Journey to a new style...

Monkey Turned Wolf

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So I checked out the class the other night, wow, much to tell!

It was exactly an hours drive, which was easy enough to find and it flew by. Walked in and the instructor chatted with me for quite some time! And I felt bad as he kept talking to me for almost an HOUR into their class! The members just were doing their own thing and getting assistance from the other higher grades, but I was blown away with that. Oh and they train for about 2 hours as well, never seen that before round these parts!

Told me all about the history of their style, and it's a very specific lineage of Goju ryu. I found it all incredibly fascinating... and we seemed to be on the same page regarding the intertwining of karate and spiritual matters, Zen etc... basically that karate is about so much more than fighting. He also feels it's rare to really find true Goju ryu, and feels the way they teach it is better. Still had respect for others, but of course clubs will say the way they do it is best ;).

Anyway they started the class, he told me this wasn't really a typical class as they've only just started training in the dojo recently due to everything opening up, so they worked solely on kata for the whole time.

He had a few views on certain styles (Kyokushin, Shotokan etc) which made sense, and they're very conscious about karate being for longevity.

One thing I was a bit unsure about was that he said they don't really do sparring, people got injured too much etc. I really feel free sparring has an important place, but then again, my last style was very sparring heavy, so perhaps this could be a segway into another aspect of karate?

I'd still love to work on sparring, so if I stayed with this club I would find a way... maybe search out a club or fellow martial artists to do some sparring... or I even thought of doing the fight nights that my old club do 4 times a year (25x rounds of dojo sparring in a row)... we'll see.

I found the class utterly fascinating... he was very very technical in approach. He was watching a student closely do kata and almost after every single movement he would correct him and get him to do it again. MANY times haha. He even told me that he's had a few black belts from other styles come train and they left because it was too hard. Not physically he said, but mentally.

So this at least tells me that he has a very high standard and really wants the student to understand it. I could see that the corrections he made were of importance, and not just to be arbitrarily anal about it. So I would have to be prepared not to take it personally if I'm corrected an excessive amount, but treat it as part of training, good feedback, shoshin (beginner's mind), and hey, I'm there to learn!

He really, really emphasised relaxation which I appreciate a great deal. There was a depth of body mechanics, vibration and whiplike movement that was emphasised, and seeing the way the instructor moved (he's 77 years old by the way!), it was incredible the power and whip he generated. He definitely has a deep understanding of this stuff, you can see it and feel it in his energy for sure.

Also spoke of your particular facial expression within kata and how it informs your technique and even structure.

It's something I really wanted to explore, learning those deep body mechanics, relaxation and flow that seemingly isn't really taught from the places I've looked.

Asked if I could join them tomorrow night, so will see how we go :)
Just saw this, and noticed a couple of red flags that I've run into before. Generally not stuff that I realize until after a few weeks, but I'm reading it here. Keep in mind, these are red flags for me, not everyone has the same goal or personality, so they may not be relevant. I also don't want to dissuade you if you really like the class (like your next post suggests), so if you feel I'm off base, feel free to ignore the below.

1. Talking to you for an hour of a 2 hour class. Does he do this with every newcomer? I can see that very easily becoming bothersome, when I show up for a class, and the instructor isn't doing anything for half of it. Especially when he could have easily set up a separate time to meet with you (even if you were a surprise guest) if he wanted to go that in depth.

2. I find the zen stuff really cool, and makes sense with no sparring (along with the longevity), but sometimes it's not 'legit' spiritual. You can probably tell that better being there.

3. Clubs often feel their way is better. But anytime someone says that theirs is the only "real" X-art, it screams of arrogance, and whispers of cultish to me.

4. Why were people getting injured too much in sparring? Was this something that actually happened (and if so are they not teaching control there), or is this just a preconception of his that sparring=injury=no longevity?

5. How long had that one guy who was doing a kata been training for? And how long since he learned that kata? If the answer to those is a short time, ignore this one. If it's been a while, that sounds either like his training isn't effective if the students still need correction every movement, or the instructor likes to feel important and is correcting things that really don't matter/aren't technically 'wrong'.

6. How does he know black belts from other styles left because it was mentally too hard? I highly doubt they told him that. The next few sentences are my own assumption, based on other instructors that I've met. This sounds like another arrogance thing-black belts come, stay for a few classes, don't continue, he assumes it's because his training is too mentally tough (or they told him something that he translates as that). In reality, there could be a number of reasons that they left, from it being too mentally draining, not liking the no sparring, his technical advice goes against their own training/beliefs, he just annoys them, it's not a good fit, anything. But I know instructors, who whenever someone leaves, it's that they couldn't 'handle' the training.
 

Yokozuna514

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.... wow!

Had my first class, and it was truly fascinating. Honestly had to employ true "shoshin" (beginner's mind) and remain open, as it was an experience!

Had a blast! They do everything so differently, and I had to be aware of and try let go of old habits which will be quite the challenge.

The people there are all really warm and friendly, and incredibly helpful, and they all spoke very highly of the instructor, saying you'll never find a better instructor. He's certainly incredibly experienced.

Even the warmup was fascinating... lots of breathing focus, cool wrist exercises, even an interesting inner thigh massage while rotating the hip outwards.

We focused mainly on basics tonight and only really covered 3 in depth. Chudan tsuki, jodan uke and gedan uke.

