Stereo Types

This posting is not me trying to say what is right or what is wrong. It’s not about “who” may be right or wrong. And mostly, no matter what I write or post will not change “the world or society”. That is not my intension nor do I hold the power to do so.

This one is about “stereo types”. ALL TYPES OF STEREO TYPES…

The definition of a stereo type is: “to believe unfairly that all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same”.

It really comes down to our own choices. The choice to express or live out your given right of freedom verses your personal self or property being in jeopardy of harm in verbal or physical means.

First look at stereo types. Stereo types have been around long before we were born. They are there, created by society in different fashions such as music, movies, books, to social media and social life itself. Rappers tend to dress and act in a certain manner. Metalheads and hippies do the same. Even down to movie stars and Reality Star Diva’s, they can all be grouped into some sort of stereo type. I can not say weather they like it or enjoy it or even care, but they do. If you turn on any Real House Wives of ______, you will automatically have an idea in your head of what they all will act like or sound like. Most the time you are right..

Before going off too far from the topic, my point of writing this posting is, this. If you do not want to be judged as a specific stereo type, then please do not play the part. Depending on where you live, if you wear jeans 4 sizes too big, underwear hanging out, baggy shirt and over size jacket, plus the hat turned sideways, then there will be a good chance, you will be viewed as that type of person.

Think of it this way. If you dressed up in a firemans gear and went to the store, everyone would automatically think you are a fireman. Well, if you dress as a “thug”, or “skater rat”, or a “punk”, most will automatically precieve you into this role. It’s that simple.

Over the last couple years there have been some very high profile news stories where individuals have been beaten by others or some even shot by police. Much of this comes from someone being steroe typed as a dangerous person or a threat. Again, I cant say who’s in the right or wrong, partly because we never get 100% of the real story.

Could some instances been avoided had someone not dressed a certain way, acted a certain way, felt threatened by a making that stereo type upon someone else?? I don’t know.

So, this is just a ramble with no proper beginning or end, and no questions answered. Just know and learn that profiling and being placed in a stereo type will never go away, and sometimes YOU may have the power to change the process or outcome..


Why Do We Bow

I just came across this article and thought it would be great to share with my students and others who may come across it. I am taking this from Darlington Taekwondo Martial Arts, and here is the whole page..!Why-Do-We-Bow-In-Martial-Art/c1qpz/55a2abdf0cf21636d2fc4d8d

Give it a read and I hope you all enjoy…

Bowing in the martial arts is a very simple act but one that is extremely important. Many students often bow just because they are told they have to and don’t understand the crucial meaning behind it. Bowing between Instructors and students shows the respect felt among themselves and towards each other. It also shows you care. When you bow, you are not bowing to that person, but respecting the knowledge and skill that person has acquired, and to the rank that they have attained. Bowing is about heart and feeling and it’s about what is said without speaking. It is about paying respect.

Bowing also symbolizes humility. When you bow to a higher grade you are acknowledging they know more about martial arts than you. Being humble is a very important trait to have in every aspect of your life and every time you bow you should remind yourself to be modest and always think of others. It is very good for keeping your ego in check.

How to bow: Always ensure your feet are together with no gaps. Your hands are by your side and you bow 45 degrees from the waist with your eyes lowered.

When to bow and why:

  • TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR: The most important person to bow to is your Instructor, for they are the one that will teach you everything you will ever learn about the martial arts. For this you will be forever in their debt. This you can never repay but hopefully one day pass onto others. You should bow when you first meet your Instructor and also when you say goodbye and also if they help you in any way. The bond between a student and their Instructor is one that will last a lifetime and is based on respect, trust and loyalty. This is rare and should be cherished.

  • WHEN ENTERING THE DOJANG: Bowing when entering the dojang has several meanings to think about. Firstly it symbolises clearing your mind and leaving all your problems at the door. It allows you to have “you” time where you can concentrate solely on your martial art. This is fantastic for stress release and to get the most out of your training. When you bow you should also “empty your cup.” This means you go into the lesson as a black canvas and ready to learn whatever is taught that day. Students who arrive at lessons already thinking they know it all will develop big egos and this is against everything the martial arts promote. Importantly you are bowing to what the room represents as an avenue to learn and grow and an environment of positive change.

