Thursday, December 03, 2009

Shopping Around

Looking back on 25+ years in and around various martial arts I have met a lot of different people doing a lot of different things.

There is always a temptation to think that something new is something better.

Especially as a beginner, the idea that there is some easy way to master something so hard is very appealing. After all, the training is hard - it takes time...and when we turn on the TV we see perfection. Perfection that we want. NOW. Many times as part of their marketing, these schools promise to make you "A deadly combat expert overnight" or something like that (being a deadly combat expert should be your final objective anyway).

Martial Arts training is hard work, and a constant effort every day. It has many peaks, valleys, and plateaus. As I have mentioned before, the joy of progress shows us again and again the value of hard work, patience, and commitment.

It takes many years (and a fair share of bad experiences) to develop a critical eye for what we see. Especially in martial arts, which abounds with what is sometimes called "Bullshido". It can be hard to tell fact from fiction.

Because of this, I think your first choice should be taken very carefully, and only after a lot of research and investigation. Choosing to dedicate yourself to a martial art because the school is close by the office, or because you saw it on TV, or even because your friend goes there, can lead to a lot of frustration and wasted time. Some students become so disillusioned by initial bad experiences that they never return to martial arts again. How sad.

It is best to:
1) explore several different types of styles (hard, soft, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, etc.)
2) take trial classes and see how you feel and what you like/don't like about each one - compare and contrast
3) talk to the teachers - the actual teachers teaching the classes, and the head of the school, too
4) talk to the other students - approach them outside the school to get their honest opinions
5) do not let price or location be the biggest deciding factors for you - it is worth paying a little more or travelling a little more for the best quality instruction

Choose your school like you choose a hospital - go to the best one with the best doctors that you can afford.

Once you have found a school that is right for you, I also strongly encourage beginners to spend at least 5 years (2-3 times per week) devoted to their first style before branching out into other things. This allows you to get a better sense of how deep the martial arts can go. Martial arts are not sports per se - there is more that you can get from them and they are worth deeper consideration than golf or racquetball.

Cross-training is very bad until you have a lot of experience. For beginners, it becomes very confusing and you develop mixed habits, rather than correct habits for each style. It is also important to be able to see the commonality between styles, and that is very hard for a beginner to do. I personally spread 25 years over a variety of western and Japanese martial arts, and ended up knowing a lot about a lot, but not having real mastery of any of them. I regret that decision today. Learn from my mistake.

Kali Majapahit is so great because it offers such a wide and comprehensive range of skills. You can learn to fight at all ranges and distances, on high, medium, and low lines, using striking, kicking, grappling, and weapons, as well as gaining a better understanding of health and personal development. It is an extremely well-rounded curriculum. The best I have seen in 25+ years.

For such a system, I recommend devoting 10 years instead of just 5, before going out and trying another martial art. In the end, you may not even need to. There is enough in Kali Majapahit to keep you busy for a long, long time. Trust the training.

Finally, and also very importantly, is for the art you choose to be EVOLVING.
It is good to respect tradition, but the method of teaching the art should always be under review to find the best way of fully developing the skills and understanding of the students. The Kali Majapahit I started learning in 2008 is not taught the same way today - it is taught better
and students learn faster and deeper than before. This is wonderful, and should be expected from every good school.

Make a choice, an informed choice, and then stick with it. I did.

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