Spring 2020 is upon us with the fears of a spreading highly contagious virus. Full contact combative arts and MMA gyms are already anticipating the financial pain from less and less attendance for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to touch each other!
Two friends at my day job, practice at an MMA gym. They have both admitted to me they have not trained in a few weeks in fear of getting sick. One of them asked me about how the attendance is with the “Sword Stuff” that I teach are going.
I explained to them that most Traditional martial arts have PLENTY of opportunities to practice solo without physical contact and still get a good training session in. Because of this, my student attendance has not dropped one bit. As there is always time for kata practice. In fact It’s a major portion of what we do. He then asked me what a Kata was….
Myself and other teachers have noticed that the current generation of potential students in their 20’s and 30’s have never even heard of Iaido or even Shotokan! When I mention Kempo they’ve responded that they know of past MMA fighters like Chuck Liddell, but that’s all they know. I then Explain about all these wonderful traditional arts, and the many benefits that would actually help them not only in the combative arena, but at work and with their daily life. Not to mention at the age of 50, we start to ratio our training and getting up for work the next day because of how much its going to hurt. (Myself Included)
I have meet plenty Folks in their 40’s, 60’s and above, that certainly regret the injuries that they have received in the competitive arena over the years. Some of them wish they could continue training martial arts, but they “Never learned those old Karate forms” or “It’s to late for me to start over” I tell them It’s not to late, and they should seek out a traditional school immediately. I try to explain It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey that helps us in our lives. However when someone spends their early lifetime chasing a trophy, it can be difficult explaining.
Unfortunately I believe the current view of Martial arts for these younger folks is the aggressive smack talking mma trophy winning fighter. The problem with this is when a sport becomes a profession and you need to win to pay your bills, all of the martial values that these young folks never learned about go right out the window.
Budo never gets a “fighting” chance.
I tell these younger folks that when they start to lose fights (and money) to come see us traditional teachers to experience so many other important benefits in martial arts for day to day living. It certainly beats losing a match or prize fight.
I currently have a student in his late 50’s training sword arts with me and it has vastly improved his life. He admits to having some ADD issues and he told me the solo sword art of Iaido has taught him to focus and pay attention to detail. When he takes some time off from the dojo for work, he notices a big difference. Because of his age he often tells me he wishes that “This new art called Iaido was around” back when he was fighting as he feels he has missed out. I keep telling tell him Iaido is about 400-500 hundred years old. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention…
On the other end of the age spectrum, I also have a competitive mma fighter in his 30’s that comes to me from time to time for conceptual Kosho Ryu Kempo training. He told me he loves the Naihanchi Kata Bunkai that I taught him to help with his ground game. The concepts Kempo teaches on how the body responds to tension and movement really help him. So with his half-empty dojo due to the virus, I told him to start practicing his kata laying on the ground! Pretty good idea eh? Not only does the stuff help him but he may decide that traditional arts like Kempo or Karate can offer him more than a piece of plastic and metal on a shelf someday. And he has a head start for when he gets older like me.
I also had an ex full contact kickboxer come in one time that “used to do forms” at a Tae Kwan Do school. I asked about kata and any Bunkai from the forms.(movement application) I just got a funny look, and was told they would just do forms and then put the gloves on. So I went over a basic kata movement and demonstrated that a down block is not just a down block. We then explored that exact same blocking movement and how it can also be throw, a strike and even a joint lock. She was blown away and has been training with me for over four years now. All because of a down block movement in a Kata.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I have no bad feelings against MMA at all, and I feel it’s very effective. After all Kosho Ryu Kempo is certainly a MMA style art. So from a competitive view it’s very satisfying for me. However, If I found myself in the ring with a “Jacked” pro, I would be practicing my Kempo escaping Kata towards the nearest exit. This is because my teacher always tells me “Don’t be stupid”. But that’s Kempo.
So folks I think this Corona hysteria brings opportunities for folks to explore solo martial arts practice and I implore traditional arts instructors to get away from what art is “better” than MMA in their promotions and focus on the roots of teaching all martial arts, Kata. Emphasize that you don’t need to touch anyone to start training. You may get some more students to teach which is important. After all we all learn more about our arts by teaching…
I also ask any potential students considering martial arts to have no fear of the evil viruses out there and to seek out traditional dojos. If you are fearful of contact or a room full of sweating heavy breathing angry bearded men. I’m sure most teachers would be happy to teach you a kata or two in a private lesson. You could then practice at home and be ahead of the game when we all hit each other again.
It beats a treadmill, trust me.
Our organization Sei Kosho Shorei Kai International has locations all over the country and even in Europe. If there isn’t a location near you, contact us and we will find a traditional school for you. As we have many friends across the globe. And we would love to to make some more.
So please share this post and help traditional dojos like yours get some future teachers.
Tom Duffy is the chief instructor at the Rhode Island Budo Academy located at the New England Martial Arts Dojo in Seekonk Massachusetts.
He has had multiple years training in both competitive and traditional martial arts. He currently teaches Japanese sword arts and Japanese Kempo/Jujutsu. For more info please visit our site
Thanks for taking the time…