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#134411 - 02/21/05 11:49 AM The Nature of the Beast
senseilou Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 2082
Loc: Glendale, Az.
I recently had the opportunity to talk at length with one of my Sensei for a long time, one on one. Some of the discussions were real interesting especially from his view point. We stayed up till 3 in the morning on a Friday and Saturday night, him relaying stories to me and history of the old days. I think what he had to say was pretty interesting.

1. The New Generation-This was real interesting. Sensei said that we are now looking at 3rd to 4th generation students. Most 1st generation students are gone, and 2nd generation are dwindling. He equated this to tracing your hand. Each one become less and less like the original. Sensei also mentioned that more and more people want the arts tailored to their lifestyle instead of people tailoring their lives to training. He also said he thought the ratio of serious students to casual students to be a 5 to 1 in favor of the casual student. I asked him why? His answer was simple, distractions! He felt that there is so much more now to distract one from training, from getting home later from work, to living further away from the dojo. In the earlier years he said it was a neighborhood type dojo and today people drive an hour to train. In one case I do drive 80 miles round trip to train with one of my peers.The other thing I found interesting, in the early days he had more students stay and talk, or sometimes even go out to eat after class. He says hardly anyone does that anymore at his school. He said he use to teach to 9:30 or so, but students stayed and talked till 11-11:30. He said he only had 1 that does that now, same with me, I have one student who stays after class to talk or get extra help.Sensei said everyone is busier now, and can't put as much time in training as before. Funny I had an e-mail from a student who told me he could fit in 2-3 hours a week to train, but that was it.Sensei mentioned when he use to train when he was younger, in the 60's that if he didn't show up for class Sensei called him and wanted to know why. Can you imagine doing that now? My answer was of course no!!!The enivironment of training has changed or so he thought and schools are offering unique ideas for people to train, like the black belt club etc, which just creates a more commercial environment. The commercialazation of Martial Training has changed the environment of training. When he opened his first dojo, he was the only one in town. Also, depending on location, there were many back yard dojo's, and now people want showers, dressing rooms and amenities, because of their busy schedules. This all boils down to time, people are having more to do, and less time to do it. Something has to suffer.

2.Style-Sensei had me laughing till my sides hurt about this one. The new styles, with catchy names, or initials, or Billy Bob Do, everyone now is trying to market their training, and changing things around. Sensei's quote about, "there are only so many ways to mess(put in explative)someone up" but now everyone has a style or an idea of a style. The biggest observation here was that he felt that there are 2 views of style, strictly traditonal, one style, and only staying in that one style, everything else lacks in comparison, to those who train in everything, "Kyu of all styles, Shihan of none" Very little in the middle.His biggest complaint were those who chastised and look down on people who are in other arts. Sensei said he has seen the attitude in all the arts,but some come accross more than others. One style of Okinawan Karate, and 2 Japanese arts he saw this happening more often in. Finally Sensei said he felt 'balance' was a forgotten tenant, and that students do not apply it to their training, or their life.

3. Titles was another interesting topic. This he said, was a real dichtomy. There are those who have gotten carried away and use all sorts of titles(Sensei took all rank distinction at Black Belt away from his students, they all wear just a Black Belt, no stripes, or black with colors. Shihans were owners of a school,otherwise you are Sensei)Then on the other hand, lack of respect by addressing seniors by their first name. He said many schools he goes to that the students call their Instructor by their first name, and all titles have been done away with. This he felt was as wrong as having 20 titles for all the Black Belts

4. History and Lineage-Sensei got really worked up here. He felt that students have just blown this part of their training off. In his childrens class he makes the kids go home and track down their own lineage. He said how you can youe expect people to want to learn about someone else's lineage if they don't care about their own. Sensei said if history and lineage are not passed down, in 10 years it will be lost. Look how students and Sensei have eliminated techniques or changed them, if the same thing happens to history and lineage, things are going to get distorted and forgotten. Without knowledge of the past, its hard to understand the future. He said the newer Sensei were the worse now. they want to tell everyone their thoughts and their ideas, and are neglecting where they got the information from. This he felt is going to be the death sentence to the martial arts

5. Lack of Belief-Finally Sensei talked about how 'magical' the arts use to appear to the public. there were not that many students, and what they did was special. people today do not see the worth of training, they way they use to. Sensei said "how many times have you heard ,that someone is not afraid of that Kung Fu crap you do" or " you guys are like a cult, your brainwashed"? Training is not as special as it use to be, probably because its out there more, and more and more people see it, so how special can it be. Kids were brought to learn discipline, and now, parents don't want anyone discipling their child, teacher included. Sensei noted the trend that everything has to be 'positive'. You can't criticize children openly in class, hold them back, or even use red pens to correct their work, Everything has to be done in a psoitive environment. Sense said when he trained , he positively got his butt whipped on a daily occasion. So todays youth are soft, no dodge ball, too much contact, getting them to spar, now that is a challenge.

