Respect the Belt… Respect the Art.

Kyokushinkai (Photo credit: kamorphus)

I mentioned in conversation a couple of days ago that I was going to be starting to learn Kyokushin Karate in Japan and that I was very excited.  One of the people involved in the discussion mentioned that the first few months of any martial art is going to be less interesting, but if I stuck with it I would probably start to enjoy it.  I told him that I was not new to martial arts, only to Karate, and that I was a Second Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo.  He then went off on a tangent telling me how Taekwondo is not a serious martial art, and it’s only about kicking, and how real martial artists (like the ones in the UFC) study Muay Thai, BJJ, and other serious arts.

Now here’s the thing… he was very clear that he is not a martial artist, but he is a big fan, and he continued insulting Taekwondo as being inferior and useless as compared to other martial arts.  He talked about the Monk Tournament, UFC, and seemed to know a lot of the plusses and minuses of many different martial arts.

The problem was he had never learned about respect, one of the key tenets of every martial art.  He did not realize and would not listen when told by me and by others that he was being offensive, insulting, and disrespectful.  He kept trying to prove that his book knowledge made him an authority.  I told him that I would gladly invite him to my dojang in Mississauga to learn Taekwondo, and see if he might learn a new respect for it.  One way or another, until he earned a Black Belt I was not willing to listen to him insult me, my Master, my GrandMaster, and my art.

Here’s the thing.  I know that different martial arts have their strengths and their weaknesses, and frankly I am quite cognizant of these.  However if someone is going to tell me how much they dislike my primary martial art, they had better have a Black Belt of their own, otherwise they cannot have any credibility.  The Black Belt can be in any art, from Karate to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to whatever, but to come at me with pure theory and telling me that my art isn’t very good is a very strong insult from someone with absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

The person continued talking about ‘pure martial artists’… people who strictly learn a single art.  In my experience, there is no one perfect martial art, and any practitioner who is serious will have a base in one art but a lot of knowledge of others – for example, my Taekwondo school (Oriental Martial Arts College) does teach Taekwondo, but we also integrate a lot of Hapkido into the curriculum from the very early belts.  The Hapkido complements Taekwondo and closes some of the potential shortcomings.  As my Master once told me, there is no pure martial art because all martial arts borrow from each other and evolve.  The fans of UFC may prefer watching certain forms, but even the UFC fighters use different styles… hence the name Mixed Martial Arts.

I  had visited the Kyokushin dojo once before to watch a class before returning to join.  I had not told the Sensei anything about my previous martial arts experience… I wanted to (out of respect for both him and for GrandMaster Kim), and had even arranged to bring a friend to translate for me.  It fell through, so I had to do my best… I told him I wanted to learn from him, he told me what the rates were, and that was essentially the end of the conversation.  clip12.288115402_stdWhen I returned Monday evening he told me to change at the back of the room.  As I pulled my workout kit out (I don’t have a gi yet, but it is on order) the Sensei saw my Black Belt pop out.  He immediately had his entire class turn and bow to me.  They may practice a different art from me, but a Black Belt is a Black Belt.

When my gi does come in, for the first time in several years, I will be wearing a White Belt.  I will not ask the Sensei for any special considerations for me based on my pre-existing Black Belt – I am a Black Belt already, and that does not change by donning a white one for a new art.  Even in Taekwondo one of our words of wisdom that we repeat after class is Cho Shim… Beginner’s Mind.  I am looking forward to starting from the beginning again though… it is really exciting!  More on that later.

Wish me luck… it’s the morning after, and my body is aching just like I hoped.  I kept up just fine, but am really looking forward to sparring… Sensei won’t let me spar until I have the protective equipment.  Look forward to a bunch of articles about my new martial art in the next few weeks!

Sixteen Days Out – a summary

Yesterday was a dichoto-day.  If I made that word up, it is what it sounds like – a day that was a mix of good and bad.  I want to clarify at the outset that this had nothing to do with work, which was fine (I am teaching a class at TekSource Corporate Learning this week, and have a good group of students).  It is strictly with regard to diet and training.

I ate (during the day at work) like crap – too much of bad foods (I blame Audrey, but she didn’t actually force-feed me the muffin or the pizza, she just made them readily available (as well as the only things).  She also put out all sorts of cookies for the afternoon snack, and my willpower faltered – I had three lady fingers.  To compensate – although I did not set out with this goal – I skipped dinner.  I got off the train from Toronto and drove straight to Taekwondo, where everything got back on track.

I had been really disheartened Monday and Tuesday about my prospects for testing for actually being ready for my test on June 2nd, and I decided that yesterday (Wednesday) was the day that I would make my final decision.  While I know all of my patterns (poomsaes) I had not learned the knife-defense ‘one-step-sparring’ that I need as a requirement.  That is, nine separate (and numbered, in order) methods of repelling a knife-wielding attacker.  While that is something I am pretty good at, I would usually revert to Krav Maga, so learning the Taekwondo (actually Hapkido) methods were a challenge.

vector version of Black belt 2st dan.png
vector version of Black belt 2st dan.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Miss Kelly (one of the senior instructors, who is testing for her 5th Dan Black Belt the day that I test for my 2nd Dan) and I had arranged to spend time on Wednesday going over the methods, and she agreed to allow me to record our session so that I could study the moves while on the road next week.  She is an excellent teacher whom I have always liked and respected (she was Aaron’s favorite instructor when he was in TKD), and really knows her stuff.

One of the reasons I prefer working one-on-one with instructors, rather than working in a large class, is not simply the individual attention.  I find that in most modern martial arts classes the focus is on teaching moves rather than teaching why we do the moves and analyzing them.  As a Colour Belt suppose I had to cope, because as GrandMaster H.C. Kim once wrote ‘The study of martial arts really begins once you have achieved Black Belt Excellence.’  Until you have a strong knowledge of the basics it is impossible to start analyzing the advanced.  However as a Black Belt I appreciate that when I learn a move in a one-on-one setting I can analyze, discuss, and really understand what it is that I am doing, as well as how likely I might successfully execute a particular move in either sparring or real-life situations.  I find that by breaking down a move in this way it is easier for me to learn and absorb patterns and self-defense.

Working with Miss Kelly last night was such an opportunity, and while I came into the lesson with a slight knowledge of two or three of the moves, by the end of the evening I was much more confident that I knew what I was doing… even if I might not use most of those moves in real-life knife attacks.  While I was able to execute all of the moves by the end of the evening, I am glad that I recorded them so that I can review them today and every day until I will never forget them.  I will be watching them often, breaking them down in my head, and I  predict that on my flight to Victoria next week I will be doing them over and over again in my head.

With regard to the diet, I decided this morning that I would start a two-day cleanse… which essentially means I am fasting, save for vitamin supplements.  My weight has been fluctuating only slightly over the past few weeks, but it is still about 5lbs up from my low-point.  I have lost (since January) 43lbs, and I have really been stuck there since mid-April.  Every time I have done a two-day cleanse I have lost at least 5lbs, so it is entirely possible that I could test fifteen pounds lighter than I am today.  That is a good goal, but I will settle for 10lbs.  I say this knowing that Saturday evening I am taking the family to a Brazilian steakhouse – not a very good place to diet – but that is essentially the last hoorah before my final two-week push.  Despite my travels (which, between now and the test will take me to Buffalo, Victoria, Vancouver, and Montreal) I am going to succeed, and do my absolute best on June 2nd.

More later.