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Martial Arts

Warriors & W*nkers

14/02/2012 – Update: We have made a decision to modify slightly the contents of this blog, because the matter has been put to rest in a mutually satisfactory fashion, and I have no wish to tarnish the reputation of the club’s new administration, nor the greater organisation to which they belong, based solely on the actions of past instructors.

02/02/2012 – Update: My personal integrity is very important to me. I try hard to ensure that the information contained in my blogs is accurate and fair. As such, it behoves me to inform my readers that I have been contacted by members of the club in question, who advised me that the club is under new management, and that the instructor who was in charge at the time of this blog is now no longer a member of the club or organisation.

There’s a saying that goes “when a door closes, somewhere, a window opens”. Perhaps it is an altogether too finely tuned sense of cynicism that leads me to suggest and addendum: sometimes, people are waiting at the window with boards and a nail gun. This week, I had the uniquely unpleasant experience of being expelled from a martial arts club that I have been studying with for a number of years. Shortly after a seminar which we attended, during the post-seminar coffee, one of our instructors called T over for a chat. After a few minutes, he returned, and once we had left, T told us that we had been handed back our licences, and expelled from the club. Apparently, our behaviour had been deemed unacceptable, and our motivations for training had been questioned.

I won’t lie – this news left me absolutely devastated. After speaking to my former instructor myself, I left, feeling pretty distraught. I had, honestly, no idea that it was coming. Although our instructor maintained that we had been warned, I don’t recall ever having been told that we needed to behave differently in class. I feel sure that, if I had been told, I would have made efforts to change my behaviour – I would have done whatever necessary to continue with the club, to continue learning the system. Our instructor was asked if we could take this incident as a warning, but apparently, this was not an option, due to the fact that he had allegedly warned us multiple times, and had “had enough” of us.

Sadly, they felt it necessary to deliver a parting shot – apparently, I only ever trained there because T did, and not due to any interest or dedication of my own. This was a particularly cutting blow for me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, unfortunately, this is not the first club I’ve had to leave.

Some time ago, I was actively training in two clubs (in addition to my own home club). As my usual training partners were away for the summer months and variously busy, etc., I had ended up substituting a lot of my mid-week training by going and training in another style, with a very talented instructor. I made good progress there, and really truly enjoyed it. What’s more, I actually felt like the instructor respected me, and was glad to see me coming training. He seemed genuinely happy to teach me and to train with me, and seemed to consider me as an individual, and as someone who was really in it to learn. As a girl, I often have to work hard to get that kind of respect in the world of martial arts, so to be treated like this meant an awful lot more to me than I think that instructor could even imagine.

As any martial artist will tell you, unfortunately, there is no training without politics. No matter what style you choose, and what club you train with, there will always be fights, disagreements, and grudges with other clubs or instructors, and these clubs were no exception. After several months of instruction, I was getting on pretty well, and starting to progress, and so, as is often the way with these things, it was time for an ultimatum. Due to a long held grudge between the head instructors of the two styles, I was essentially told that, for as long as I was continuing to train with one club, I could not also train in the other. I had to make a very difficult and unpleasant decision then. With no friends or training partners around to help out, I defaulted to a old standard of mine – namely, if you ask me to make a choice, you have made that choice for me. So, with huge sadness and regret, I stopped training there.

Around this time in the first club, because my regular training partners away, I was attending classes alone. This meant that, each class, I was treated to one of two options – either largely ignored and left in the corner to practice alone, or grouped with the beginners, and left to train the first few strikes and blocks of the system. While learning all of the single strike patterns by myself in the corner undoubtedly improved my basics, it was hardly the most stimulating or rewarding way to spend class after class. After one particularly memorable class, during which I was left alone and not given instruction for the duration, I was given what has become affectionately known as the “dedication speech” (where I was told that I needed to be showing up consistently (I was), training my material outside of the class time (I was, and continue to do), and really dedicating myself to the study of the art). At this point, I decided to take a week off and consider my training options for the future. Having already given up one system to continue to study at this club, I needed to make sure I was willing to keep going to class, even if it meant being ignored, in order to learn the system.

