My experience with martial arts

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My experience with martial arts

Postby CSta » Oct 03, 2008 16:24

About 4 or 5 months ago, I quit my taekwondo class. It wasn't an easy decision, but I'm glad I did.

In January of 2006, 2 months after my wife and I completed our first and only marathon, we decided to take a martial art. We were tired of running, and I was concerned about whether either of us knew how to protect ourselves if we were attacked. There was a huge place down the street from us. We looked around, spoke with the Grand Master as best we could (he has a thick Korean accent and is difficult to understand), took the trial class, and were hooked. Most of all, we loved the thought of taking classes together.

Having run that marathon, I thought I was in pretty good shape. Apparently, I wasn't. Classes were grueling. I'd be drenched in sweat, bent over huffing. I'd have to sit down. The classes went something like this: we'd stretch statically for 5 to 10 minutes and then proceed to an exhausting 20 minute aerobics routine to loud thumping music and disco lights. After that, we'd march down the long dojang performing side kicks, back spinning kicks, and every other kind of kick. I was so exhausted, I would pretty much just walk a few steps, stick my leg out and take a few more steps, until I reached the end. The remainder of those classes are a blur. I think we worked on our testing material.

Within two months, I developed a nasty hip flexor strain. Being naive and overdetermined, I tried to "work through it." That didn't work. After several trips to the doctor and two months of physical therapy, I felt kinda better. When I doctor told me I need to increase my hamstring flexibility, that's when I started surfing the net for new information on stretching, and I found this site. When I started performing the leg swings, my hip began to feel better.

A year went by, and I progressed, as far as belt rank is concerned. I noticed, though, that nearly everything we did in class was inconsistent with what is recommended on this website, the grueling aerobics work before technique, for example. I also noticed that I wasn't receiving any instruction on how, precisely, to perform any of the many kicks we were performing. Most of what I learned, as far as technique is concerned, had come from youtube. Despite the irrational training methods and lack of instruction, I continued to go to class . . . until one of the masters broke my thumb. It was an accident, yes, but it probably shouldn't have happened. We were doing kicking drills wearing our chest protectors. I was pushing the top of my protector out with my thumbs (as instructed by the GM), so as to lessen the impact of the kick. The master's kick was slightly off and hit my thumb, tearing the ligament that connects the thumb to the hand.

That put me out for a while, and required surgery. I have a screw in my thumb now. My insurance company paid between $10,000 and $15,000 for that one. My thumb works now, but I'll never have the range of motion I used to. I can punch, and that's good enough. Sure beats not being able to hold the milk carton.

Another year went by, and I was losing motivation. There were black belts there whose form was awful, and who obviously didn't care, yet were progressing in rank. The workout structure still was irrational. I would go in early just to perform a proper warm-up. And it seemed that no matter how little one tried, no matter how embarrassing one's technique was, so long as you attended 10 classes from your last testing, and paid your $50 bucks to test, you passed. I didn't exactly feel challenged, and it seemed to me that we were doing the same exercises we had done on my first few weeks of class. I didn't feel any sense of progression, and my belt color had no value to me.

Before I contemplated quitting, I tore a calf muscle in class. Man that hurt, especially when one of the masters tried to stretch it, believing it was just a cramp. (They're straight from Korea, too, and also know very little English.) When my doctor told me the tear was probably a result of poor technique, I decided to quit. Apparently, my warm-up routine wasn't enough to protect me. My wife was pretty upset, and still is. She loves going there, and she hates it if I criticize the place.

Since I quit, I've been able to work more on what I should have been working on in the first place--Article 19--and I feel really good. Maybe I'll go back some day, after I reach an acceptable level strength. Maybe not, though. Now that I know how a workout should be structured and what good coaches do to train athletes, it's not so appealing to go to back a place that doesn't know what it's doing.
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Re: My experience with martial arts

Postby Caleb » Feb 21, 2009 13:24

Becoming a recent karateka myself (4 months) and having a finger dislocated in the dojo (got kicked in the hand while doing an open handed block), I can feel your pain, and am very sorry for your experience(s).

I'm lucky enough to fall under a very very proficient instructor whose technique is lightning fast and wonderful to watch. The workouts are not completely irrational (that is, there are still LIGHT static passive stretches, and sometimes even light isometrics), and the workout does flow from warm up to the general workout, without a cooldown though - but I do it myself.

It seems that, especially in these classic styles of martial arts (mine's Goju-Ryu), the masters usually train their students using similar methods to which they were taught by their masters, and with methods taught in Okinawan dojos. There is also this idea of conditioning, by forcing your to work while you are tired, or not letting the students drink water unless they don't feel very well or too exhausted. For example, kicking a mawashi-geri 5 times at someone who's holding a bag, then doing 5 pushups and doing the kicks again, for many repetitions. Although, most of the exhasting endurance/strength exercises such as 50 pushups or 100 crunches or 100 or more "scissors" (where you lie on your back and alternate raising and lowering your fully extended legs very quickly) are left for the end of the class, right before the meditation (mokusoh) part.

I'm not sure if that is all too wise, but it's probably way more rational than most karate classes out there.
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