Sensei was not criticizing, just noting the differences,especially how time goes on, people are drawn more and more away from serious training. People are just too busy, too busy for the kids, too busy for relaxation, too busy to train.Its just a product of our lives, and as Sensei said, "too many irons in the fire" Mom has to be mom, chauffer, coach, wife, peace keeper, and trying to find time for her to train is tough. Also men are not willing to take the time to take over, so mom can have the time to train. Bosses don't care either. Business occupies much more time now, and people are expected to do more than 5-5 5 days a week. So its hard for people to train, and do it like it was originally done.As life gets more and more complicated are we going to find less and less time to devote to our arts? As more and more schools open, is Martial training going to be any different than soccer or baseball? So where will the arts be in 10 years,any ideas?

#134412 - 02/21/05 11:21 PM Re: The Nature of the Beast

Ah, the "keepers of tradition" or the "sports club" mentality? Quite frankly, I don't know. Wonder how the old masters saw and felt the changes happening to their arts 100-200 years ago. Is what we are seeing now, a result of those changes too?

Maybe. The premise and conduct of war has changed significantly in the last 150-200 years. No longer do we need to rely on HTHC, when we can shoot at the enemy from a distance, or zero in on enemy positions with smart bombs, accurate within a foot of the target.

O'Sensei may have been enlightened enough to realize this. I don't know.

I think it will eventually come full circle, when the student will seek out a teacher to learn the way. All we can do is pass on the knowledge as best we can.

If this is the sign of the times, I think there will always be demand for MA in the police force, or in the movies as stuntmen, MA choreography, or even acting... :P

#134413 - 02/22/05 08:48 AM Re: The Nature of the Beast

Very good Read Sir,

I totaly agree, thats why we do not change anything for anyone, a vow I made with my Instructor.

Formalities and respect are taught along with Tradition. We teach 3 styles, TKD HKD and Gung Fu, All taught seperately though. I have been recently told that our school is a Diamond in the ruff. I have had asians from over seas complaining to me how the schools are all commercial even in their home country.

I stopped teaching on a military base due to push ups were concidered corporal punishment. WTF a military base worrying about push ups for their kids cause they cant get them their on time. I refused to stop giving them so I pulled my classes to perserve the inegrity of the arts. I went from 80 some students to 5. and had no 2nd thoughts about it. It cant be about money has to be about the ART !

Their will be us few Instructors/schools the Diamonds in the ruff. and true students/warriors will find us, or God will lead their path twards us.

I now teach those select few. Our studio has no heat, no bath rooms or showers, and we live in North Dakota and it can get to -60 below sometimes. But we can only bare training in the gym when its -10-20 any colder becomes too unbareable, no matter how hard we train. Lucky for us theirs a local collage with a Varsity Dome available for the public.

I will change nothing and adapt my art for no one. If they leave then my art was not meant for them and McDojo's are around the corner and will be happy to take their money.

#134414 - 02/22/05 09:01 AM Re: The Nature of the Beast
Ironfoot Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/10/04
Posts: 2682
Loc: St. Clair Shores, MI USA
All your points were too true, senseilou. Except perhaps the part about a 5:1 ratio of casual students to hard-core. It may be worse than that. We refer to it as the "bowling night" mentality. They come once a week to feel good about themselves; they don't live it and breathe it.

And the part about dissing other styles and being hung up on titles? Yesterday I dropped in on a Tang Soo Do class for the 1st time offered at the gym where I work. One of the senior students noticed me stretching out and said it was obvious I was a martial artist; what style and rank? I replied I was a white belt in TSD. Flaunting my knowledge was not why I was there. Getting more was.

In 10 years I hope the arts will be about what they are now. Some McDojos, sure; but hopefully enough serious senseis like yourself that try to carry on true MA.

#134415 - 02/22/05 09:56 AM Re: The Nature of the Beast
still wadowoman Offline
Improved beefier techno-prat

Registered: 04/10/04
Posts: 3420
Loc: Residence:UK- Heart:Md, USA
Wow SenseiLou, what a grim picture your post paints.

Unfortunately I agree with much of what you say. I think most MA teachers have students who think they can pop in when they feel like it and still progress alongside those who are there three times a week 50 weeks a year.