As you may have discerned, I continued to attend the club. While the class format, and constantly being ignored, often brought me to tears, I wanted the knowledge. And so, I went to as many classes as I could. I continued to train the material outside of class, and tried to improve as much as I could. Meanwhile, I kept hoping that we (myself and my training partners) would eventually be accepted as part of the club, and would be able to progress to the higher levels of the system. Whenever I was asked, I bought the necessary equipment, attended the extra classes, went to the seminars (where possible). In short, I believed that I was putting in all of the effort possible to show that I really was interested in this system, even including, as mentioned above, sacrificing another system that I also loved, to continue in it.

And so, this brings us to Sunday, when I tweeted that I, along with my training partners, had just been expelled from the club, handed back our licence fees, and told to never darken the doorstep again, prompting many replies and emails asking what on earth had happened, and wondering what I/we had done to get kicked out. The truth is, I don’t know. I’ve spent the last few days running through everything in my head, and I still don’t know. My loyalty and dedication was drawn into question by my instructor, who takes attendance at every class, and who could quickly and easily demonstrate that I have the one of the best, if not the best, attendance record in the club. My longest absence from training there was in the immediate aftermath of surgery, when I was prohibited from training for 6 weeks. On the first day of the 7th week, I was back in training. I was told that I only attended when T did, and that that was the only reason I attended at all. Of course, only I know what my motivations for training are, but I thought that I had done everything possible to demonstrate that I was interested in, and dedicated to, learning the system, up to and including quitting another club to do so.

Finally, we were told that we were always messing and joking around in class, and never sticking to the one exercise. On this, I must hold my hands up – I will not say that my behaviour in class has always been one of submissive studiousness. Where people shared a joke, I joined in. While training, I did sometimes chat to my partner (while continuing to train though). If an exercise became boring after the 20th consecutive minute without change, I did work other movements in (sticking with the same drill, for example, but adding extra strikes). I did these things because I believed them acceptable, having taken my lead from the more senior students in the club, who sometimes stood and talked instead of training, who occasionally improvised within or changed the prescribed drill, or who often just did completely different things. Most of all though, I believed that it was acceptable because I was never told any different. While our instructor maintains that we were warned several times, I can honestly say that I was not aware that we were causing such a level of annoyance. Rather than believing that we were on the road to being expelled, I had thought that, recently, we were finally being accepted as members of the club. Up until recently, there was even talk about when our next grading might take place. This contributed significantly to the level of shock and upset that I felt on Sunday, as our expulsion came as a complete bolt out of the blue.

Upon hearing about some of the things that have happened in class, many of my friends have asked why we stayed – why we continued to attend class when we were so often ignored or, seemingly, punished for our attendance. Frankly, we put up with it because we wanted, more than anything, to learn the system. For every three classes of monotonous ignorance, there might be one class where we were taught some new material. This gave us something new to practice, and one more piece of the whole system, and this made it worth while. Every now and again, one of the other instructor level students/instructors would show us a small twiddle, or a set of techniques, perhaps from a higher level, or from the older syllabus, and these were the gold dust in the river mud that kept us coming back for more.

Some time ago, I promised myself that, once I had completed my studies with the club, I would tell the instructors that, while I loved the system, I often hated the classes. I would explain that we never once felt like part of the club, that we couldn’t understand why every other new student seemed to be brought into the fold, and we were still left out in the cold. I would tell them that it was profoundly frustrating, and frankly, a little insulting to be ignored every week, or to ask a question, only to be told to piss off, to be told “I’m not your instructor”, or to be told that that was far too advanced, only to see it being taught to another beginner who was two grades beneath us. I promised that I would tell them that they took some of their most dedicated students, and systematically chipped and picked away at that enthusiasm until it was almost all gone.

