Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why There are no "Masters" in this School

Let's have a discussion about the culture in the martial arts about "idealizing your martial arts instructor." This culture is extremely common in many martial arts schools and occasionally shows its ugly head in our Academy. I feel it is important and address why we don't have this culture and why we need to keep it out of our Academy!
Image result for bow to sensei
The Courtesy Bow is a sign of equal respect (not a sign of submission)


Examples of Idealizing your Master

If you have friends in the martial arts outside our academy you will see this often.
Image result for bow to your sensei
  • Someone you meet may ask, "What is your lineage. Who is your Master? My Master studied directly with ...." And then they usually proceed to tell you why their Master is the best.
  • Or you may hear someone throw out rank or title, "My Instructor is a 6th Degree Black Belt, and has defeated ...."
  • The first school I trained at always talked about the school owner like he was a mythical legend. As an instructor, I was told that I needed to explain in every class why Mr. X was so great. Since I was Mr. X's employee, I followed this requirement, but it was something I never agreed with.
  • My first main instructor (under in Mr. X's school) sadly only had the opinion that his style and his instructor was the best. (Best style and instructor for him maybe, but best for all?). He would commonly say, "Kenpo is the best martial art in the world." He would commonly put down other martial art styles and would say, "Well, I defeated so-in-so, so our style is better. Mr. X is the best martial artist in the country." Sadly this culture passed to me and it took many years to overcome this mindset.

Reasons Why Our Academy Doesn't Idealize Masters 

Coach CW and I believe it is important to understand the history and heritage of the martial arts, but we don't bring this "idealizing" culture into our academy for many reasons.


First, we have had so many instructors over the years that it would be impossible for us to "idealize" one "Master" instructor.

Image result for bow to senseiI started martial arts in 1993 at the age of 11 Years Old and since then I have countless hours of informal training attending conferences and workshops under many "Masters" from many styles. More formally I have trained with instructors and received rank in:
  • Kenpo Karate - 16+ Years training with several "Masters"
  • Jujitsu - Currently, 4+ Years training with two different schools and several "Masters"
  • Kali-Eskrima - 2+ Years training with three primary schools and several "Masters"
  • Tai Chi - 4+ Years and three "Master" instructors all from different schools and lineages
  • Shaolin Kung Fu -2+ Years training 
  • Muay Thai - 2+ Years training 
Coach CW started training in the martial arts in 1976 as a young kid, but because his family moved a lot, he had to start over as a white belt several times with new instructors. This gave him a wide variety of experience in the martial arts. As a young child, he didn't think to keep a log of all his instructors for his Martial Arts Resume, and now 30 years later, many of his instructors have disappeared from martial arts instruction. Here is some formal training he can recall:
  • 1970's & 80's - Kodakon Judo under Navy Instructors in Houston, TX, and Corpus Cristy, TX, then Oklahoma City, OK and then Wichita Fall, TX
  • 1980's Tae Know Do - Harrison, AR 
  • 1980's Shodokan - Harrison, AR
  • Late 80's & Early 90's Jujitsu - San Fransico, CA in High School and College
  • 1990's Alabama - Mixed Arts School with Judo, Jujitsu, Karate in College
  • More recently, additional training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Over the years, we have developed a midset and philosophy that you can learn from any martial arts practitioner, no matter their "rank." As it was explained to Coach CW as a young child, being a mentor or instructor is not about rank it is about having knowledge and the ability to pass it on well. We believe a good knowledgeable instructor is more important than the rank or title of that instructor.


Happy Training,


Sifu (Teacher) S


P.S. Sifu means teacher. "Sifu actually means someone who teaches you a kind of skills or techniques, which can be a kind of material arts, a kind of musical instruments, etc." (http://www.urbandictionary.com).

I don't like the sound of Ms. First Name and Mrs. Last Name is too formal in today's society, so I chose Sifu First Name. (It was actually informally awarded to me at the rank of 3rd Degree, but that is only a tradition in one style and not a requirement for the title). To me, Sifu does not mean Master. I am not a "Master" and will never be one. Even when I am a 10th Degree Black Belt, I will not be a "Master." Why? Because I am always learning and making my martial arts better. "Master" to me means you have learned all you can learn.


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If you would like more information and a different outlook on this subject, please watch this video by Stephen Kesting from www.grapplearts.com (caution - offensive language).  Let me say that I do not agree with everything he says, but I do respect his opinion.

Two of my opinions differ from his include (1) the use of respectful titles like Mr. Ms. Sensei, Sifu, Coach, etc and (2) showing respect by not wearing uniforms with another school's name on it. I have reasons for these opinions and without getting into a full debate, it is because I teach life skills to youth and I believe these are ways to instill the value or respect which translate to other areas of life outside of the martial arts.


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Here is a write up by Stephen Kesting explaining his video.

"OK, this is going to be controversial...

At first I wasn't sure whether to release this or not - after all, it'll certainly upset some people (I'm bracing for a nice round of hate in the Youtube comments for example).
But [xxxx] it, the truth hurts and somebody has to point out that the emperor isn't wearing any clothing... 

Here are just some of the things we sounded off about...
  • The increasing deification of instructors
  • Mandatory use of titles like 'master' and 'professor'
  • Scams and cons in the BJJ world
  • 'Self Defense' jiu-jitsu clubs that don't spar
  • Forcing students to buy specialized training gear
  • Other bad things coming from traditional martial arts clubs to jiu-jitsu

Caution - Adult/Offensive Language

Click here to watch (or just listen to) 

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