Friday, September 6, 2013

Arizona Martial Arts Instructors

"No such thing as bad student. Only bad teacher." -Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)

Just like any profession (except politics - where honesty seems to elude all), there are good instructors and there are bad; there are honest instructors and there are con-men. so before you sign up for classes at a local martial arts school, learn about the martial art and about the instructor.

Schedule a meeting with the owner of a martial arts school and meet the instructor or instructors and find out what qualifications (if any) they have. What is the instructor like - are you going to be able to get along with this person? How well does he or she teach? Ask to watch a class or two to see what goes on in the class and then ask to talk to some students to get their perception.

Master Gichin Funakoshi, Shorin-Ryu Instructor from
Okinawa, considered the father or Modern Karate (sketch
by Soke Hausel)
Ask about the instructor's lineage. This may be the most revealing information you will find. If you get a response like 'Lineage?" you might think about checking elsewhere. Ask the individual where he or she taught in the past and how long they have been training in martial arts and how long they have been teaching. If you are going to be taught by a child, remember this is going to be very awkward. We had one of our Japanese-American karate instructors who told us about her horror story learning taekwondo many years ago in Arizona. She was the only adult in the class and at the end of each class, the school would vocalize the schools philosophy. She would stand in a line with about 2 dozen 3 to 10 year olds and say together - "I will obey my mommy and daddy".

Ask about the martial arts style? Where did it originate? Ask about tournament requirements if any? Are there extra fees for training with weapons? Take notes to be sure that the information matches what you find on the Internet. And something that should be considered for most women is the type of martial art. I do not recommend judo, jujutsu or aikido for most women, as this requires using a lot of upper body strength. Look for karate, taekwondo, kung fu, tai chi and similar classes. But remember, tai chi is very good for your health, but of little value for self-defense., 

Tournaments are new to the martial arts - this is something that began in the mid 20th century. Many traditional martial arts instructors feel tournaments breed the wrong attitude and lessen a person's ability to defend. But at the same time, supporters of tournaments feel these provide good competition among students and also helps students to build good reflexes, especially if they are full contact tournaments.

And weapons? Weapons have been part of the martial arts training regimen for centuries. Only recently have some martial artists divorced themselves from weapons, or have found a way to require more fees to learn the weapons. Many traditional Okinawan martial arts schools start teaching weapons the first week beginners sign up for classes.
Shaolin Temple Guardian. Sketch by Soke Hausel.
Look closely at instructor certificates posted on the walls of the dojo. This could be a very important hint as to the qualifications of an instructor. Do the certificates have Chinese, Japanese or Korea symbols?  Find out what martial arts associations the instructor is listed with and check the Internet for information about the associations as well as do a search for the instructor's name and school. Ask to see old photos of the instructor. Write down the names of the individuals who signed the diploma and search them on the Internet.

Today, there is a problem. More than 4 decades ago, everyone knew everyone else in the martial arts in the US, and there were only a few legitimate martial arts associations. Today, there are all kinds of MMA (Mixed martial arts), Kickboxing, Sport Karate that have little evidence of legitimacy, but if you are interested in learning these, check out some classes and see if that is what you want to learn. Since most are not martial arts and there is little to go on - just like boxing schools. Many will teach you how to fight, but most will not teach you how not to fight.

Now that sounds pretty strange. But think about it and look back to the Karate Kid:

Daniel San: So, karate's fighting. You train to fight.
Miyagi: That what you think?
Daniel: No.
Miyagi: Then why train?
Daniel: So I won't have to fight?

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