Tell ya what I had to completely relearn how I punched haha. They do it a bit differently. They don't do the classic full chamber, the fist is just under pec, and the elbow is pointing towards ground. To the unsuspecting person it probably looks like a lazy chamber haha, but the reasoning is that it keeps the punch (and fist) in a more direct and straight line rather than it travelling upwards. Also actually feels more relaxed to me. They also use a bit more hip to launch it, and they make sure shoulder blade isn't pushed forwards, but to lock it in with the lats/pecs.

Jodan uke is also alot higher up in end position.

He then got me with one of the black belts to go through the techniques and guide me. Had to really feel my way into it but I learned quickly enough.

Then went through their first kata (basic one that most karate schools do, Taikyoku). Another different experience. Their front stance is much shorter than what I'm used to, and again I had to keep check that my punches weren't throwing my structure out of whack through excessive forward push of my shoulder blades.

The main instructor really showed me the different effect it had by leaning on and pushing me, could definitely feel it. He also said I learned really quickly and had a good body awareness.

The 1-on-1 time I had was more than I've ever had anywhere else, was a little daunting at first but very helpful.

Some key notes:
-Relaxation is emphasised alot
-Elbow and hip/center connection is crucial.
-Lock the lats with techniques, and arm loose + relaxed. This makes sure you're solid in structure and have stability whilst still remaining mobile with the arms to do what they need to.

It wasn't an exhausting or overly demanding session physically, but the 2 hours we trained flew by!

It has certainly intrigued me a great deal... will be heading up Friday again :)
Osu, Simon. It sounds like you had a very interesting first session. Look forward to hearing more about your journey into Goju Ryu.
 
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_Simon_

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Just saw this, and noticed a couple of red flags that I've run into before. Generally not stuff that I realize until after a few weeks, but I'm reading it here. Keep in mind, these are red flags for me, not everyone has the same goal or personality, so they may not be relevant. I also don't want to dissuade you if you really like the class (like your next post suggests), so if you feel I'm off base, feel free to ignore the below.

1. Talking to you for an hour of a 2 hour class. Does he do this with every newcomer? I can see that very easily becoming bothersome, when I show up for a class, and the instructor isn't doing anything for half of it. Especially when he could have easily set up a separate time to meet with you (even if you were a surprise guest) if he wanted to go that in depth.

2. I find the zen stuff really cool, and makes sense with no sparring (along with the longevity), but sometimes it's not 'legit' spiritual. You can probably tell that better being there.

3. Clubs often feel their way is better. But anytime someone says that theirs is the only "real" X-art, it screams of arrogance, and whispers of cultish to me.

4. Why were people getting injured too much in sparring? Was this something that actually happened (and if so are they not teaching control there), or is this just a preconception of his that sparring=injury=no longevity?

5. How long had that one guy who was doing a kata been training for? And how long since he learned that kata? If the answer to those is a short time, ignore this one. If it's been a while, that sounds either like his training isn't effective if the students still need correction every movement, or the instructor likes to feel important and is correcting things that really don't matter/aren't technically 'wrong'.

6. How does he know black belts from other styles left because it was mentally too hard? I highly doubt they told him that. The next few sentences are my own assumption, based on other instructors that I've met. This sounds like another arrogance thing-black belts come, stay for a few classes, don't continue, he assumes it's because his training is too mentally tough (or they told him something that he translates as that). In reality, there could be a number of reasons that they left, from it being too mentally draining, not liking the no sparring, his technical advice goes against their own training/beliefs, he just annoys them, it's not a good fit, anything. But I know instructors, who whenever someone leaves, it's that they couldn't 'handle' the training.

That's fair enough. Reading your post, I honestly felt rather disheartened, BUT that being said I really do appreciate that feedback, and think it's incredibly important, especially if someone has biases or blind spots, having them pointed out is crucial. Disheartened because of how long I've been on this search, and finally feeling like I've found my place, and then it potentially not being all it's cracked up to be. Especially as it feels like the closest I've come to finding a place with the depth that I wanted in my training.

But again, I truly do appreciate those reflections, especially if it's something you've come across in your experience. And especially as you are one of the people on this forum I do truly respect and have always honoured your thoughts on martial arts.

Yeah I did briefly wonder about a couple of these things for sure. If I ever got a strong enough sense that a club was cultlike I would certainly be out the door very fast. Already having experienced something "off" in one of the places I tried earlier in this whole journey (instructor basically not allowing me to cross train outside the dojo, paranoid that I'm possibly stealing their club's training ideas etc), I am cautious and not naive in this regard.

I'll speak to the points you made, not in a defensive or argumentative way, but just in terms of how I may understand them.

1) He's an older fellow (77 years old) and a little eccentric, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt hehe, and reckon he just got caught up with telling me the history etc. And the other black belts were already teaching and working with the students and their kata, so have a feeling if that wasn't the case he would've cut it short, but I don't know.

2) Yep definitely, and I would be quick to pick that up. But the spiritual stuff did not feature in the class I watched and the one I took at all, it was more us just when we were chatting upon me meeting him we got onto that. So I'm unsure how much it's incorporated in the training. But the training was very principle driven, practical (in terms of physically showing the effect in the body) and very much a focus on correct structure and the internal body feel.

3) Yes that's one thing I didn't really like... I don't think he ever said theirs is the only real Goju, but he did say he doesn't reckon anyone practices true Goju anymore (which is sort of the same thing). He was pretty disparaging of other styles and methods (saying that a person he was chatting to once said he trained in Kyokushin and he said what are ya stupid?, and people in TKD just get the kids to kick bags over and over). Even bagwork I overheard he wasn't a fan of... That one was bizarre, but seemed to imply that you can learn that through drilling on the floor and correct body mechanics etc. Seems to be a really pigeonholed view of how to train.