  • WHEN YOU LEAVE THE DOJANG: This signifies that your training has finished. Also that you are grateful for the knowledge received that lesson from your Instructor.

  • AT THE START/END OF THE LESSON: The highest grade should always command the whole class to bow to the Instructor as a sign of respect and gratitude at the start and the end of the lesson.

  • WHEN TRAINING WITH A PARTNER: Partners should always shake hands as well after training. Bowing indicates that the practitioners are alert and ready and also that they wish no harm to their partner. Bowing after training together shows gratitude to the other person. Each person learns something about themselves during training and the ending bow is thanking the other person for the learning.

Why bowing is so important.
When one doesn’t understand why you bow, they are not doing wrong, but missing out on a journey of self discovery and philosophy

So the next time you bow, think about the context of the situation. Who are you bowing to? Why? What purpose does it serve? Within that context, how can you be the best student you can possibly be? How can you use your time most effectively? It is these thoughts that are the mark of a true martial artist. Introspection and awareness are the hallmarks of great practitioners. Strive to be the best you can be. It involves opening your eyes, as well as your mind to everything that goes on within the dojang, not just the physical.

Which Martial Arts is Better???

What came first the chicken or the egg? Coke or Pepsi?? McDonalds or Burger King??? Is there any real scientific really correct answer??

This has been an ongoing question since before my time and possibly hundreds of years before that. Maybe since the start of time and fighting?? I would hazard a guess that is one big reason of fights so long ago was to try to prove who’s martial art was better??

Well fast forward to the 21st century and it’s still an ongoing question. One big addition these days, is it’s not really a question anymore but has come to more of a statement among artist. Youtube seems to be our best source of exchanging ideas in the form of video and if you take any amount of time and read any comments to any karate video you will see it, in it’s full force.

Sayings like “that would never work”, “this is crap, I could take him down any day”, “that would never work against my MMA”. Oh it goes on and on and on, longer than anyone wishes to read.

So back to our question. Is any martial art better than another?? One thing I often say, there is too many variables to begin to compare. Do we ever compare apples and oranges??? No, they say in school we cant until a common denomination is found. TKD vs TKD, maybe but again with the variables. You could have a student with an excellent instructor against a student with a “not so great instructor”. One could be very athletic in general verses another without so much natural athletic skills.

Now with the risk of getting my ass kicked, MMA these days seem to lead the pack with this higher mentality. This could also fit into the situation mentioned above. Many artists of other styles have crossed over to MMA leaving the number of other arts lower. That would easily mess up actual numbers in trying to figure this type of thing out. I have seen postings saying that a lot of MMA fighters have missed out on the tradition side of martial arts or discipline side of it. Either way I have read postings that must cover 90% of every martial art and student/instructor.

My personal belief and I think I am pretty close on this…. it’s all in the hands of the martial artist. No art is better than another and we can only better ourselves in learning this and accepting this. Many arts may be a thing of the past, once dominating a country or the world only to fall victim to time, economy, and public opinion.

MMA is the newest explosion of martial art across the USA since TKD & Kenpo in the 70’s & 80’s. It was becoming very popular and after The Karate Kid came out, it exploded into the next hemisphere. Today, with the popularity of MMA fighting on TV, film, and PPV, there is a good chance you live within 50 miles of two or three schools.

But know that every martial art was created for a reason or because of a reason. I do not know a lot of history of all the martial arts out there, or much of any besides my own, but everyone has the power of the internet to learn on it. Second, I believe it comes down to what a practitioner needs or wants from a martial art.

I have seen many classes and video’s on Youtube that I would highly question if it would work in real life. Some of these they make the claim that it is real self defense or real fighting, while others leave out any info or comments to the application. In TKD there are couple of kicks done that I don’t think would ever be of use in any self defense situation, but it is great to work balance and stretching. These same kicks are put to use in some prearranged defense moves but more to work coordination, balance, focus and control. All things important in defense situations.

