The Mean and Nasty Old Master
This will be really quick. I am sure I’ve posted on this subject several times before, but I felt compelled to write on it one more time.
Experience has told me that when I meet a rude, nasty old man who appears to not want new students–I should perhaps tolerate his barbs and earn the right to learn from him. Some of you martial arts-consumers probably couldn’t fathom what I mean. I will attempt to convey pronto.
Much of the martial arts that is easily found for anyone with a few bucks–whether by seminar, video, youtube clip, or dojo–is decent, good material. However, most of it is not taught correctly and that fact alone renders the validity of the art and techniques irrelevant. I could know how to throw the most vicious and powerful hook; one that Mike Tyson himself would feel all warm and fuzzy about if he saw me hit someone with it. Yet, if I don’t properly train you on how to actually DO that technique correctly–if I don’t pass on to you the full understanding of how to counter with it, how to counter the counters your opponent will throw, how to force the technique through if the opponent closes his openings, how to generate power with it when I’m exhausted, how to use the technique against a faster opponent… everything that should accompany the knowledge of how to throw that hook, your knowledge will be as useless as your 11th grade Spanish class. It’s not in the knowledge, it’s in the application. Those things cannot be learned from a teacher or medium that is ill-equipped to ensure you possess those things. In other words, a qualified teacher. And not just a qualified teacher, but a teacher that will not end the lesson just because he needs to get to the next city and collect another $5,000 bucks. A teacher who will stay with you until you fully understand all those things–not one who will just drop the technique on you and hope you practice when he gets on that plane. Or a method of learning that is over when the pizza arrives and you have to shut down the computer.
The best teachers you will find are not going to be accepted by the masses. He will be patient with information he imparts to you. He will be an absolute authoritarian in the class room. He will not give you breaks when you feel like you will pass out. He will tell you to shut up and train when you ask to learn those cool weapons on the wall. He will make you train the same techniques until you hurt, train till you get bored, train till you get mad and quit. Because the kind of training one will need to totally submit to in the effort to attain the level of skill that satisfies him enough to promote you will suck. It will be less attractive than anything money can buy. It will be harder to obtain and and moment you will be allowed to say that you “know” it is a vague, mysterious point in the future that seems to move further and further away each time you think you’re getting closer.
And most people who pursue the martial arts is not wired for this kind of commitment. This is why some martial arts students still have their first set of sparring gear to show friends, and why others (very few others, I might add) can’t even remember what happened to their first set of sparring gear because they’ve owned about 50 sets in their lifetime. I would say that the percentage of martial arts students who really want the real, serious stuff is about a fraction of 1% of those who actually sign up for a school. Notice I am not including the guys who “self-train” and only work out in small groups and attend seminars: The most serious of martial arts students will actually commit to a teacher and school and stick with it for years–1% of them. Sadly, most of the schools that one would find are not led by a teacher knowledgeable enough to provide this kind of training as well.
So, what happens is that martial arts students will join a school, achieve the Black Belt, train for years after that, then leave to seek out something/someone higher and deeper, go from school to school, style to style, and if he’s lucky–one day he may encounter that old man who may or may not have a school.
Let me tell you about that old man. If you know or have learned or seen anything about the martial arts–he has seen and learned and knows more. Depending on his age, he may have forgotten more than you have seen. If you truly are the serious student of the arts that you hope to be–he was once a man like you, encountering a man like him. Sometimes, that old man has a school and will be open to taking on students. If you approach him correctly, he will teach you in the manner that is necessary to achieve the skill level you covet. More likely than not, if he takes you as a student, you will get the foo-foo lessons and will have to prove yourself to get the real lessons. You may have to grovel. In this day and age, whether you are in America or the Philippines (trust me, they are getting pretty bad in the Philippines these days)–students try to control their teachers with power of money and the power of going elsewhere–and you won’t grovel. Or on the other hand, he may not want to take on any new students. He believes that today’s student is an uncommitted, impatient, lazy oaf who does not deserve his time and knowledge. Your money and flattering compliments mean nothing to him. You must convince him to take him as a student. He had schools, many years ago, just like he had a wife. His students ruined him financially by quitting and/or paying tuition late. His students made him second guess his chosen calling by being far less than appreciative and consistent than he had been in his youth. They were lazy and complained too much. In all these years, he was unable to find a student willing to sleep on floors, sit at his feet, and pay his stinking bills on time. So here he is, at the dawn of his life, with all that knowledge and skill and experiences… and along comes one more asshole who interrupts his nap, talking about he’s a *different* kind of martial arts students. Yeah right, go stand in line kid. They all say that.
So he takes you as a student, finally, and shows you his first three hits in his system. He sends you to the back yard or the classroom, and tells you to throw 2,000 strikes and let him know when you’re done. After that workout, you attend one or two, but then work gets busy. Or the cost of a plane ticket doesn’t justify the four days of callouses and sore joints you experience–just to go home empty handed. Or you find an authorized representative of a well-known master who will introduce you to a celebrity master or two. For the rest of your life, possibly after that mean and nasty old master had died, you recall that time you got ripped for $300 worth of shit lessons in some old codger’s back yard. You are still searching for the path to mastery, unaware that you had and lost that one brush with the possibility of achieving it. So, like the rest of the guys you once said you’d be nothing like–you join associations, you pad your resume and rank with easy-to-obtain add-on arts, you avoid the younger versions of that old man to hang out with non-confrontational sissies like you. And you wonder if true masters and martial arts secrets really do exist.
Thanks for visiting my blog.