I figure he's been around a long time in the arts, and he's likely to have gathered some opinions along the way.

And I do wonder, genuine question here, if a place is great and classes/lessons are enjoyable, how much do we turn a blind eye to what may be rigid opinions that the instructor holds? If there's value in what is being taught, how much do we let that other stuff weigh in? Ie at what point is it detrimental?

4) Unsure about the sparring, but it seems like it may be just an association. He is also not a fan of tournaments (particularly point fighting), and did also say that in sparring you just lose your structure. I would personally think that is the PERFECT environment to work on that, how to keep your structure, balance, posture in the midst of that pressure. I don't think you can do it in a vacuum. I think you can train it really well in kata, but to then dismiss sparring because you too easily lose your structure... yeah I dunno about that.

And I think they do partner drills of sorts relating to sparring, but it may not be free sparring, have yet to find out.

5) Not too sure, but I think he was the grade above the one needed for that kata. So perhaps they grade them with a basic understanding of the kata, and then get into finer details in subsequent grades.

6) Yes not sure about this one, and how he would know. Perhaps there was a follow up email or something, or maybe they said to him. I've known students to tell the instructor straight up why they are leaving (heard one student in my old style say the training was too boring, and they prefer more bunkai training etc, actual words). To be fair I don't think I have ever encountered a place with such a real technical focus like this. But you're very correct, it could have been anything why they didn't come back.

He honestly doesn't seem arrogant at all in many ways, said he himself still has so much to learn, and after every class he genuinely thanks all the students for coming, but there are some things which seem just biased. But my question above still stands... how much is that a factor if the training is really engaging and what we want to learn?

There's only this week and next left until training finishes, so I'll do that and then reevaluate..
 

isshinryuronin

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Even bagwork I overheard he wasn't a fan of... That one was bizarre, but seemed to imply that you can learn that through drilling on the floor and correct body mechanics etc. Seems to be a really pigeonholed view of how to train.

Most of your experience there seems OK, except this quoted part that you recognize as being "bizarre." "True" Gojuryu should embrace the old traditional methods of training. For more advanced students, this includes makiwara striking and body conditioning (don't mean pushups, but absorbing repetitive strikes on one's body.) Along these lines, I should think heavy bag work would not be shunned.

The fact that the sensei is not much into sport sparring doesn't bother me, as that can corrupt the original combat concepts of Okinawan karate. However, in its place should be fairly intense two man training of Goju fighting techniques.

I suggest you take a look on YouTube of a few native Okinawan Goju karate masters training (and not just kata.) This will give you a good idea what that style is really about. Then spend some time at the dojo and compare how they train with the videos you watched.

Bottom line is if you think that the dojo teaches and trains in a way that is beneficial for you, go for it. If you start and decide its not for you, quit. Good luck.
 
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_Simon_

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Most of your experience there seems OK, except this quoted part that you recognize as being "bizarre." "True" Gojuryu should embrace the old traditional methods of training. For more advanced students, this includes makiwara striking and body conditioning (don't mean pushups, but absorbing repetitive strikes on one's body.) Along these lines, I should think heavy bag work would not be shunned.

The fact that the sensei is not much into sport sparring doesn't bother me, as that can corrupt the original combat concepts of Okinawan karate. However, in its place should be fairly intense two man training of Goju fighting techniques.

I suggest you take a look on YouTube of a few native Okinawan Goju karate masters training (and not just kata.) This will give you a good idea what that style is really about. Then spend some time at the dojo and compare how they train with the videos you watched.

Bottom line is if you think that the dojo teaches and trains in a way that is beneficial for you, go for it. If you start and decide its not for you, quit. Good luck.

Yes definitely odd... but I'd need to look into it more, I don't know the specifics exactly but just from me overhearing him talking to someone. Perhaps it's due to people just thwacking a bag and learning bad habits. But meh.. that stuff usually gets taught with proper bag and padwork (we did in my old dojo).

Yeah as far as I know it's not Okinawan and not Japanese Goju Kai, but along the Seito (orthodox) lineage of Goju ryu (don't know heaps about it though), so not sure what practices are emphasised apart from what I've seen. That being said, I've got a heavy bag at home which I can use to test out what we learn.

And I also agree with the importance of contact conditioning of that sort. Not to destroy yourself but as a properly implemented and incremental practice.

Yeah honestly it's piqued my interest enough, so will see how it goes... thanks for your thoughts!
 

isshinryuronin

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not Okinawan and not Japanese Goju Kai, but along the Seito (orthodox) lineage of Goju ryu

Goju is an Okinawan art in origin. The godfather of Goju can be said to be Higashionna Kanryo, who studied for many years in China and developed the Okinawan Naha-te branch of karate. His student, Miyagi Chojun, took this Naha training (though he spent some time in China as well,) and taught what he eventually named Goju.

My understanding is that "seito" refers to any traditional Okinawan style that is true to the root (say, pre-1930's) concepts of the art. Perhaps there are other ideas of what seito means? When talking of Japanese Goju Kai, we would most likely be referring to Yamaguchi Gogen's organization (kai.) He was a student of Miyagi's and responsible for much of the spread of Goju around the world.
The word "seito" is often included in his organization's name/description, but does not directly refer to any specific lineage or style.