Lets also not forget history or tradition. Why does some students in college learn Sandskrit or some language extinct a millennia ago??? Because they fell in love with it and respect it. I wish I have the time and resources to study Aikido, because I love the way the art is the opposite of mine and learning how the body moves in a more flowing path. I also love the meditation and piece of the art. I found myself more humbled and at piece with myself when I had lessons for a little while.

No one will ever stop public option and their freedom to express their personal views on people who post Youtube video’s. Lord knows I have seen more garbage out there and I would like to admit, but don’t judge a system by watching a few students. TKD, Judo, Kenpo, Aikido, and MMA to name a few are all great martial arts. All created for a reason and practiced for defense, art, and love. If some guy attacked me and got me to the ground I’m in trouble. If 5 guys attacked a MMA fighter, he may be in trouble. If a guy with a gun shot at an Aikido(er), pretty sure he’s in trouble too.

Personal belief??? No one art has it all. No “one” person has it all. The best martial artist out there would take a minute to step back and then want to learn what he saw. Maybe to share it with others, or maybe to help that person understand it may not work because of this reason or that reason. I would hope if I was doing or teaching something wrong in a defense situation another martial artist would professionally speak to me after and talk and walk through it with me and say “here is what is wrong and WHY it may not work”…

That’s how we learn… at least for me.

“No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher…” Mr. Miagi

Fight Or Flight???

This is a good article I found from Black Belt Magazine Jan ’08

clgen-casino-it SCHOOL FIGHTS
Across America, fights and suspensions in public schools are on the rise. A fight is any form of offense that involves two or more parties. Even if one person starts it, all are responsible if they engage in combat.
If someone punches you, aren’t you allowed to punch back in self-defense? In school, that depends. While your parents may have taught you to stand up for yourself and not let others get away with physical violence, the public-school system doesn’t agree. With few exceptions, if you engage in a fight, you’ll receive punishment that’s similar to what the instigator receives.
If you want to avoid trouble, you cannot engage in a fight. If attacked, you should run away. Once a punch is thrown, you may defend but not offend. Defending means you can effect a block or manipulate an attacker’s striking limb, but you can’t hit back. Doing so transforms a one-sided assault into a two-sided fight.
When is striking acceptable? Only when you’re cornered or pinned. Then you may use reasonable force to remove an attacker. However, once he retreats, you must stop. If you keep attacking, you become the offender. Forget about retaliating because that automatically makes you the aggressor. If an injury occurs, the cops will probably be called. If not, most schools will opt to follow their own procedures.
The final facet of fighting in school concerns age. If an 18-year-old student pounds a younger student, the 18-year-old student will have violated additional laws because he’s considered an adult, and the other student is a juvenile.
Your best bet is simply to avoid fighting. If someone threatens you, report him to an administrator. If he attacks you, shout or run for help. If you choose to strike back, be prepared to face the consequences.
Taken from article written by Joe Chianakas and published in Black Belt magazine, Jan 08. There is no secret of youth more powerful:
New knowledge, new skills, new ways of looking at the world, keep mind and body growing. Deepak Chopra

What’s the Rush???

What’s the Rush????

I had this idea for a small writing and as I was reading one of my last post about age limits for black belts, I did find I may be repeating myself too much. BUT, I keep seeing over and over again the rank “children” are given that is just not deserved. It is not the student’s fault they are given unearned rank but the fault of the teachers and parents.

I don’t write this to take aim or stabs at any particulate school or instructor but to try to put some more info and education out there so the future possible student/parent can make to proper decisions for themselves. I’m not a Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, and I will not change the world of martial arts in my life time, but I have slowly becoming well received in my own town and I hope I can maintain my standards with my students and they will then carry it on.

Most martial arts have become to Americanized in many ways. The easy breakdown of this is, it has become more important to keep the kids 110% happy all the time because we are afraid they will quit. Some of this now falls onto the parents, who have let their kids quit because they got yelled at in class or because the class is too hard or they have to work harder than they want to. Sorry to say but hard work and extremely hard work is what martial arts is all about.

