Monday, July 12, 2010

Picked up another one.... *sigh*

We've had two new students join our class. One is a teenager who is new to martial arts, and the other is an older guy who's supposedly a brown-belt.  The young kid has absolutely no enthusiasm, and even when I and others spend time showing him a basic drill and how to hold his arms and hands, he does it so half-heartedly, if at all. No spirit, no willingness to even try to do it right. He acts like it's all a big drag. If it is, then why the hell does he even bother to spend the money and invest the time to show up? *shaking my head...*

The brown-belt is worse. He's supposedly trained for ten years at another Isshinryu dojo, under a different Sensei, but his gi doesn't fit him. He's tromping around on the heels of his pants, and ties his obi like it's a bathrobe sash. He doesn't know any of the most basic drills, the most basic stances, and doesn't know any kata, at all. But he's a brown-belt and out-ranks the rest of us who have been training our hearts out. It's ridiculous... I'm sure the other two brown-belts who really train hard and know their stuff, can't possibly be real pleased about it.

So now we have three slugs. The white-belt who can't be bothered to even try, the brown-belt who just can't possibly be a brown-belt, and another brown-belt who has absolutely no enthusiasm.

I look at the black-belts that show up to class, and I respect the hell out of every one of them. Each one of them is an amazing fighter, displays a ton of heart, train their hearts out, and really have some snap and pop to their techniques.

We have five brown-belts. One is out due to a bad shoulder injury, two of them train their hearts out and really work hard, and the other two are just absolute slugs.. I know I shouldn't worry about what anyone else is doing, or what they are getting out of the class, but it still bugs me. If they don't want to be there, why do they bother? *sigh* I would never dare broach the topic with Sensei. If I were a teacher, I wouldn't want to hear a student bad-mouthing other students, and I've only been at this dojo for seven months. I'm also a "butter belt," so it's better that I just keep my big mouth shut and just keep right on working my ass off.

I'm testing for orange belt on the 24th of this month, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going redouble my own efforts, because there is a lot of room for improvement with the Seiuchin kata, and with Charts I and II.

I showed Sensei the kick that I came up with, and he liked it. One of the brown-belts said that she learned a similar kick in Kachi-Kimbo. I thought that was really cool... There is nothing new under the sun, and I'm not arrogant enough to think that a kick that powerful would be something that no one else has ever thought of or tried. Instead of being disappointed, I was glad. It reaffirms that it's a good and true technique, and lets me know that I'm on a valid pathway of thought.

Here's a photo we took last night with Sensei Fugate, since all three of us are yellow-belts, for now:


  1. Man, that really stinks. Ironically, I have the exact same problem now. Two guys showed up and started "training" with us a couple weeks ago, and they're absolutely worthless. They don't train outside of class, they don't take drills seriously and they have no interest in anything the class is doing, they prefer to just dick around in the corner.

    When some of us older students were asked to show them some of the basics, I tried and was patient, but the kid wasn't even open to learning anything, he just wanted to punch stuff. He'd even throw in a couple "extras" during drills! WTF?! I didn't say anything, other than, "you need to work more on the basics before you try to build on them in the drills," and yeah I was rough on him, in an effort to get through to him. Likely didn't work.

    In my experience these people don't last long, and if they do, you sort of get used to their dead weight and just plan to never work with them if you can help it. They also serve as a great example for why it's important to get the basics down, and how costly sloppiness can be.

    On another note, we got a newer student a few months back I told you about, who's LEAGUES better than all the rest of us. I'm sure it could tick him off that he doesn't have many people he can train with that's at his level, but when I work with him I make it clear that I'm there to learn, I'm going to take it seriously and I'm not going to waste his time by working with me.

    Best of luck man, and try not to let 'em get ya down. :)

  2. Thanks, Jimmy. I'm hoping that the white belt begins to step up a little. I'm still hoping that he'll get it together and make the decision to begin putting forth some honest effort. I'm more willing to cut him some slack and give him the benefit of the doubt, than I am, the brown belt.