Other branches of Goju exist as well, but all of them are Okinawan at their core. If the sensei you're talking about is true seito oriented, he should be embracing the training techniques I described earlier, as well as other Goju traditional values.
 

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Thanks, well said, and yeah I think they closed because of Covid. I'm not sure how that works though, it wasn't a full time dojo, just a community hall they rented, unless it was contract based and it was too expensive in the end.

I know a couple of guys who run this kind of program, and they've closed their programs indefinitely as well. For both of them, it wasn't really the money, it's just.... one guy is really worried about, what if he gets infected from a student, and gets his wife and kid sick. Another guy, when he was able to resume classes, almost all of his students weren't ready to come back, and also he works in healthcare in some capacity so I think he's under a lot of extra stress/work right now. So both of them are putting their programs on hold indefinitely.
 

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4. Why were people getting injured too much in sparring? Was this something that actually happened (and if so are they not teaching control there), or is this just a preconception of his that sparring=injury=no longevity?

Yeah, I feel like "we stopped doing sparring because people would get hurt" is generally a bit of a cop-out. The instructor should try to figure out why people were getting hurt too much and try to find a way to fix that. Maybe that means having beginner students do pad work to develop control and accuracy, and then they start doing actual sparring at some more advanced rank. Maybe that means wearing more safety gear, or use more restricted rules. But I don't think sparring should just be cast aside.

5. How long had that one guy who was doing a kata been training for? And how long since he learned that kata? If the answer to those is a short time, ignore this one. If it's been a while, that sounds either like his training isn't effective if the students still need correction every movement, or the instructor likes to feel important and is correcting things that really don't matter/aren't technically 'wrong'.

Also, students can only keep so many corrections in mind in one day, so IMO it's better to focus on just a few key points each class. And it's important to find things to praise as well, so the student doesn't feel dispirited. If students feel like you appreciate their effort and think well of them, they take the corrections more to heart.
 

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I come from a time of no pads and full contact sparing.
No one was hurt seriously.
We did have broken noses and bruised ribs.
We were not allowed to spare until the teacher said we were ready, normally 6 months or longer.
We had to show control of mind and body before we could spare.
Today students with very little skill put on pads and spare.


I watch a boy with no control kick a girl hard in the face and made her cry.
My granddaughter has very good control and never hurts anyone.
But when she saw the girl cry, I could tell it upset her.
It was her turn to spare, in stood of blocking, dodging and throwing kicks that just missed.
She kick him in the head with a mean roundhouse and followup with a hard front kick to the stomach.
It was wrong for her to lose control, but I was secretly proud of her.
 
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_Simon_

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Goju is an Okinawan art in origin. The godfather of Goju can be said to be Higashionna Kanryo, who studied for many years in China and developed the Okinawan Naha-te branch of karate. His student, Miyagi Chojun, took this Naha training (though he spent some time in China as well,) and taught what he eventually named Goju.

My understanding is that "seito" refers to any traditional Okinawan style that is true to the root (say, pre-1930's) concepts of the art. Perhaps there are other ideas of what seito means? When talking of Japanese Goju Kai, we would most likely be referring to Yamaguchi Gogen's organization (kai.) He was a student of Miyagi's and responsible for much of the spread of Goju around the world.
The word "seito" is often included in his organization's name/description, but does not directly refer to any specific lineage or style.

Other branches of Goju exist as well, but all of them are Okinawan at their core. If the sensei you're talking about is true seito oriented, he should be embracing the training techniques I described earlier, as well as other Goju traditional values.

Yeah definitely, you would think Seito referred to traditional Okinawan Goju. I do know it's a specific lineage, the Ichikawa Sensei lineage (which is linked directly through the line to Chojun Miyagi Sensei). I also don't know much I should say on here haha, as I certainly do not want to badmouth places and be too specific about it.

Yeah will see what pans out. I've got two weeks total of training till end of the year, and I'll also be able to witness a grading next week.

But yeah it's still an interesting conundrum... if the teaching is great and interesting, but there's a disrespect towards other styles and training methods (and a real bolstering up of their own) do we stay, or is that enough to leave? To me, traditional karate is based on courtesy and respect, so I wouldn't want to be in a club that teaches disrespect. There's an immense amount we can learn from our brothers and sisters in karate. To me it's one big family.

Although in my previous style, the chief instructor of the branch definitely was not a fan of certain styles. Even Sosai Oyama was clear in his view of other karate styles (BUT whether that was disrespect or simply calling out ineffectiveness I'm unsure).
 
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_Simon_

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I know a couple of guys who run this kind of program, and they've closed their programs indefinitely as well. For both of them, it wasn't really the money, it's just.... one guy is really worried about, what if he gets infected from a student, and gets his wife and kid sick. Another guy, when he was able to resume classes, almost all of his students weren't ready to come back, and also he works in healthcare in some capacity so I think he's under a lot of extra stress/work right now. So both of them are putting their programs on hold indefinitely.
Yeah it is very sad for many dojos... but totally understandable, especially for the health risk reasons. I'm just not sure if this fellow had like a renewable yearly contract sort of thing or whether it's a month-to-month thing.
 
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_Simon_

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Yeah, I feel like "we stopped doing sparring because people would get hurt" is generally a bit of a cop-out. The instructor should try to figure out why people were getting hurt too much and try to find a way to fix that. Maybe that means having beginner students do pad work to develop control and accuracy, and then they start doing actual sparring at some more advanced rank. Maybe that means wearing more safety gear, or use more restricted rules. But I don't think sparring should just be cast aside.

