A lot of people have questions about martial arts, our school structure, and the training! Here are a few.
Q: Why bother with martial arts, when I can use a gun?
A: This is a common, and logical question! I might suggest a few ideas. The “martial” part of martial arts relates to combat. Any responsible gun owner will recommend a thorough introduction to gun safety, respect, and proper handling. Martial arts does not exclude guns from our training, and many military and police incorporate martial arts to defend and supplement their firearm safety training.
Another point I like to make to gun owners is this: You don’t always have it with you. Some buildings and areas prohibit firearms, loaded firearms, varieties of firearms. Laws about this may change to become more/less strict. Politics aside, do you truly want your safety to be determined by one method (especially a heavily regulated one?) We are equipped with an incredible body capable of incredible things. It would be a shame to waste it. Just like a firearm, martial artists hope they never have to use training in self-defense. If a threat presents itself, a properly trained fighter can protect themselves and their family from harm.
Q: What is with the belts? What do they mean?
A: Believe it or not, the original practice of martial arts did not include belts at all. The colored ranking system was introduced in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in Japan as a sort of merit system. It helped convey a proper understanding of various levels. Unfortunately, a lot of modern associations hijacked this and found it was a fantastic money-making scheme! I know some schools may have up to 12 belts, 9 levels of black belt, with 5 intermediary stages per black belt. Yet you can observe the same broad spectrum of skill, regardless of these arbitrary ranks. The catch is, these associations charge for every single rank, every single testing, every single time. Testing for them can cost upwards of 100$. Some increase the cost as your “rank” advances.
What we did was remove the fuchsia, burgundy, sky blue, and any other nonsensical colors. We stripped the ranking system down to its roots. Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. White, Red, Black. The best determinant of skill is skill. Not what sash you tie around your waist.
Some schools and associations will tell you each belt has certain meanings. Growing grass, the first flowers of spring, grandmother’s fresh baked cookies… Unfortunately, it is typically made up. More traditional schools will tie belt colors into their history. Our school has no need to sugar-coat a piece of clothing. Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced.
Q: Why learn to break boards? Lumber doesn’t attack anyone.
A: The history or board breaking is actually very interesting. When a sword smith was tasked with creating a weapon, he would hammer away at the metal. Heating and cooling, tempering and sharpening. It was hard work, and had to be perfect. After all, a soldier’s life depended on this weapon, and no error could be tolerated.
When the final product was ready for testing, its sharpened edge would cut bamboo, wood, or even through a carcass. If the blade cut successfully, it was battle-ready. If it failed, it needed to be put back to the hammer and fire.
We break boards and concrete as a test of our technique. Is it battle-ready? Or do we need to practice more? Two adult-sized boards have the average resistance of the human skull. One has the resistance of a radius or ulna (arm bones.) Instead of grievously wounding other students to test our skill, we use boards and concrete.
Q: Are jump kicks and flips important?
A: In a combat situation, flipping and extravagant spin kicks will do you little good. You will never see a soldier or MMA fighter spin through the air to deliver a fatal blow. Well, I’ve seen one. The merit of the flips and advanced kicks is that they strain and grow muscle groups that are normally passive in your body. To be executed, the martial artist needs balance, coordination, and strength. Though the extravagant maneuver may be useless in an actual confrontation, the balance, coordination, and strength are not. I find that students who have learned advanced techniques tend to be faster, more confident, and more daring fighters.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: It depends on the campus! Currently, at Panda campus, $40 a month is the only charge, and we don’t do contracts. We do not force you to buy equipment. We do not force you to pay for testings, weapons, strange supplies. Students are encouraged to purchase a traditional dobak/gi from wherever they feel comfortable. Students are permitted to purchase and wear their belt color after they pass their exams. Students are permitted to buy sparring gear, if they wish. Weapons, if they wish. We will not charge you for anything you don’t want to do, and your advancement is determined by goals, not how much you spend.
Q: What is the catch?
A: There isn’t one. No contracts. 8 classes a month (perhaps more in the future!) I could lecture about business models and cost avoidance, but it is incredibly dull. The point is, the school is designed to be self-sufficient with few costs, but still have access to a great facility. That self-sufficiency is something the students benefit from, with low tuition. Martial arts should be available to everyone, and huge costs prevent that.
I do suggest looking at your school options. When you call/visit why not bring a pad and paper and calculator? While you tally up the thousands of dollars of expense, look at their facility. Is it big enough to practice weapons and advanced kicks safely? Do they have adequate padding, floor coverage? Is it clean? What about the instructors? Do they look fit and active?
Q: Who can do this? What age groups?
A: Anyone can do martial arts. We teach ages 5 and up, and encourage family participation. Kids typically see grades improve, along with school behavior, and social skills. Through training, they become educated on safety, bullying, and how to handle difficult situations. They learn the importance of attitude, hard work, and achieving goals.
Adults do well also. Martial arts has helped many adults achieve their vocational and academic goals. It burns calories and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, hypertension, and obesity. Flexibility, strength and energy are restored. With a focus on training and an escape from the day-to-day responsibilities, adults tend to have a tremendous change in mood.
All groups benefit. Personally, I’ve witnessed the positive impact martial arts has on people suffering from ADD/ADHD, depression, unhealthy weight, ASD’s, and other conditions. Likewise, I’ve seen athletes become more proficient, professionals more successful, and families grow closer. Martial arts is a truly wonderful practice, and it is highly recommended.