    Martial arts is a small world, and Isshinryu is even smaller. If I were Sensei, I'd pick up the phone and put a call to the brown belt's former Sensei and find out the real story, because something is screwed-up.

    I think that when we have jiyu kumite or sparring, that we may lose one of the slugs, or else they'll begin training with real sincerity.

    I'm not the most skilled practitioner, but I do give 100 percent. In this, I feel like I'm honoring my Sensei, my classmates, and those that take the time to help me out. If I gave any less, it would sit poorly with my own sense of honor.

  3. Have you calmed down yet? Is it safe to speak? (just kidding). I understand your frustration, I expect most dojos have their fair share of dead wood. We do, but you know what? Sometimes some of that dead wood comes alive again (miraculous I know). I've known people who for two years never really put the effort in, then suddenly woke up, realised what it was all about and started training properly - we have a couple of very competent brown belts now who were lousy purple belts! Be patient, give people a chance. It could be that your new teenager is not there voluntarily (Father wanting his feeble son to toughen up?). Your brown belt may be having to adjust to a more robust environment than he was used to before (even within the same style each dojo can have its own micro culture). It's likely that your sensei is quietly assessing this guy over a few weeks to see if he shapes up. May be his fitness level is low at the moment and he needs to build on that. May be he just finds you tough ones a bit intimidating at the moment? I'm sure your sensei will make a decision whether to down grade this guy or just hold him there until his skill level catches up with his grade. If you respect your sensei then trust his judgement on this.

    The grading system is full of perceived unfairness sometimes. I was disgruntled at my 2nd kyu grading because another woman grading for 5th kyu at the same time didn't even know her syllabus (or could even read it)and so I spent time with her in the kitchen going over it just before the grading. She puts very little effort into training but scored only 3 marks less than me. I was happy with my mark but disgruntled with hers - I felt she should have barely scraped a pass. But this was only perceived unfairness - you can't directly compare the mark of a 5th kyu with the mark of a 2nd kyu. Didn't stop me feeling upset though!

  4. Hahaha.. Thanks, Sue. You know exactly where I'm coming from, then. And yes, I do trust my Sensei. I don't think he'll downgrade the guy, but yeah, he'll probably hold him at his present level for a while, and that is as it should be. I'm not going to worry about the dead wood, as much as they are a real annoyance. I suspect that they will either crap out and quit, or else they will step up and begin applying themselves. Either way, that's between them and their own conscience.

    The only thing I have control over, is myself and my own training and effort, and I want to be the very best that I can. The only ones that the slugs are cheating, are themselves. The cream will rise to the top.

    As for the two brown-belts that just train their hearts out, I hope they both make black belt, because they are both quality individuals, and IMHO, bring the kind of intensity and heart that are characteristic of our other black belts.

    If the two slugs make black belt, that's fine. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. I am proud of my dojo, and just wish that everyone in the higher kyus could be the kind of caliber befitting their rank.

  5. I enjoy your blog and sensed your frustration over the newer students at your sensei's dojo. Having become a karate student in much the same way you did (my sons started in their youth classes one year before I decided to join the adult class), I have a different perspective on new students in general.

    1. new students are one of the principal ways a dojo can continue to operate. They provide the sensei and sempai with an opportunity to refocus on the basics that form the foundation of karate. They also re-introduce the existing student bodies to proper basic techniques, and the opportunity to correct "bad habits" that have developed.

    2. you cannot make someone want to do something, in other words, you can only motivate yourself and attempt to get others equally enthused about karate. If they don't want it, or want it as much as you, then it's up to them to change. No amount of arguing, convincing, etc. is going to work. You may understand why the Okinawan sensei's of note had students come to them seeking instruction. In other words, the students' motivation was already present.

    3. I would recommend that you not discuss this with your sensei. It is not your dojo, it is sensei's dojo. Sensei is more aware of what is going on than you think. In the dojo I attend, we have had students of other styles join the dojo, but they all join as white belts. Their advancement will likely be quicker than others without any background, but they all start at the back of the line until sensei grants them appropriate rank.