Yep, me too. From their website info they say they do noncontact sparring, with full protective gear. Surely injury would be VERY rare. But he said in person that they don't really spar anymore. I might ask one of the students..


Also, students can only keep so many corrections in mind in one day, so IMO it's better to focus on just a few key points each class. And it's important to find things to praise as well, so the student doesn't feel dispirited. If students feel like you appreciate their effort and think well of them, they take the corrections more to heart.

Very true, well said. But that being said, there was still alot of encouragement after.
 
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_Simon_

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I come from a time of no pads and full contact sparing.
No one was hurt seriously.
We did have broken noses and bruised ribs.
We were not allowed to spare until the teacher said we were ready, normally 6 months or longer.
We had to show control of mind and body before we could spare.
Today students with very little skill put on pads and spare.


I watch a boy with no control kick a girl hard in the face and made her cry.
My granddaughter has very good control and never hurts anyone.
But when she saw the girl cry, I could tell it upset her.
It was her turn to spare, in stood of blocking, dodging and throwing kicks that just missed.
She kick him in the head with a mean roundhouse and followup with a hard front kick to the stomach.
It was wrong for her to lose control, but I was secretly proud of her.

Yeah I came from a bare knuckle full contact school Bruce, whilst there were injuries we all had immense respect for each other and looked after each other (mostly ;) ).

And yeah I fully agree with not throwing newbies straight into sparring.

Hahaha yeah, I'd admire that secretly too, what spirit and standing up for herself!
 

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Yep, me too. From their website info they say they do noncontact sparring, with full protective gear. Surely injury would be VERY rare. But he said in person that they don't really spar anymore. I might ask one of the students..

Full gear AND no contact? Yeah, at that point, I think the only kind of injury you'd be getting would be self-inflicted accidents, like the guy I saw at a TKD tournament who tripped and fell out of the ring and smashed his face on a metal folding chair.
 
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Full gear AND no contact? Yeah, at that point, I think the only kind of injury you'd be getting would be self-inflicted accidents, like the guy I saw at a TKD tournament who tripped and fell out of the ring and smashed his face on a metal folding chair.
Hahaha youch!

Yeah I know, I don't quite understand it haha, surely they weren't getting injured that much with all that... must be a general association he made, sparring=injuries
 
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..... okay, more definitely came to light in last night's class. I truly did not enjoy the class, and was a bit taken aback.

@Monkey Turned Wolf and @WaterGal your observations about the incessant corrections and also grade level expectations were spot on. Last night was next level...

Anyway, started the class, worked on very basic stuff again, tsuki, jodan uke. Had a senior student paired with me to watch my kata. Did Taikyoku kata which I'm well versed in, but they do it quite differently.

So after almost every movement I got corrections, which was fine I just rolled with them, and tried my best to correct them, which I managed to. The reasoning behind why some techniques are done the way they're done is a little weird (jodan uke being done with the arm reeeeally close to the body and face) and I don't necessarily agree, but I went along with it. He was very much modelling that same method of scrutiny as the main instructor.

Then we all spread out and the instructor got the senior grades to one by one perform a kata to demonstrate. Here's where I was absolutely gobsmacked...

A brown belt young girl was up first doing Seiunchin, did the kata which looked pretty good, and straight after he went through the 4 million things she did wrong. She looked rather dejected, and she went through it again but this time he corrected as she went. Every. Little. Thing.

Next up was actually a 1st kyu, who is actually going for his Shodan next week. He actually chose a much lower grade kata Saifa, which I believe is required for 5th kyu. I thought oh this'll be great to watch! I am not joking when I say the instructor stopped him after EVERY move, and saying how wrong it was (sometimes in a bit of a snide fashion), and doing the incredibly, incredibly anal corrections.

If he's going for Shodan next week, and he's getting this much correction on a 5th kyu kata..... how much would that dash his confidence? And why is the kata still not up to scratch I wonder?

All the time on the sideline I observed very carefully, not only the instructor, but I looked at the student's faces, and oh man they just looked so dejected and dispirited... it was really sad. Also DURING the kata you could see them constantly darting their eyes towards the instructor, almost making sure they were impressing him and getting approval. It was a really bizarre scene, and I scanned the other students watching to see their reaction but they're probably just so used to it and think it's common.

It's interesting that that approach is believed to help students most, whereas I can't possibly see how you could learn in that environment. Not only the absolute overload of information, absolute beyond perfectionism (which ultimately I feel is missing the point in terms of understanding and applying the principles behind movements rather than getting that 2° angle change), and also the student's doubt and confidence level... I'm by no means a fan of excessive praise, but come on...

I even made a point afterwards to go up to some of them and say their kata was awesome which I really did feel, and they all dipped their heads shaking it saying "nah nah nah it wasn't".

AGAIN at the end of the class, he then mentioned to the class that he's had black belts come and say he's too fussy with kata. And he said that's how they were with him in Japan, and he said that to them, and they said yes we are, if people think they're too fussy let them leave, we won't change that.

And even though it teaches the importance of relaxation, I don't see how how you possibly remain relaxed internally with that level of scrutiny. I know that knowing myself, and my excessive perfectionism at times, this can't be healthy for me.

