Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ten Things Not to Ask a Traditional Martial Arts Instructor

1. I have been studying martial arts videos for years in my basement. What rank does that make me in your style?

2. Regarding testing. Can I test for black belt in one year? Can I double test? Skip a belt?

3. I learned a technique from a video that will make the heart race then stop. Can I try that on you?

4. Can I add a roll fall in the kata? I want to give it more pizazz.

5. I am not interested in learning kata. Can you just teach me to fight?

6. Regarding traditional weapons: Can I hollow out my bo? Can I add reflective tape? Can I use foam nunchaku for testing?

7. Can you teach my kid karate? I want to make sure that he does not get picked on. I want him to know how to beat the other kids up.

8. You are a girl. Who else is teaching?

9. What is the proper kiai for children in a tournament…yelling “kiai” or “kill”?

10. Can I buy a multi-colored gi with the words "Master Blaster Extraordinaire" embroidered in gold on the back?

This is my list of the Ten Things Not to Ask a Traditional Martial Arts Instructor. So…what do you think? Do you have any others to add to the list?


Becky G said...

How about

When do I get to test for my next belt?

Noah said...

I like "that could never work", personally, but it's not so much a question as a dumb statement :)

Hack Shaft said...

"How much does it cost to get a Black Belt?"

(The answer--probably about $5-10 at any Martial Arts supply store...)

Cameron Spearman said...

I've got a couple....

1. (Just after "memorizing" the moves in their current kata) Can you teach me the next kata now?

2. Is your style the best?

Michele said...

Becky: Thank you for your comment. I outwardly cringe when a student talks about testing.

Noah: Good one.

Hack Shaft: I have had a few phone inquiries about the cost of a black belt.

Mr. White Tiger: Great additions to the list. Some people want to "collect" kata instead of really learning them. The more kata they know the better.

Narda said...

The list did make me smile. LOL!

But seriously, one should be able to ask just about any MA related question. Just be prepared to deal with 'No'. ;)

elizasmom said...

I particularly enjoy when someone makes offensive "ping chong" type noise while flailing their arms at me and then cowers and asks me "Are you going to hurt me?" I usually find myself thinking, 'Uh, well, I'm kind of tempted right now on account of you're an idiot, but no, I'm not.'
All those "Are your hands a deadly weapon" and "have you ever killed someone" type questions are pretty annoying.
Your list is pretty funny, thanks for the smile.

Sue C said...

How about: 'Do you mind if I answer my phone?'

We've had that one in the middle of a class before!

Anonymous said...

Ha! The only question I've ever had about testing is whether I could skip until the next exam. Knew better than to ask, though.

Michele said...

Narda: Thank you for commenting. On a serious are 100% correct. Students should feel comfortable enough to ask questions even if the outcome is "no".

Elizasmom: Yep...been asked those questions a few times. Thanks for adding to the list.

SueC: Wow. We have students who are "on call" for work or are paramedics. They always tell me before class that they have their phone on and may need to take a call.

BBBlues: I was in a similar situation once. I given five weeks notification before a test. I thought about asking if I could wait but I decided against asking the question.

Littlefair said...

Number 4 made me laugh out loud!

Mark Cook said...

I do think that there should be 3 per year "What if" policy. A 4th "what if" and the teacher get to wrap the student in duct tape.

Michele said...

Littlefair: Funny but true. Years ago, my instructor made a series of Panther videos. Three months after the release, Okinawa Kenpo Kobudo kata were being performed (at karate tournaments) with added roll falls and splits.

Mark: I completely forgot about the "What if...?" questions. Three per year seems more than enough. :)

ronsan60 said...

One I didn't see that I have been asked: How many people can you take at once?

Michele said...

RonSan60: Thanks for adding to the list!

Diver Daisy said...