  6. Thanks, Denman. These are the same conclusions I've come to, as well. My own advancement has been quick, and I'm pleased with my progress; not only in kyu grades, but also personally. It just motivates me all the more.

    I agree that new karateka should start out at white belt. It prevents situations like the one that we're presently having, with this new brown belt fellow.

    It's not my place to say anything about anyone. The guy is showing himself up at every drill and every time we work on the most rudimentary basics, so I'm not going to worry about it.

    I'm just going to keep right on doing what I'm doing, try to keep myself from getting injured, (I pulled a groin muscle, last night! Ouch!), and keep on giving 100%.

    Thanks again, and good luck with your training! :-)

  7. I'm laughing over here - with you, not at you, though - as I can also relate. Trouble for me was that the slugs I trained with came through the ranks with me. Three of them started years before me but did nothing outside of the dojo, half-stepped through their forms and basically looked like absolute crap. And yes, I had a HUGE problem with it - basically because when we went out for grading or tournaments, their gis had the same patches on them as mine. Although they did represent themselves, they represented me by default, too. Their attitudes, sloppy presentation and devil-may-care manner of stepping through drills, kata and kumite literally made me sick to my stomach. Bleech!!

    But unlike you, Sue and Denman, I did mention it to them - as respectfully as possible. Coming to class once (or twice or five) times a week does not a karateka make - no more than standing in a garage makes you a car. A karateka's also gotta also have heart and karate spirit - and by not reminding them of that, I felt like a huge disservice was being done to the kyus behind us, looking to ALL OF US for guidance and some idea of what the heck all this stuff is about. Just my two cents worth...

    Good luck with your upcoming grading, Frank. Orange will look good on you, I'm sure :-)

  8. I guess I should mention that I didn't have "the talk" with the slugs I trained with until after I'd out-ranked them and graded for shodan. Didn't want to appear TOO disrespectful!!!

  9. Right on, Felicia. I don't know that anyone has spoken to the young brown belt that's in our class, and it's certainly not my place to do so, so aside from being diplomatic, I more or less just ignore him.

    I found out that the older brown belt had trained for ten years under a different Sensei, and then had a break for five years. Apparently, he was injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and sustained some frontal lobe damage.

    I have all the compassion in the world for that, being a Desert Storm veteran, myself. I hope he remembers things and continues to progress. I'm willing to cut him a lot more slack, and it's been a good lesson for me about not jumping to conclusions.

    Now, all that being said, if he's sustained that level of head trauma, then my personal thought is he should go back to white belt and begin all of his training anew. Maybe as he learns the stances and kata all over again, his memory will come rushing back, and if it does, then I don't think anyone would have a problem with his advancement being on a more accelerated pace.

    Anyway, it's not for me to decide. It's an odd situation. I'd like to take him and the white belt aside and show them how to properly tie their obi, anyway...

    I'm just going to keep giving 100% and I'm going to quit worrying about what anyone else does or doesn't do. This seems to be the best path.

  10. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to approach him on Saturday and ask him if he'd like to go through the Seisan Kata together, or work on Chart I. I want to help him. I'm hoping he'll let me, and won't feel offended. It's a bit of a ticklish situation, but as one combat vet to another, maybe it'll work out for the best.

  11. Aha - a mystery solved!

    That's an excellent idea, Frank. Our third black belt (there's Sensei, me, and the third guy) joined us about three years back when I was a purple belt. He's a third dan, earned more than 16 years ago, who then sustained horrific (I do not use the word lightly) burn injuries in an explosion. In the process, his brain was lightly cooked, and he has some memory problems, including a serious difficulty turning new memories into permanent ones. All his Isshinryu memories are in there - somewhere - but it takes time, repetition and a lot of patience for him to dig them out. Going over kata and drills side by side with him seems to work the best of almost anything, and now that he's regained his early and mid-level katas, it's almost exclusively my job.

  12. Excellent, PB. Thanks and good luck to him!!