My martial arts hubris, and how I overcame it
Guest blog by Alaric Dailey
In my other articles I started that my original karate dojo may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. If you haven’t read them you might find them interesting, especially the ones on Dojo-kun and Do vs Jitsu.
Among other things that I rarely see in other schools, each belt test consisted of kata, punching and kicking, hojo-undo etc, but they also included reading a book and a verbal book report. The very first test was, like many styles, a yellow belt. I will never understand having a rainbow of colors that DON’T get darker as they go…
That first test was quite an eye opener for me though, Sensei had added his own requirement, because he was not about making money, nor was he interested in having half-hearted students, nor students that would leave. He wanted people that were going to forever be changed, and continue to practice for the rest of their lives.
The requirement he added? Go to another martial arts school, and take a minimum of one class with them. Give a verbal report.
This requirement, was a bit baffling, why take anyone just starting in your school, and require them to go try another school and possibly lose them? Because it makes sure you are in the art that you will stick with.
For my yellow belt test, I took a 3 day introductory course to Tai-Chi, knowing nothing about any other martial art I made the mistake to trying to compare it to what I knew. To give you some idea of what kind of apples and broccoli I was trying to compare, I was taking Pangainoon, and the first form you learn is Sanchin and the school I went to was doing Yang Tai Chi.
I made all sorts of uninformed, biased assumptions, I loved karate with a blind passion, and wanted to impress upon my sensei how much karate meant to me. Thus I took the classes looking for what I perceived to be flaws and weaknesses in the art such as
* no application of technique – never did I get any instruction of “this is a block, this is a strike, this is what you are defending against”
* the stance was too wide – I was not given any explanation for a neutral bow, or why it would be a good stance. In my mind Sanchin was the ultimate fighting stance.
* No power in their techniques – I had no understanding of chi power, even though Pangainoon teaches it, I hadn’t really even gotten an introduction.
I wilfully and with eyes open wide walked into a trap that ensares so many others. I blinded myself to the benefits of other arts.
I was lucky that I didn’t entirely discount everything I learned. I continued to keep in contact with the Sifu, and shortly before he left for China, I had the opportunity to witness him do Tai-chi very fast, it was amazing. Suddenly all the soft flowery techniques appeared to have power, and were obvious as to blocks and strikes. At this point, I had also had enough Pangainoon to understand some of the techniques and chi.
I was lucky for many reasons, I was lucky that my Sensei had the confidence to send us other places. I was lucky that I choose a school that was so different that I was forced to re-evaluate what I was learning (even if it was only in the back of my mind).
Luck aside, my own belief that my karate style was the only “good” style, quickly crumbling down. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome this false pride, had I not had these opportunities.
If you run a school, you will do your students a massive favor if you encourage them to go practice with other schools.
If you are a martial artist of any style, you can benefit from swallowing your ego and practising at other schools, especially those that are radically different than yours. For example, if you do Tai-chi, you might want to try a boxing school, if you do Wing Chun, try Judo or Jujitsu, etc.
You never know, you might might new friends, you might learn something new. As I often say “more bodies, means more opportunity to learn, especially when they are doing something other than you are doing”.