I never hear stories of parents taking their kids out of football because they got tackled too hard or because they had to run laps around the field for misbehaving. If anything they get in more trouble when they get home. I do not know why it is like this, but my personal guess is that they see more tangible rewards with sports like trophies, winning games & tournaments plus the possibility of playing for a college and the pro’s later in life. To assure your good development as an athlete, check out this natural testosterone booster.

Earning your black belt to me should be like walking across the united states. Walking & running not driving or flying. It will take a very, very, very long time, but imagine all that we could see while doing this. How many beautiful sights there are and how many ugly nasty disgusting places there is. You will have some good days, some great days, and some pretty awful and painful days.

The overall goal would be to make to the opposite ocean, and that should be the day we die. All the time in between is the journey to live in each minute and love it for what it has given you. Each day will give you love, if you accept it. It will give you hope and dreams if you look for it. It will give you pain and heart ache to make us stronger. It will also give us a purpose in life, be it searching, teaching, living, or loving.

I recently saw a picture of a student who got their brown belt in TKD and I think they were about 9 years old. Like previous posting, in martial arts (any martial arts) there comes maturity with rank. I am not talking about giggling during fart jokes, but an overall maturity. We don’t give car keys and a license to a 14-year-old do we?? They could probably drive a car pretty good with a little practice, but in the end they are not old enough or mature enough to make the decisions needed in the moment in driving if something was to go wrong.

Same with martial arts. Some of these “kids” get these higher ranks and they begin to think too highly of themselves or their ability. And yes I have seen their ability and it is not very good. They have the potential to get into a situation they are not ready for and then may put themselves in harm’s way. Do they know any better? No of course not, they got their red belt just like 50 of their friends did so they must be strong, tough and smart, right??

Now how do we go about in learning what may be right or wrong?? I wish I had the answer but I do not. I may be able to point out directions for you to look at and some personal advice but thats about it. This is your journey or your student/child journey. If I was to say take one directing you might miss out on something great or it could be the better path without us knowing it. Best advice is do your research!!!!! There is no deadline in choosing a martial arts school. Most run all year-long and you can check them out at anytime. Just call them and ask.

What do we look for that good and bad?? I have found a couple great articles through Google, just type in what your questions is and there will be several pages or blogs about it. I suggest read them all first, then try to makes some opinions of your own. Compile all your data first. There is the chance that a bad school or bad practices from a school are being praised by someone who knows no better. Try look for “What to look for in a martial arts school”.

I can tell you about my own journey, so read on if you wish… I moved myself and family from one of the coast to central Iowa. I had trained with my instructors for about 13 years before moving. I had wanted to open my own school but didnt know how or where to begin, so I was looking around the area for a school to join.

While visiting the first school I found in my town, the first thing I saw when checking them out was a little girl about 8 yrs old, already with a brown belt with techniques so very sloppy and another telling her how great she looked. Next thing I saw, was another brown belt barley able to pull off a side kick belt high. The class had about 35 students which I was a little excited for a large school, but it was white belts to black belts, do drills with eery rank doing something different, running into each other, almost kicking each other by mistake, one instructor, and everyone very sloppy.
I was not very impressed. During forms, no one was instructing anyone, each rank was on their own, and to end the class (and every class I watched or tried out) they did breaking with boards cut down to little slivers. Little kids and lower ranks, I understand, but older kids and adults breaking 1 or 2, 4″ boards with a side kick and having the rest of the students so impressed, showed me, this was not the school for me…. I had to move on.

Other places I check out were very similar, with kids in ranks they did not deserve. Giving break or rest periods in class for the people to hang out and chat, and I even saw one place that let one kid take breaks and go sit on the floor by his mom while she fed mim M & M’s for 5 minutes…

This has gone off the track a little bit but, it’s all part of the same story. Places like these, are in too much of a rush to get you in and promote you up the ranks so your friends will join up with you and everyone can be a black belt before middle school and they take you money and give you nothing in return.

