An edited email exchange between Guro and a former student. I held onto it for a while because I found it valuable and helpful, and hopefully you will too. This is a conversation that is too familiar for strong martial arts teachers, and those who endure the training will be glad they did. Enjoy!
It is with much regret that I must inform you that I will no longer be attending class at Typhoon.
Up until now, I think I have tried to ignore the fact that your program requires occasion serious injury. At Tuesday’s class, I participated in my first sparring session. Even though the instructions were to not hit to the face, I somehow got punched in the nose by three different class mates. After spending the past couple of days at work with my swollen and bruised nose, I have reevaluated my desire to learn how to fight. With this extremely minor injury as a sample of much more serious injury to come, I really don’t feel comfortable with continuing.
The reason why I decided to study martial arts is so that I might be better prepared to defend myself against serious physical harm if the chance might arise. After 29 years of living, I have actually never had to fight or defend an attack and I realize that someone with my size and demeanor has a small chance of that ever occurring. For me to virtually guarantee serious physical injury in training in order to prevent the small chance of serious physical injury on the street doesn’t seem very logical. Also, being a tenure-seeking faculty member at a University demands that I keep a very professional appearance. Frequently coming to school with a fucked up face like a bar brawler could definitely hinder my chances of keeping my job.
I know that some people might see my quitting as being a pussy or a wimp, but honestly the reward of knowing how to fight isn’t worth the costs to me.
This has been a difficult decision. I want you to know that it has been a great experience getting to know you and some of the other instructors. If anyone were to ask me where in Sacramento you can go to really learn how to fight, I would tell them that you are the man to see. I think your system and your school are perfectly designed for this task. I’m afraid it’s just not for me.
I really want to thank you for your time, instruction, and kindness. Please convey my sincere thanks to Sajaad also. You two have really made efforts to make me feel at home at Typhoon.
From: maurice gatdula [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Fri 10/20/2006 9:13 AM
To: Xxxxxx, Xxxxxx
Subject: Re: Bad news!
Xxxxxx, that is disappointing.. but dont give up! I know in the beginning, guys have to learn control, which is why we start with the “touch” sparring, and chest-only sparring. This builds your confidence up and gives your eyes and reflexes a chance to catch up to the speed of your opponents. You know, you could always wear the face cage, there is no shame in that. In fact when the advance guys spar with contact, they wear it.
I know how intimidating sparring can be, but it is a necessary evil until you develop proficiency at it. Even Sajat, as strong as he is, the first time he fought contact (and this was 3 years into his training) he wanted to quit, and I didn’t let him. Then when he had his first full contact stick match with his older classmates, he tried to quit then too. But that is why full contact sparring is optional in the school for the students, its not for everybody. I think i have to blame Sajat for not watching the class closely enough during sparring, usually you can see when someone is not being careful, and if you alert them enough times they become more conscious of their contact level and targets. That is more a training issue for instructors than anything else. In fact, pretty much the only time we’ve had injuries was when the intermediate students were participating in full contact practice. Your injury really was a fluke; they usually dont happen in the regular class. Give it another chance,
I’ll make sure everyone is wearing the headgear during the sparring.
But one thing I wanted to tell you, you ARE tough enough for the training. You know, martial arts training, real martial arts training, isn’t “for” anyone new. No one comes in liking it. I think back to Darrell, Habib, Izhaar, Dullah, Sajat, Leo, none of these guys liked it in the beginning. I had to coax them back into the school to keep them (my grandparents, by contrast, simply wouldn’t allow me to quit). We’ve had periods that we didn’t spar much because of retention issues (we’ve gone more than a year), and you just happen to be here right when we were beginning to add it back into the class every night. That is why i have everyone ordering safety gear, because I realize that the “old school” won’t work when you’re trying to make a living. But the truth is, I see you hanging in there when other guys have given up. The advantage that you have over everyone else is that you are smarter than the rest of them, and there is certainly a connections between being able to process
information, and using strategy against an opponent. Some guys are all brawn, but its the guy with brains who develops the brawn who will always beat him. You have discipline, you have heart, and you definitely have the drive to get the goals you wanted when you first came. We just have to tweak the training so that we’re not sending students to work with injuries. If you stick with it long enough, you will have those goals.
One thing, also, no one goes through life fighting all the time, especially martial artists. those people don’t wait until they have an altercation to start training, they train in case something happens. Some fighters (even ring fighters) have never been in a street fight. We train so that we will never be victims, we can walk around as if we had a gun in our pocket, and so that we can look good in a T shirt….
Again, we can modify the regimen to make it safer, I was in the process of doing that anyway. But you don’t want to just give up pursuing the art because of an injury, they dont usually happen (most of the ones we’ve had were during times that we were participating in the contact sparring, and like i said, its optional). In fact the person with the most bones broken in the school is me, and that’s more out of stupidity than anything else.
Anyway, the tuition has been deposited, but I can mail you a refund. just tell me where, and I can put it in the mail this weekend.
And so I hear that this young man did come back, became very tough, and trained until he discontinued training because of his work.
Thanks for visiting.