On Sunday, my former instructor did not even have the decency to tell me that I was expelled. Instead, he chose to deliver the message through T, one of my training partners, since we were “only there for him anyway”.  To me, this neatly exemplifies the level of antipathy and apathy that we often experienced while there. I returned to the pub, and kept my promise to myself. With my former head instructor, and my other two instructor-non-instructors (depending on the day and their mood) sitting at the table, I told them all of the above and more.  My former head instructor, once or twice, attempted to refute points I was making. I won’t lie – I didn’t let him speak. As far as I was concerned, he had had his opportunity to talk to me about it, and had chosen instead to deliver the message by proxy. The other two instructor-non-instructors sat at the table, refusing to make eye contact, and making faces behind their hands.We’ve been de-friended and blocked on facebook, and ignored via email. It would appear that the love affair is, well and truly, over.

While the experience won’t put me off training martial arts, it will probably change the way I trust instructors in the future. While I had never thought that I was friends with my head instructor, I had honestly believed that I had a pretty decent relationship with some of the others there. Myself and my training partners have made provisions to begin training in another style, to replace the training hours. We’ll continue to revise the material that we were shown, and try to add to it where possible, through seminars, dvds, etc. Another addendum to the “door closing, window opening” phrase perhaps: don’t forget your metaphorical crowbar.

A phrase that my friend, T, likes to use often is that, when it comes to training, “There are warriors, and there are wankers. Which are you?” By this, he means that, if you want training respect, you have to earn it. You do so by showing up time and time again, when you’re tired, when it would be easier to go home and sit in front of the tv, when you don’t feel like it. You keep trucking on, you keep showing up, and you keep trying, and that’s what makes you a warrior. I can, at this point, only feel sadness and regret that, when it came down to it, I wasn’t warrior enough for them.

Note: This blog is, by virtue, a one-sided account of what has happened. While I’ve been honest about what I know, I can only speculate about the motivations of the instructors, about how annoyed they were at us, etc. 

8 replies on “Warriors & W*nkers”

Hi Zenbuffy

Sorry this happened to you. You seem to have put up with a lot of poor behaviour on their part prior to you being expelled. I also thought the idea of attending a class, in whatever discipline, was that you would be taught and not sidelined, and you were suposed to enjoy it. What’s wrong with a bit of a laugh as long as you’re still working? As for motivation, it seems to me that you are dedicated to your martial arts and if you choose to train with people or person you’re friends with then so what?

I hope you find somewhere else more supportive to train.

As an aside, I did Taekwondo for a couple of years, some time back. First time I sparred with a girl I thought (yes, sexist) I ought to be a bit gentle. Anyway she kicked like a mule and when I said it’s only semi contact, she said that I should see how hard she could kick! So, lesson learned for me 🙂

Cheers
@ross_jones

Hi Jen,
its been a number of years since i did any Martial Arts training and then it was only plain Judo, none of that exotic stuff you did. I used to train with the club at UCD for 2 reasons i) it was closest, ii) I started training there in my final year. I know I am only repeating what some of the foreign students said at the time but alot of them said that they actually wouldnt continue training when they got returned hom. The reason for this was that they had too much fun training with our coach, he was always joking and messing around but was also actively swapping in and out of groups whether he was needed or not, he had mixed groups so experience could be shared and things could be learned by all skill levels. I am strongly considering rejoining the club but need to work on my fitness a bit before I do but that is an aside.

As a final note. I was at a talk earlier this year giveen by Sir Patrick Moore. He was asked about making astronomy a compulsary subject and said no that “a bad teacher could kill your intrest in a subject very quickly”. It seems that you werent enjoying the first club, would T go to the previous one and train with you? It seems like a better place and you were having more fun there (even if they were asses about training in 2 places).

Goodluck with what ever your decide
Cathal

Comment edited by admin to remove mention of club name

Hello young warrior,

the length of this blog alone shows your hurt and disappointment. I feel for you. The next sentence might at first sound like a common place, but hoping you know me the way I think you do, gives me comfort that you will not see it as a such: They lost some great students!
I know your dedication; witnessed it many times. Training vigurously even with instructors you despise, let alone seeing the enthusiasm you display when training with the ones you like. I also got an insight into your training regimen at home. So rest assured, it is their loss.

