Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How Martial Arts are Viewed Lately...

I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend flipping through tv and there's a channel called FitTv. This particular channel caught my eye because it was all about martial arts. They covered Jujitsu, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Karate, and TaeKwonDo. The show was geared towards getting fit but the questions being asked of the instructors were about self defense and how it related to getting fit. Beleek seemed interested in the show but as it went on I felt hurt that this was the perception the public really has of martial arts, that their only value is for aerobic exercise...at least that's what the Kung Fu master and the TaeKwonDo master said. After the show was over, my girlfriend asked me which one of those schools were good and which ones weren't. I said at first glance, the Karate place and the Tai Chi place. She asked why those and not the other ones. I should mention we have a form of TiVo at our house so I could go through the show and give examples of why I personally would go to one over the other. While typing this and discussing this with Andy, he made a good observation. She wasn't asking me which style was "stronger" but which school I felt taught better or I would look at after seeing the information presented in the 5 min segments on each one. First off I showed the TaeKwonDo dojo (cause it was last and I was rewinding). I picked a particular frame and froze the tv and pointed out a few things that looked out of place for me personally picking a dojo. In the frame, there was a merchandise section of his shop that had huge collections of shirts, buttons, hats, posters, it was like the whole place was a billboard. The key thing that stuck out was a banner over the instructors head that read "Your Goal is to Become a Black Belt". That may be people's general idea of what to strive for, but isn't it our responsibility to change that perception? The Tai Chi class was taught by Terry Dunn who said blatantly "Tai Chi was originally a martial art, but the class I teach is not" and I totally respect that. The Kung Fu school I can't for sure say what I did and didn't like about it, so I'll leave that one alone. The Jujitsu school's instructor had a gi with so many patches, his black gi looked checkered. He had his own boxing ring in his dojo and after the FitTv lady said "let's say I'm someone right off the street and have never heard of jujitsu before, what can I be expected to do first", he went into a routine of 20 something strikes and throws as her first exercise. Everything he did looked flashy and it just was strange. Now for the Karate teacher. They said he was the 4th American to be given the ok from Japan to teach Karate in America. He was an old black man with a rustic simple dojo, a few mats, and mirrored walls. Beleek asked me what distinguished him from the other guys and Bryce was walking through and said "his black belt is so old and used it's turning white". I just wanted to post this because I see these chains of dojo's everywhere and kids and adults walking into my workplace still wearing their gi's and belts talking about how high their kicks have gotten. That's a good goal, but is that all people look for anymore out of any of the martial arts?

4 comments:

Andy said...

A thought popped into my head after reading all of this. Tai Chi is sorta a perfect example of how a martial art is now an exercise routine, sure there are still people out there teaching the martial art aspect but its obvious they're outnumbered 10-1 by the old people in the park. Tae Kwon do has basically turned into another option to soccer and you have things like Tae Bo out there that people can exercise to. Maybe that's just where the collective martial arts are heading? 50 years down the road or more after the "Bruce Lee generation" is gone all that will be left is dojo after dojo of people doing the Tae Bo eqiuivalent of Shorin Ryu. The whole MMA thing isnt helping but im sure that's another discussion. On the other hand, Kung Fu came from monks doing exercises in the courtyard so maybe it's not that far of a stretch. I think i sorta ran around in a circle with all that... more later.

Jory-san said...

"which one of those schools were good and which ones weren't. I said at first glance, the Karate place and the Tai Chi place."

the karate place and the tai chi place were good or weren't good?

How did you come to find the Fugakukai and what lead you to pick it (if others were available?)?

p.s. i picked up your link on aikiweb.

John Wood said...

The Karate Dojo and Tai Chi place I thought were the better of the ones presented. They were simple and straight-forward about what they taught and didn't seem to be selling anything other than their teaching you. I ended up sorta falling into the Fugakukai. I always wanted to take Aikido ever since I was a little kid and watched a clip of O'Sensei disarming a bunch of students who had bokkens. A friend from high school knew a guy he'd met in college who took Aikido and introduced me. The college guy in turn told me where he learned (which was an hour and 45 mins away) and I started driving there two to three times a week. I came from a faily small town and there weren't any other Aikido places within three hours driving distance. Now that I'm in Florida there are tons of Aikikai places and no Fugakukai places within driving distance. Luckily I'm rooming with the same friend I mentioned from high school and the guy he introduced me to, so I still get to work out once or so a week. How about yourself?

John Wood said...

Looking back on this post, I'd like Andy to follow up on his initial post. Lately I haven't given up on helping people find a good school, but I have given up on the general public's perception of martial arts. I can only serve to demonstrate what I think they should be for me personally. Back to Andy's post, I'm really curious to see how, or more importantly, IF they change at all