So, could I learn alot being here? Yes, definitely could. Could I see myself enjoying it long term? ..... I just don't think so.

So I'll do the two classes next week but I have a few places in mind that I'll try next year. It's been quite an eye opening journey thus far....
 

Flying Crane

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..... okay, more definitely came to light in last night's class. I truly did not enjoy the class, and was a bit taken aback.

@Monkey Turned Wolf and @WaterGal your observations about the incessant corrections and also grade level expectations were spot on. Last night was next level...

Anyway, started the class, worked on very basic stuff again, tsuki, jodan uke. Had a senior student paired with me to watch my kata. Did Taikyoku kata which I'm well versed in, but they do it quite differently.

So after almost every movement I got corrections, which was fine I just rolled with them, and tried my best to correct them, which I managed to. The reasoning behind why some techniques are done the way they're done is a little weird (jodan uke being done with the arm reeeeally close to the body and face) and I don't necessarily agree, but I went along with it. He was very much modelling that same method of scrutiny as the main instructor.

Then we all spread out and the instructor got the senior grades to one by one perform a kata to demonstrate. Here's where I was absolutely gobsmacked...

A brown belt young girl was up first doing Seiunchin, did the kata which looked pretty good, and straight after he went through the 4 million things she did wrong. She looked rather dejected, and she went through it again but this time he corrected as she went. Every. Little. Thing.

Next up was actually a 1st kyu, who is actually going for his Shodan next week. He actually chose a much lower grade kata Saifa, which I believe is required for 5th kyu. I thought oh this'll be great to watch! I am not joking when I say the instructor stopped him after EVERY move, and saying how wrong it was (sometimes in a bit of a snide fashion), and doing the incredibly, incredibly anal corrections.

If he's going for Shodan next week, and he's getting this much correction on a 5th kyu kata..... how much would that dash his confidence? And why is the kata still not up to scratch I wonder?

All the time on the sideline I observed very carefully, not only the instructor, but I looked at the student's faces, and oh man they just looked so dejected and dispirited... it was really sad. Also DURING the kata you could see them constantly darting their eyes towards the instructor, almost making sure they were impressing him and getting approval. It was a really bizarre scene, and I scanned the other students watching to see their reaction but they're probably just so used to it and think it's common.

It's interesting that that approach is believed to help students most, whereas I can't possibly see how you could learn in that environment. Not only the absolute overload of information, absolute beyond perfectionism (which ultimately I feel is missing the point in terms of understanding and applying the principles behind movements rather than getting that 2° angle change), and also the student's doubt and confidence level... I'm by no means a fan of excessive praise, but come on...

I even made a point afterwards to go up to some of them and say their kata was awesome which I really did feel, and they all dipped their heads shaking it saying "nah nah nah it wasn't".

AGAIN at the end of the class, he then mentioned to the class that he's had black belts come and say he's too fussy with kata. And he said that's how they were with him in Japan, and he said that to them, and they said yes we are, if people think they're too fussy let them leave, we won't change that.

And even though it teaches the importance of relaxation, I don't see how how you possibly remain relaxed internally with that level of scrutiny. I know that knowing myself, and my excessive perfectionism at times, this can't be healthy for me.

So, could I learn alot being here? Yes, definitely could. Could I see myself enjoying it long term? ..... I just don't think so.

So I'll do the two classes next week but I have a few places in mind that I'll try next year. It's been quite an eye opening journey thus far....
Good that you checked them out, and now you can make an informed decision.

Regarding the excessive focus on the kata minutia. In my opinion, a lot of people put an inappropriate focus on what they feel kata should be, which in my opinion it should not.

I think kata for many people becomes something of a product. It is the representation of the results of their martial training: to do the kata, for the approval of viewers. That becomes their karate or kung fu or tae kwon do or whatever. Kata as a product, done with “perfection”.

This is my opinion, but I offer it as a point of view that I feel can be a healthier way of looking at it. For me, there is no such thing as perfection, in kata and forms. This is because kata is not a product, it isn’t to be done for the satisfaction of an audience. It is not performance art. It is also never “finished”. It is not something to be put on a shelf and pointed to as perfection.

Kata/forms are simply a tool, used to train and drill and develop your skill. Kata is to be done, over and over. The details matter, but they matter in that they help you refine your technique and your skills, which is a process that never ends. Is your kata good? Well it is as long as you keep doing it. In the same way that hitting a heavy bag is good, as long as you keep hitting it with regularity. Hitting the heavy bag helps you develop certain skills. If you fall out of the habit of hitting the heavy bag, then those skills begin to deteriorate. So you keep at it, knowing that there is always room for improvement. The practice itself is what is important, not searching for some aspect of the practice to be a product. The true product of training is more nebulous: it is one’s skill, which is not just hitting the heavy bag, nor is it doing kata. The heavy bag and Kata are just two ways of helping you develop your skill.

The practice of kata should be viewed in the same way as the practice of hitting the heavy bag. Keep doing it, to improve your skill. Just keep doing it. But don’t do it to satisfy an audience. And if the teacher, as audience, has critique, it needs to be for the purpose of improving technique, and not for improving performance. A million micro-corrections don’t help technique when dumped on you all at once. To me, that feels like kata as performance art.

I hope I am conveying my thoughts in a clear way, and I hope this perspective can be helpful in your training.
 

isshinryuronin

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Good that you checked them out, and now you can make an informed decision.

