Sunday, September 2, 2012


     I looked at the young man who had entered my training hall to inquire about classes.  We retired to my office so that I could explain something about the art I teach, and what is involved in training.  "I have a bad left knee," he explained.  "So, would it be okay if I don't do kicks and other techniques with that leg?"
     Ask any martial arts teacher and he’ll give you many varied versions of this same story.  Aspiring pupils come in and lay their "baggage" on the table straight away…
everything from bad backs to tennis elbow to arthritic hips to poor eyesight.  They all seem to believe that their problem is unique and that the teacher should make special allowances for them.  They are, they believe, different from the other students who are out on the floor.  They have special needs.
     Basically, prospective students who enter the training hall with excess baggage come in one of two flavors.  There are those who ask that they be given special treatment and who believe that the teacher may, in some way, be able to "fix" their problem(s) or work around it.
     Then there are those who approach the school and teacher much as one would approach a waitress.  The school and the teacher are, insofar as they're concerned, primarily a business.  They order up what they want and how they want it and fully expect the business proprietor to comply.
     In both cases, the inquiring student is usually very surprised (and sometimes shocked) when I make it clear that no special allowances are made for anybody.  That's just the way it is in the world of martial arts.  If you have a bad knee your kicks probably won't ever be as good as those of the fellow standing next to you but you'll still be expected to give it your best effort.  I've had students who wore prosthetic arms and legs and they were expected to learn how to execute all the movements and techniques of the art with their prostheses.  And they did very well!
     Martial arts teachers usually respond to the "extra baggage" applicant in one of two ways.  Some teachers will tell the student that they'll find a way to "work around" their problem; they may be excused from certain aspects of training that they find too difficult.  This kind of approach is, in my opinion, the mark of a weak instructor. 
     The other type of teacher will politely inform the student that he or she will simply have to learn to make do; that exemptions are made for no one, regardless of the baggage they bring with them.  I think that this is one of the marks of a superior instructor.
     Someday, I'm going to put a basket inside the front door of the training hall and post a sign on it: "Leave Extra Baggage Here."

1 comment:

  1. Your dazzling work has won my heart. I’ll come soon to your site with new hope.

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