It’s not a race, it should be a very nice slow jog or walk to the finish line. I am by no means perfect nor do I ever claim to be. I may have many flaws to work on, and if I was to go in front of my instructors to do some techniques or forms, they would find many little things I need to work on myself. After almost 19 years in training, they would find mistakes, be it fist position and even breathing. The deeper we get into martial arts the more there is to learn. we don’t learn a form and forget about it, we learn it, test it, then learn more about it. It’s a never ending process that we grow to learn and love and that will make us the better martial artist than most.

So in closing, I suggest take your time, enjoy your journey and always look back at where you been as much as you look into your future….

Earning Your Black Belt

This is copied from a posting on FB from Tom Callos, a BBJ instructor and educator.

Great article about how much more to being a “black belt” really is and how a true rank of black belt in martial arts should start the second they walk out the door into our community.

Enjoy… Looking forward to some feed back and responces.

A Note on Black Belt Testing for Those Testing With Me –and to All School Owners, Should They Care to Listen

In general, earning a black belt has, in my opinion, become a joke in the martial arts world. In BJJ — no, earning a black belt …is still one major physical and mental-endurance feat; but in far too many karate or taekwondo or what have you schools, with 7, 11, and 13 year old 1st, 2nd, and 3rd dans, with schools where the adult black belts eat, look, and train like they don’t eat well, look like athletes, or train with the fire and passion we might associate with this once presumably-prestigious sign of commitment, the standards have gone to a place where you have to wonder what the Sam-hell their instructors were thinking.

It’s almost as if some billing service folks set the standards for the martial arts world –and set them lower and lower and lower every year…until it’s all come to be a slim shadow of the potential the effort and rank could and should represent, if we only held ourselves to a set of standards that made sense.

There are exceptions, of course. There are instructors whose standards set the mark for everyone, thank God. They’re simply few and far between, today.

So, if you’re testing in this coming test –or the next, here are some basic instructions and guidelines. And note: Testing for your black belt is not an event, an occurrence, or a date in the distant future, testing for your black belt is an on-going dialogue; an ongoing dialogue between you and your potential, you and others who live in the same world you do, yet live lives of extraordinary service and compassion and accomplishment —and you and everything easy, common, and less than your best effort.

Testing for a black belt could and should be like living life, in general. We (you, me) get the same tools, for the most part, as everyone else. We’ve all got xx amount of time here. Some folks use that time to live, to create, to stretch boundaries, to stand up against injustice, to reject the dishonest, and to appreciate the magic of the present moment –and some people seem to be about other things…all of various degrees of genius, marvel, wonder, apathy, triviality, and self-destructiveness.

For your black belt test, you have to force yourself to rise. To rise as an athlete; to rise as a thinker; as a doer; as a helper; as a participant; as a creative; as a man or woman of compassion; as a healer; as a team member; and as a citizen-teacher. Why? Because it’s in the realm of your potential.

And let me tell you right here and now, even the TOUGHEST black belt testing processes in the world, in BJJ and any style, even the best of the best of the best programs, haven’t even begun to tap into what it is that we could do, be, and stand for. Where are the black belts who are winning The MacArthur Fellowship or The Nobel Peace Prize? Where in the industry have the geniuses gathered to address the most pressing issues of our time –and where are the prestigious educational training programs that will lift our black belts from gi-grabbing kickers, fighters, and boxers, to men and women that represent the best of what dedicated, disciplined, focused individuals can be?

We grimace and pose for the cameras, we sell Master Club programs, we infer we are so many things we have no evidence to back, and we allow hucksters and opportunists to sell their crap at our events.

If you’re going to be a black belt with me, then you’re going to have to try, to the best of your ability, to represent all that is healthy, smart, and right about what we do. You’re going to have to leave a trail of evidence that your journey is about something other than narcissism. I want heroes. I want to can the dominant paradigm. I want humble, compassionate, engaged, aware, and fearless black belts, who people can look to for inspiration, even if only in magnificent failure.

Saying all of this is so much torture to me, as it seems kind of impossible to ask so much of myself and others, to set ourselves up for what is potentially a grand level of failure to achieve, and to criticize –so openly –the way things are. Well my friends, a black belt test should probably put you right through the bloody test of fire, the one you’re not sure you’ll survive. If we had a little more of that, not just on a physical level, but about all the things a black belt might be that don’t have much to do with striking or fighting, what would we then be and do? What would we then stand for?

