A Blackbelt Does Not Make a Sensei
by: Peter Troop
Around a decade ago while living in a rural city I decided to take up a martial art. Well it was really retake up a martial art as I had practiced Tae Kwon Do in my teens. This was now 20 years later. Fortunately I had been doing yoga classes for 8 years so the body was still relatively flexible and strong. But the more I did yoga, the more I longed to return to a martial art – so it was time to move on.
Many would argue yoga and martial arts are a great combination and I think so too but life offers far too little time so I had to choose one over the other. It was time to learn to defend myself once again.
I researched for a couple of months the different styles and clubs on offer and there was plenty to choose from. I finally narrowed it down to two. The choice was not just the two clubs were the best in the area, but the best on offer to fit in with my time constraints, my working hours, distance to travel, and a style that now suited me.
The two I chose were a jujutsu club and a mixed style club. The jujutsu club offered two styles – a very conservative aikido style and a modernised jujutsu style. The club sensei recommended the modern style and I decided to try his recommendation. It was a system of close contact fighting, taking your opponent down and keeping them there. Similar to aikido there was no free sparring as the techniques were too dangerous. As a spectator it seemed slow and easy but on the mat it was physically demanding. The style was taught slow and carefully. Rolls and falls would be taught over several months.
The other mixed club was run by a sensei with a background in Tae Kwon Do. The style incorporated boxing, kickboxing, grappling, in fact bits of everything. The club was out of the town a bit but one of my closest friends was doing it and it sounded very good. It looked impressive on entry with men and women training around the dojo doing hard kicks from boxing positions interspersed with sit-ups and pushups, then some bag punches to finish.
My friend introduced me to the sensei who explained the style, then said I am going to teach you a forward roll. He leapt forward did a roll and came up into a fighting stance. “Now your turn, just roll.” I tried to emulate his roll struck my shoulder and ended in strong pain. “I am going to leave you with Suzy, she’s eleven and broke her clavicle the first time she tried it. She’s got it fine now though.” It was quite obvious that although he new how to roll, he had no idea how to teach it and Suzy, myself and I suspect many others had paid for his inabilities.
I then spoke to others students sitting around but not training. “We had a grading several weeks ago and the injuries still haven’t healed enough to retrain – the gradings are very tough.” I wondered what good a defense system was that left you incapacitated for weeks after using it.
Sensei was now giving a lecture “if your opponent can do a 5 mile run, you must be able to do a 10 mile run. If they can do 50 push-ups you must do 100…”, it went on and on. I thought I must remember if I am attacked in the street to ask how far they can run before I defend myself. He finished by sitting cross legged in front of me on the mat in a sensei – grasshopper fashion explaining how good he was and how much it would benefit me to learn off him. I politely declined.
He was not a martial artist but someone living out a fantasy. Fantasy is fine but not when you teach things you don’t fully understand and damage your students in the process. Eventually my friend decided the club was no good and left (took up yoga incidentally).
Choose your club carefully as a complete idiot can get a black belt (there’s even online and video classes), but very few can become a SENSEI a true teacher
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