I am very lucky, teaching is not my prime income so earning money from it does not have to be my motivation. I can, therefore afford to tell those wasting my time and theirs that this is the case. I am polite about it of course, but very honest about it.

Of course there are students who are serious about it but cannot train as much as they would like because of work commitments etc. For those people, I put myself out to make sure they don't miss out too much. It is easy to tell the difference between the two.

As for where MAs will be in 10 years time, I often wonder this myself. I like to think that there are still enough good teachers around that it will not all go completely to pot. I agree with Ironfoot, there will be MCdojos like there are now, but still plenty of good Senseis. It is up to those teaching now to make sure of that.

#134416 - 02/22/05 01:06 PM Re: The Nature of the Beast
senseilou Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 10/14/02
Posts: 2082
Loc: Glendale, Az.
I'd like to reaffirm, that this was a conversation with my Sensei, and not necessarily my perspective. I wanted to share what a senior in the arts sees. If you saw Sensei in the dojo, he is very up beat, and very positive. This converstion was in the midlle of the night in my living room.So what came out was more like two family members talking about the old days. His perspective I thought was worth sharing. Not trying to be pesimistic, but truthful. I felt a first generation student's perspective was worth sharing. I believe we all try to be very positive in our schools, and really never verbalize our frustrations. I find solace in the fact that at least others see what I am seeing. If I would guess I would also say that the ratio is higher of casual to serious students. I basically have 3 serious students, the rest are either too new or not serious. But what I wanted to share was how generations ahead of us, see training today. I felt bad, like I was doing my job well enough when I talked with Sensei. He said, we can bring them water but can't make them drink. I try to stay as up beat and as positive as I can, yet yearn for those serious students who want to know everything student. In our case, I think I understand. Back years ago I had younger students, junior high and high school students who loved to learn. They were very open minded and wanted knowledge. I think that age group is easier to get motivated. Now its more 25-40 and they have their own ideas of how things should be, and its harder to break through the barriers. Naturally most people think thry know whats best. A teenager hasn't already set his ideas of how things work. So I think in our case its a different demographic, also a different time period. My Junior kids are now harder to motivate, than in the old days, so I think genreally getting people to buy into the system is hareder, for whatever reason.

#134417 - 02/22/05 03:35 PM Re: The Nature of the Beast
sunspots Offline

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 650
Loc: Southern Oregon, USA

Your Sensei sounds very much like mine. I have heard many of the same sentiments from him during long conversations after class and on long car rides to tournaments, etc.

I especially appreciated the part of your post about history and lineage. In my style, (Parker System American Kenpo)we are required to know the history of our style for promotion, and learn it in bits and pieces as part of regular training. I treasure the visits from the Grandmasters who tell stories. My Sensei shared something very wonderful with us a while back. Someone in the Kenpo organization to which we belong has created the most comprehensive lineage chart to date from Mr. Edmund Parker's teachers, through Mr.Parker, his students, their students, etc. It was about a 3x5 piece of paper. Sensei's name was not on the most recent version, but he showed us where it would be in the future and told us that some of us might someday be on that same chart under his name. It was a moment I will treasure, seeing all my Kenpo family "together."

#134418 - 02/23/05 07:33 AM Re: The Nature of the Beast
schanne Offline
breaks things

Registered: 02/18/04
Posts: 4370
Loc: Woodbury NJ
SenseiLou, we (my Sensei) talk about that subject constantly and have covered your topic on many occasions. We, you, are from old school, nothing you or I can do will bring those days back. We can only tell the stories and hope that some of it is instilled in our youth. It's old farts like us that keep the torch burning! [IMG][/IMG]

#134419 - 02/23/05 10:33 PM Re: The Nature of the Beast


Folks still love the Martial Arts, not the fighting. I think of my very beginning days when I called my sensei by his name, then getting angry when he corrected me in front of everyone. In retrospect, it was GREAT.

Dontcha love that sense of being at home all dojo owners have? On those mats, I am but a guest in his home.

- Op. Skinny Ninja

#134420 - 02/26/05 07:09 PM Re: The Nature of the Beast

I consider myself a traditionalist, but karate must change to an extent as times change. When Gichin Funakoshi started teaching in Japan karate was changing from an art practiced in secret to an open part of society. Also one of Funakoshi's "maxims for the trainee" as stated in Karate-Do Kyohan: The Master Text
is "act in accordance with time and change". So, I don't think that all change is bad, but on the other hand there are some things that shouldn't change.

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