Dangerous & Abusive Relationships…

From 14 to 16 I was in an unhealthy relationship. My boyfriend was jealous and controlling, he told me what to wear, where I could and couldn’t go and who to be friends with. He’d be around me all the time making sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and when he wasn’t he’d be calling or texting me. I had no friends because he didn’t trust me or anyone else. He was at my school and was around me all the time, waiting for me outside lessons. If I was talking to or even just near someone he didn’t like he’d grab me by the arm and pull me away. He’d push me a lot when he was angry and tried to punch me when drunk but I moved.  Often he would pressure me into doing things that I wasn’t comfortable with, threatening to get angry. He said that he couldn’t help it and it was my fault for not ‘pleasuring’ him. I wasn’t ready to have sex.  I didn’t even have the courage to end it then he broke up with me because he said I was spending too much time at work. 

A month later I tried to make more friends and went out with some of my ex boyfriends’ friends and other people from school. I stayed out late and couldn’t get home so one of the people I was with offered to let me stay over his. He said he’d sleep on the sofa. He was too drunk to understand that I was saying no, or maybe he just didn’t want to listen. It lasted four hours. My ex boyfriend called me a slut among other horrible things, getting his friends to send me awful messages. Him and his best friend told everyone what I did. People made fun of me, my close friends made fun of me. It was a year before out of the people I told what really happened, someone actually took it seriously.  I reported it a year after it happened but it was dropped because of lack of evidence. If I realized what it really was earlier, that it wasn’t my fault and its not normal, perhaps I could have done something. No one told me what an emotionally abusive relationship was, I doubt they thought that a 14 year old could be in one, and no one told me that it doesn’t have to be a stranger in a dark alley to be rape. But, no one talks about that stuff.
This was taken from a web site I came across from Tom Callous’s blog page, Project Unbreakable.

Eight signs of a bad martial arts school

This is from a web page I came across, an article by Jillita Horton, not my writing.

It’s easy to spot a bad martial arts school if you know what to look for. A karate school (or any martial arts school) is a business, and there is bad business in all fields, and martial arts is no exception. Whether you’re a parent seeking martial arts lessons for your kids, or an adult seeking martial arts lessons for yourself, there are ways to spot signs of a bad karate school, or other type of similar martial arts.

I’ve had years of training in the martial arts, going to schools in four states total, rigorously training on the best thai pads, and my experience includes karate, tae kwon do, tang soo do, kenpo, kung fu, judo and jiu-jitsu. These martial arts schools were strikingly different in the way they were run, though some of these disciplines are very similar to each other. I’ve also taken introductory classes at a few other schools to get a feel for the school. Thus, I’ve been active in plenty of martial arts schools: eight or nine total.

Ābdānān Martial arts school bad sign No. 1 – Observe the black belt adults in action. Can you picture them taking on several people on the street at once, or dismantling people one by one in a movie fight scene? If you can’t, this is a red flag.

Even at brown belt level, kicks should shine with pinpoint precision. Your overall impression should be that of being very impressed. If you’re not thinking, “Wowww!” be very cautious about wanting to join their school. Martial arts school bad sign No. 2 – Observe the kids. Are the kids out of control? Kids talking during instruction? Kids whispering? Is there lack of order and discipline with the kids? Are the kids allowed to goof off or get away with interrupting instruction? Don’t even think of joining this school. Don’t underestimate the power of an effective martial arts instructor when it comes to teaching orderliness in kids as young as 5 years of age.

One tae kwon do school I attended had the grade school kids mixed with the adults. As far as behavior and ability to pay attention, the kids, some as young as 8, were indistinguishable from the adults. The children stood still and paid attention; maintained seated positions; and didn’t dare even whisper while the instructor was talking. The instructor never raised his voice, but he exuded command. At another school I attended, the instructor was constantly raising his voice to the kids to stand still, get in line, stay in line, stop chattering, stop doing this and that, etc., and they didn’t obey.