Oh, good post and great comments! I loved it - and of course it was in list form, giving it a special little spot in my heart :) hehe

But now I am feeling a bit bad. My instructor wanted me to test and I thanked him but said I wasn't really there for that. I just go to enjoy myself. Then I didn't go for a couple weeks cause I didn't want to be pressured in to testing. Can't I just do it cause I like it?? I tried to be as thankful and grateful (and graceful) as I could but now I'm a bit worried.
(as a side note, I have been down the karate road in another form and tested a few times, so I have done that kind of thing before, and didn't really like the stress of it all)

Robert Barker said...

very funny!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, things not to tell your instructor:

1. “This technique doesn’t seem to work.” Tried this one once (approached him in the most respectful manner possible) and three seconds later I was in a world of hurt, tapping like my life depended on it (come to think of it, it probably did). His response: did this work? My response: hai, sensei! Moral of the story: if a technique does not work it’s usually (bordering on certainty if your teacher happens to be an 8th degree black belt) your fault, not his. Try harder grasshopper!

2. About the single most annoying question is indeed the old “yes, but what if he does this?” This one makes me cringe: while it’s not an inherently stupid question (presuming it emanates from a true desire to learn) in itself it does sound very presumptuous when you’re implying people who’ve trained this stuff for years never bothered to create back-ups or would risk being defeated because of one tiny error. While I’m not a sensei yet my usual response to this is to let them attack me, telling them to resist as much as they can. Usually this messes up my first technique, for me the signal to lay a serious ass-whooping on them (not actually touching, I want to make a point not hurt them), showing them even though they negated my initial technique I’m still in a great position to do some serious damage while they’re clearly not. The message: we’re professionals and you’re not a genius for pointing out the obvious. Yes you can hit me with your other hand but a) I’ll block and b) usually you won’t even get to do it since you’ll be lying face down on the mat by then. Once they see I don’t freeze up after resistance but get even more aggressive (in reality they would have taken at least 3 to 4 punches or kicks) and am able to transition to other techniques they usually get the point and never ask again. The lesson here: go with the flow and when in doubt, hit!

3. “Do I really have to?” Yes, you do. Once he’s on the mat your sensei is god and his commandments are to be obeyed without question and obeyed with enthusiasm (a cheery and powerful “hai, sensei!” is appropriate, unless you like doing push-ups). If he tells you to jump you ask how high. If you are not able to show absolute confidence and respect towards your teacher (assuming he knows what he’s doing) you’d better find another dojo or another hobby entirely. Tradition calls for hierarchy and those above you are entitled to more respect than you would show the average person. A dojo is not a democracy and if you don’t like it you can always leave. In fact that’s probably the only real difference between our dojo and Iraq under Sadam Hussein.

4. A variation (henka, lol) of 3: “I can’t”. If your sensei says you can, you can. End of story. Not being able to do something and not wanting to are two entirely different things, for the second option I refer to the solution to nr 3.

Anonymous said...

5. “This is painful”. Great, it’s supposed to, if you don’t like pain go play cards or something. Unless you’re seriously hurt or you’re bleeding all over the place don’t make a fuss. Don’t bother sensei with futile, minor injuries only a child would whine about like bruises, black eyes or scrape-wounds. I once saw a guy complaining to sensei (he got hit in the eye because his block sucked) and his response was to give the other guy a compliment. That’s the spirit!

6. “I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble-gum, when does training start?” Aggression and a street-fighter mentality will not be tolerated in a traditional, decent dojo and will result in either an ass-whooping (hoping to teach you some humility) or expulsion. MA were developed for self-protection and warfare in service of a legitimate authority, not to randomly hurt and bully people for your own gain and satisfaction. As sensei you are responsible for the behaviour of the people you train: if someone got hurt because you misjudged someone’s character (or you just didn’t care) and taught them fighting-skills they never should have received in the first place (comparable to handing a loaded gun to a drug-crazed or emotionally unstable person) then you’re at least partly to blame and you should do some real soul-searching. Either mend your ways or quit the MA, you’ll only give them and yourself a bad name. The mentality you see in films like the karate-kid – “no mercy, kill, finish him!” – is a perverted interpretation of the MA and aggression is only the means to an end (peace, the destruction of evil), never an end in itself. The ultimate goal should be peace and self-control, not violence and ego-inflation.

I liked your list, humour and MA are indeed a great combination.



Michele said...

Hi Zara. Thanks for visiting my blog and adding to the list!

Number 5 made me smile. :)

Kicksboxes Rick said...

Very funny... but does this mean I have to get rid of my 'Master Blaster Extraordinaire' patch?!

Spicy said...

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P.S. This really made me laugh, thanks a lot ^^