Regarding the excessive focus on the kata minutia. In my opinion, a lot of people put an inappropriate focus on what they feel kata should be, which in my opinion it should not.

I think kata for many people becomes something of a product. It is the representation of the results of their martial training: to do the kata, for the approval of viewers. That becomes their karate or kung fu or tae kwon do or whatever. Kata as a product, done with “perfection”.

This is my opinion, but I offer it as a point of view that I feel can be a healthier way of looking at it. For me, there is no such thing as perfection, in kata and forms. This is because kata is not a product, it isn’t to be done for the satisfaction of an audience. It is not performance art. It is also never “finished”. It is not something to be put on a shelf and pointed to as perfection.

Kata/forms are simply a tool, used to train and drill and develop your skill. Kata is to be done, over and over. The details matter, but they matter in that they help you refine your technique and your skills, which is a process that never ends. Is your kata good? Well it is as long as you keep doing it. In the same way that hittig a heavy bag is good, as long as you keep hitting it with regularity. Hitting the heavy bag helps you develop certain skills. If you fall out of the habit of hitting the heavy bag, then those skills begin to deteriorate. So you keep at it, knowing that there is always room for improvement. The practice itself is what is important, not searching for some aspect of the practice to be a product. The true product of training is more nebulous: it is one’s skill, which is not just hitting the heavy bag, nor is it doing kata. The heavy bag and Kata are just two ways of helping you develop your skill.

The practice of kata should be viewed in the same way as the practice of hitting the heavy bag. Keep doing it, to improve your skill. Just keep doing it. But don’t do it to satisfy an audience. And if the teacher, as audience, has critique, it needs to be for the purpose of improving technique, and not for improving performance. A million micro-corrections don’t help technique when dumped on you all at once. To me, that feels like kata as performance art.

I hope I am conveying my thoughts in a clear way, and I hope this perspective can be helpful in your training.

It's a shame that kata has in many cases deteriorated into performance art, rather than a means of perfecting fighting technique. It was hard for an Okinawan kata to do well in open tournaments with Japanese judges as they favored deep, low, stances and extended thrusting punches, things not often found in a number of Okinawan styles. But while not as visually appealing, they were much more illustrative of effective and practical combat. So not matter how well it was performed, it scored low. The same for Korean judges who tended to favor seeing high spinning kicks.

I know this from experience. When talking about visual art, it's all about the eye of the beholder.

"Perfection" depends on your definition. Is it executing a visually appealing form with well defined extended lines (as looked for in gymnastic or diving competitions) or properly executing a technique with shorter, more subtle (hard to discern the application if the judge or spectator is not familiar with it) moves that are usable in a realistic fluid fight?

Beyond this, though, are weapons competitions where scoring is based on how high you can throw the weapon up in air and how many times you can spin around before you catch it. This abandons all pretense of being actual martial arts as it has no relationship to fighting technique (unless you're trying to kill a flock of birds).

I like Crane's terms of "product" and "tool". I had a hammer 50 years old (and much used) from my father's old tool box. It had a plain wooden handle and dull steel head. It would have lasted another 50 years if I kept it when I moved. That's a tool. I have had other hammers that were polished and had contoured handles that didn't do the job as well. Those were products. Marketing, packaging, appearance have nothing to do with efficacy. Give me a good tool any day. That's hitting the nail on the head.
 

Flying Crane

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It's a shame that kata has in many cases deteriorated into performance art, rather than a means of perfecting fighting technique. It was hard for an Okinawan kata to do well in open tournaments with Japanese judges as they favored deep, low, stances and extended thrusting punches, things not often found in a number of Okinawan styles. But while not as visually appealing, they were much more illustrative of effective and practical combat. So not matter how well it was performed, it scored low. The same for Korean judges who tended to favor seeing high spinning kicks.

I know this from experience. When talking about visual art, it's all about the eye of the beholder.

"Perfection" depends on your definition. Is it executing a visually appealing form with well defined extended lines (as looked for in gymnastic or diving competitions) or properly executing a technique with shorter, more subtle (hard to discern the application if the judge or spectator is not familiar with it) moves that are usable in a realistic fluid fight?

Beyond this, though, are weapons competitions where scoring is based on how high you can throw the weapon up in air and how many times you can spin around before you catch it. This abandons all pretense of being actual martial arts as it has no relationship to fighting technique (unless you're trying to kill a flock of birds).

I like Crane's terms of "product" and "tool". I had a hammer 50 years old (and much used) from my father's old tool box. It had a plain wooden handle and dull steel head. It would have lasted another 50 years if I kept it when I moved. That's a tool. I have had other hammers that were polished and had contoured handles that didn't do the job as well. Those were products. Marketing, packaging, appearance have nothing to do with efficacy. Give me a good tool any day. That's hitting the nail on the head.
Speaking of weapons...

Years ago I used to compete regularly at the annual UC Berkeley Chinese Martial Arts tournament, and a couple more in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a forms competition tournament, with the bulk of competitors in the Modern Wushu categories, but also with categories for Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, which is where I would compete.

Even in the Traditional formats, most of the folks were using cheap, light-weight Modern Wushu weapon props, and not real weapons. But not me. I would come in with my dao that had a thick blade like a meat cleaver, and my staff, thick stiff wax wood, not the thin whippy stuff.

We had to show the weapon to the judges before our demonstration, while telling them what form we would do. I handed over my dao, and told them my form. One judge said “you are doing Fei Hok Dao (Flying Crane Broadsword) with THIS dao? I know that form. I want to see this...”