Martial arts school bad sign No. 3 – If the time between belt promotions seems too short, keep shopping around. One martial arts school I attended gave a yellow belt to a teen boy who had just started there two weeks previous. Nobody can get that good that quickly. The reason he was encouraged to test was because he joined the school two weeks before one of its belt testing events-which required a fee.

If schools promise you can earn an black belt in 90 days, get out of there. This is a black belt factory that rushes students through the belt ranking system to get them to black belt as fast as possible (testing for black belts costs more than testing for lower belts), and the more black belts such a school has, the more impressive it looks to prospective students. Nobody is good enough to truly master the martial arts at black belt level in 90 days or even one year.

Martial arts school bad sign No. 4 – If students are made to work out despite injury, leave.

Martial arts school bad sign No. 5 – If instructors seem to have a big ego, bolt in the opposite direction. An instructor should be humble.

Martial arts school bad sign No. 6 – Do kids with high ranking belts seem to have real skills?

My cousin, when she was around 9, had a black belt in tae kwon do. I asked her to show me some moves. I was appalled; I’d seen green belts do better. Green belt is low end of intermediate level for most martial arts schools. Though she was only 9, this was no excuse for delivering flaccid kicks with no control over balance, no snap, no fire. I had witnessed plenty of other kids of similar age, with lower ranking belts, deliver much quicker, more precise and more skilled techniques.

Though it’s true that children learn at different rates, this was a bright, healthy girl. Her father told me how much the school cost. After I heard the outrageous figure, which involved a long contract, I immediately knew this had to be a money hungry black belt factory. Don’t underestimate young kids, because with proper instruction, young children can become amazingly skillful in the martial arts. My cousin had a few years of lessons and still couldn’t throw a decent kick.

Martial arts school bad sign No. 7 – Avoid martial arts schools that demand a lengthy contract.

Some martial arts schools offer contracts as an option with varying lengths; and the longer the contract, the lower the per-month fee. The month-to-month fee may be a lot higher, but this is common in the business world; health clubs are known to offer similar deals. But beware of the school that has only one option: a year-long contract, especially with a hefty up front “introduction fee.”

Martial arts school bad sign No. 8 – Don’t join a school that requires students to compete in more than a few tournaments here and there. I can understand a requirement of an occasional tournament. Tournaments will teach students to face the unexpected; will teach students to face a panel of judges with confidence, which can carry over to real-life tricky social situations; and will provide students an opportunity to compete in a sport in which nobody sits out on the bench, boos or hisses at you.

However, to be required to attend a tournament every week or even a few times a month, is wrong. Instructors who insist upon this want to stud their studio with as many trophies as possible, or be able to boast that he has produced 20 junior national black belt champions. The funny thing here is that “junior national champion” doesn’t mean best in the nation! All it means is that, at a tournament that had the word “National” in the title, a particular student beat out 14 other kids in the weapons division, for example; or, in the sparring division, had to “fight” just eight other kids to get the first place trophy.

These tournaments are open, so anyone can participate. So if Billy took first place in the forms division, this doesn’t mean he’s the best in the country. It just means he’s better than 14 other black belts who signed up for that tournament.

Some schools attend tournaments that are only within their national organization, which means that participants compete against the same competitors over and over again. Meanwhile, tons of other tournaments take place at the same time, and these particular participants never see all those other competitors, let alone compete against them. So a 14-year-old girl with a blue belt in a particular tae kwon do organization may end up sparring the same 12 girls in the 14-15-year category throughout her blue belt stint, but never sparring with more than four at any given tournament, because sparring draws are like tennis draws; you never compete against every participant. She never meets the hundreds of other tae kwon do 14-year-old girl blue belts outside her organization.

If one particular tournament has “National” in the title, and she wins…her title will be very deceiving. She’s not the best 14-year-old blue belt in the nation; only better than four other girls on that particular day. Be very leery of martial arts schools that place heavy emphasis on tournament attendance.

Related: 4 Martial Arts Myths Busted – HERE.