"
 
I've never been big on "private lessons", per se. I prefer teaching groups. During a group class, we do many drills but I also spend time with each student to help them on an individual basis as much as possible.

If a student is really doing well and trying, I often have them over to my home for some "outside" instruction, but there's never a charge for that so I don't regard these as "private lessons."
 
Private lessons are good if your training in someone elses school or if there is a particular area that you need to work on.

When I was in BJJ I had several private lessons with Joe Moreira and Roy Harris. It gave me a chance to meet and train under someone I would have not had the chance to otherwise, considering they come to town for a day or 2.

I was able talk JKD with Roy and learn BJJ and as it turned out Roy Harris also was Paul Vunaks VP of Progressive Fighting Systems and runs his own organization Harris International so in a way I was "networking" for my future training.

L.A. is a hotbed of martial art knowledge and one of my Traditional Ju Jitsu instructors lives near there. So I may be able to visit and learn from Joe Moreira as well. Going all the way to San Diego to Harris International is a bit farther but not out of the question.

So I guess I'm in favor of private lessons.:D
 

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