Later, I handed over my staff for inspection. Another judge said, “you have some NICE weapons...”

The judges for the traditional format were usually the same group of fellows each year, well respected Sifu from the Chinese Martial Arts community, trained under famous Sifu like Wong, Jack Man and Quentin Fong (whose student I was later able to become). They would remember me from year-to-year and they definitely respected the weaponry. I was able to score as “Overall Champion” for the traditional competitions, a couple of times.

Anyways, I know what you mean when you talk about the weapons. And the people who know better, they do respect quality over fluff. But of course, not everybody knows better.
 
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_Simon_

_Simon_

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Good that you checked them out, and now you can make an informed decision.

Regarding the excessive focus on the kata minutia. In my opinion, a lot of people put an inappropriate focus on what they feel kata should be, which in my opinion it should not.

I think kata for many people becomes something of a product. It is the representation of the results of their martial training: to do the kata, for the approval of viewers. That becomes their karate or kung fu or tae kwon do or whatever. Kata as a product, done with “perfection”.

This is my opinion, but I offer it as a point of view that I feel can be a healthier way of looking at it. For me, there is no such thing as perfection, in kata and forms. This is because kata is not a product, it isn’t to be done for the satisfaction of an audience. It is not performance art. It is also never “finished”. It is not something to be put on a shelf and pointed to as perfection.

Kata/forms are simply a tool, used to train and drill and develop your skill. Kata is to be done, over and over. The details matter, but they matter in that they help you refine your technique and your skills, which is a process that never ends. Is your kata good? Well it is as long as you keep doing it. In the same way that hitting a heavy bag is good, as long as you keep hitting it with regularity. Hitting the heavy bag helps you develop certain skills. If you fall out of the habit of hitting the heavy bag, then those skills begin to deteriorate. So you keep at it, knowing that there is always room for improvement. The practice itself is what is important, not searching for some aspect of the practice to be a product. The true product of training is more nebulous: it is one’s skill, which is not just hitting the heavy bag, nor is it doing kata. The heavy bag and Kata are just two ways of helping you develop your skill.

The practice of kata should be viewed in the same way as the practice of hitting the heavy bag. Keep doing it, to improve your skill. Just keep doing it. But don’t do it to satisfy an audience. And if the teacher, as audience, has critique, it needs to be for the purpose of improving technique, and not for improving performance. A million micro-corrections don’t help technique when dumped on you all at once. To me, that feels like kata as performance art.

I hope I am conveying my thoughts in a clear way, and I hope this perspective can be helpful in your training.
Appreciate those reflections, and that's really insightful, thank you. What you say makes perfect sense, and I love that corollary between treating it as a tool for continual training rather than some end product.
It's a shame that kata has in many cases deteriorated into performance art, rather than a means of perfecting fighting technique. It was hard for an Okinawan kata to do well in open tournaments with Japanese judges as they favored deep, low, stances and extended thrusting punches, things not often found in a number of Okinawan styles. But while not as visually appealing, they were much more illustrative of effective and practical combat. So not matter how well it was performed, it scored low. The same for Korean judges who tended to favor seeing high spinning kicks.

I know this from experience. When talking about visual art, it's all about the eye of the beholder.

"Perfection" depends on your definition. Is it executing a visually appealing form with well defined extended lines (as looked for in gymnastic or diving competitions) or properly executing a technique with shorter, more subtle (hard to discern the application if the judge or spectator is not familiar with it) moves that are usable in a realistic fluid fight?

Beyond this, though, are weapons competitions where scoring is based on how high you can throw the weapon up in air and how many times you can spin around before you catch it. This abandons all pretense of being actual martial arts as it has no relationship to fighting technique (unless you're trying to kill a flock of birds).

I like Crane's terms of "product" and "tool". I had a hammer 50 years old (and much used) from my father's old tool box. It had a plain wooden handle and dull steel head. It would have lasted another 50 years if I kept it when I moved. That's a tool. I have had other hammers that were polished and had contoured handles that didn't do the job as well. Those were products. Marketing, packaging, appearance have nothing to do with efficacy. Give me a good tool any day. That's hitting the nail on the head.
Yeah for sure!

That's the thing, it seems for some of those corrections he makes that it is for practical purposes, but it's so hard finding that line between wanting something to look perfect, and whether that tiny tiny angle change is actually meaningful.

Alot of corrections I saw him make did certainly make sense, but others were just nitpicking and it seemed more surface appearance than anything.

To me it's about understanding and expressing the principles behind it.

AND also working within one's particular body's anatomy and shape rather than trying to conform it to an idea. When I was in zenkutsu dachi (forward long stance), the senior grade said to make sure my front foot was facing straight forward. Now I naturally am duck-footed (toes face outwards), and for me to force my feet inwards excessively risks and makes it more likely that my knee caves in. My body isn't designed that way. In the stance, my foot is still facing forwards, but the outer edge isn't fully parallel to the direction I'm going.

Still wanted it facing forward and tried to explain why, saying it's more stable or something. Well I won't be very stable if my knee caves in now will I!

But even so, the method of teaching is something I'm just not really keen on, as it feels so excessive... and the students just all didn't seem to look forward to doing their kata, almost like they were expecting the strap...

He even said to the young girl after she did her kata, that there are kata performances that you will pass your grading with and there are kata that wow me, that (what she just did) was just one that would get you a pass. Just feel that didn't need to be said at all...
 
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