This past weekend my parents paid us a visit. We drove to a suburban strip mall to have dinner at a chain restaurant that my mom is fond of. After dinner, we took a short walk through the strip mall. Most of the stores were already closed, but one business was still open—a martial arts school.
We stopped to watch the training. My son is two and a half and he is starting to become interested in punching and kicking. We wanted to see if he would have any interest in the martial arts class. Unfortunately, what we saw was absolutely pathetic.
It just happened that it was a Tae Kwon Do school, but I want to make it clear that I don’t think it was representative of most TKD schools. Or at least I hope it’s not.
The class had only two students, but they were both black belts. The instructor was an Asian, probably Korean. It is not uncommon for TKD schools to host young Koreans who have just graduated from college with a degree in physical education and a specialization in TKD. It is a way of giving the American students quality instruction while still being cost effective.
The students, who looked like they were in high school, were learning the 2nd degree black belt form. To say they were sloppy would be an understatement. Their movements lacked all martial intent. It looked like they were doing some weird dance.
But it got worse.
For some reason, the instructor suddenly made the students do some push-ups. Maybe it was to keep the students warmed up since they were moving so slowly. Whatever the case, these boys could not do a single proper push-up. They couldn’t keep their bodies in a straight plank and they didn’t do a full degree of motion. They were the most half-assed push-ups I ever witnessed.
The funny thing was is that both boys did the half-assed push-ups in exactly the same way. It was comical.
Now, a black belt in any martial art should be able to knock off lots of push-ups using perfect form. A black belt should also exhibit martial intent when executing a form—even if it was the first time they were learning the moves. By the time you arrive at black belt, you should already be an accomplished martial artist.
The fact that the boys were of high school age is no excuse. I don’t expect a high school boy to have the strength and power of an adult, but they shouldn’t look like they are doing a silly dance either. I know high school girls who could have whipped these “black belts.”
In a traditional society, these boys would have been on the verge of manhood. The would have accompanied their fathers into battle, even if it was only as squires. The boys I saw would not have been able to hack it in a traditional society.
Blame the instructor
The ultimate blame for this pathetic display has to lie with the chief instructor of the school. A teacher is recognized by the quality of his pupils. In this case, it is likely that the instructor has adequate skills but he just doesn’t care enough to impart that knowledge to his students. He is happy collecting their monthly fees and letting them feel that they are learning to defend themselves.
It would have taken so little to show his students how to correctly do a push-up, to throw a proper punch, or to execute a block with focus.
The sad part of this is that these boys were deprived of all the benefits of taking a martial art. Not only are they not able to defend themselves, they will also lose out on the confidence that knowing a martial art can bestow.
Taking a martial art is one of the few things that a man can do that can really change him for the better. Knowing that you can competently defend yourself can give you true self-confidence that can carry over to all aspects of your life.
Whether you are studying a martial art or just working out in the gym, train seriously, even if every one else is there killing time.
When studying a martial art, always have in the back of your mind that you might actually be required to use what you are learning to save your life or the life of another. Train as though your very life depends on it.
In the gym, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t leave five minutes early. Always push a little past your comfort zone.
Overtime, these small efforts will pay off in superior fitness and superior confidence. It may even save your life.
We only watched the boys train for a few minutes. My son quickly lost interest in what he was seeing which is just as well. Two and a half is probably too young to start taking a martial art. However, when he is ready to start learning, I know one martial arts school that we definitely will not be considering.