Looking forward to our next meeting and getting my ass whooped by a pink girl!!!!!!

C.

Hi,
I’m a total outsider to martial arts (unless you count ju-jitsu when I was 9) and I don’t know you… but two things seem clear to me.
The dedication you put in to writing your side of the story clearly shows the dedication you put into your training.
lf you feel you’ve been treated badly it’s because you have! And I echo others in that I feel for you.

Therefore it’s clearly their loss – and it was their loss all along for not involving you properly.
Chin up and best of luck with your next fighting endeavours.
James

BUFF,

OH DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN!!! WHAT MORNS…..

I was in this club for a while and I can attest to this kind of behavior buy the “instructors”. As a complete beginner I have been left doing the same moves for an entire class to the point where I have has blisters on my hands.

I would be shown a technique only to discover that the basics of the drill I had never been shown. No structure or motivation; one of the main reason I left.

I have seen first hand the dedication that you three have shown in class, turning up week after week; the level of frustration when you have paid good money and spent valuable time turning up to a class where you are treated more as an obstacle than a student.

I have to say one bright spot to this is that you are well well rid of them.

It sounds like you were treated extremely unfairly. A good teacher should be able explain what a student is doing wrong in a clear and concise fashion, whether the “something” is a technical matter, a matter of etiquette/attitude, or whatever. If the instructor felt you were lacking in any respect (and I can’t imagine you were; I’ve seen too much of your dedication to training in ju-jitsu), it is his obligation to explain that to you in a fashion that is not too open to misunderstanding. Clearly, he failed.

All you can do at this stage is get it off your chest and vent your frustration; it seems the bridge is well and truly burned, so there’s no point bottling things up inside. Happily, you seem to realise this. 😀 I also appreciate the fact that, even though you feel so angry about it, you still gave contact details for anyone who wants to hear the other side. Now, personally, I’m not interested in hearing it. As far as I’m concerned, everyone who is willing to train, and is not endangering other students with a violent or careless attitude, should be allowed to train. I don’t much care for the “side” of anyone who thinks otherwise. But at least you made the option available for anyone who might wish to dig deeper. Kudos.

I dunno whether you are still active in some kind of martial art, but as a practitioner myself, I have to tell you “Pulleeeeze.”

I have never had to put up with that kind of BS, EVER. That is entirely unacceptable. I dont know about you, but classes are WAY too damn expensive for you to ever feel it is necessary or even *honorable* to keep *paying* to put up with that kind of crap.

No way.

And let me guess, you have to ‘pay’ for those extra seminars too? Where you get taught things they cant be bothered to teach you in the class you are paying for? Whatever.

Look, if they are the only game in town? Well, its a good time to change games. I started out with muay thai. Then went to taekwondo. Then regular boxing. And now I pretty much do everything. Everyone does everything now– MMA is the New Thing. Have you tried krav? Have you tried jujitsu? Why the hell not? Trying out a new school totally blind cant be any worse than the crap you were dealing with at that school.

There are a lot of great instructors and schools out there. There are a lot of crappy ones. There is no ‘honor’ or ‘obligation’ in staying with a crappy school.

You’ve been treated entirely unacceptably. I’ve trained in Kung Fu/Tai Chi before, and loved it, and was fortunate that I had a wide range of instructors, all of whom I respected, and who in turn respected me.

I now paly capeoria, and love it – it’s the perfect martial art for me, as I’m not really into the fighting side of martial arts, whilst loving martial arts and training in them (funny as that sounds – when I did full contact Kung Fu I’d go each week, and have the sh*t kicked out of me – great fun though!). Again, i’m really lucky with my instructors, and our instructors, Primo and Lua are also friends. Granted, you’re right about inter group politics everywhere, they can’t be avoided.

ERV’s right though – you can still be a dedicated student to martial arts, without having to put up with crap from a school – just because their style is good, doesn’t mean their teaching will be. One thing my experiences have taught me meeting other martial artists is that it’s crucial that you get the right instructor for you.

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