Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. This should be a tournament of truly….epic….pro..portions. Said in the voice of Han at the beginning of “Enter the Dragon”.
I am inviting you to place your votes for the greatest martial arts movies of all time. This will not be a simple vote of one amongst many. No, instead it will be a four round event. The breakdown is as such:
Round 1: An Artist Faces Himself. Each superstar will be pitted against himself as you are made to choose the best movie from each actor’s repertoire. Remember, only the winning movie gets to move forward.
Rounds 2&3: An Artist Faces His Enemy. In these rounds the artists will be pitted against one another from nearby divisions.
Round 4: An Artist Faces His Greatest Challenge. The two surviving artists will face off against each other for title of Greatest Movie.
Without further delay, let the voting begin and the decisions be made. Each round will only last 2-3 days, so check back frequently.
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As a martial arts instructor and writer I spend a lot of time talking about the outstanding benefits of training. The self confidence, comradery, self defense skills, culture, etc etc. However I also feel that it’s my responsibility to make people aware of the more unpleasant side of the martial arts world; the manifestations that come with individuals who achieve positions of power and influence when they have no right attaining them.
Becoming a martial arts instructor is as easy as being able to lie. There is no national governing board that separates the real teachers from the phonies, and even if a given instructor has great skill there is no saying he/she is mentally and emotionally stable enough to handle the authority that comes with the position.
Insidious instructors often have an impulse to use their authority for sexual gains. In fact, grooming and manipulating students is part of the draw.
The movie “Foot Fist Way” is a comedy, but actually strikes a few martial arts problems right on the head. This is one of those instances. Check out the following clip:
You probably found that a little bit cringe worthy, which is good. Unfortunately there is very little comedic exaggeration in that clip.
Today I did a quick Google search for “karate instructor arrested”, just to see what kind of results came up. In this month of August, the top 8 results were as follows:
Orange County youth soccer and karate coach charged with molesting boys – A 29-year-old soccer and karate coach charged with molesting two 8-year-old boys is expected to be charged with molesting three other boys when he is arraigned next month.
Waco-Area Karate Instructor Freed: Time’s Up On Sexual Assault Charge – Danny Ray Passmore, a former Waco area karate instructor who was arrested May 22 on a charge of aggravated sexual assault, was released Thursday from McLennan County Jail after the state failed to secure an indictment within the required 90 days.
Martial arts instructor released, then arrested on new charges – Shortly after being released on bail on Wednesday, a Fulton martial arts instructor charged with criminal sex acts with a child was arrested on new charges relating to a second victim.
Polk officials arrest seven Tampa Bay men in child sex sting – Joshua Adam Hunt, 19, of 7402 Pierce Harwell Road, Plant City, is accused of going to Polk County to have sex with a woman in the presence of children. Hunt told detectives he worked as an assistant karate instructor for people ages 8 to 20 at the Planteen Recreation Center at 301 Dort St. in Plant City.
Chairman of county ethics panel arrested in sex assault – Chavez has taught karate and is a certified instructor in non violent crisis intervention and has completed coursework with the Texas Institute for Public Problem Solving.
Mr Ehrlich plans to market a unique youth development programme in East London – The former karate instructor was found guilty by the East London Regional Court in 2003 of 14 counts of indecent assault on boys.
OC karate instructor sentenced for indecent exposure – He pulled down his jogging pants and started to masturbate as a woman holding her baby walked by, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Bail Reduced For Karate Coach Accused Of Molestation – A judge Monday reduced bail from $1 million to $800,000 for a karate instructor accused of repeatedly molesting a 13-year-old boy who took classes from him.
I was tempted to dig a little deeper, but I think this gets the point across. We are looking at results from one generic Google search for one month, from students who actually dared to speak up. A small amount of research into sexual exploitation cases will show that reported incidences are a mere fraction of actual cases.
My goal here isn’t to scare parents and students away from training, or suggest that they need to blow a safety whistle every time an instructor touches them. Far from it. Instead my desire is to see parents become better educated about the role of martial arts instructors, and the possibility of encountering a bad person in an influential position.
One common symptom that allows these teachers to continuously get away with criminal behavior is the shield of well-wishers they put up around themselves. They spend lots of time becoming “a good role model” and “part of the community” in the eyes of hundreds of casual on-lookers. It creates an environment of comfort where no one would possibly suspect dangerous behavior. Anyone who begins to sense trouble or tension is quickly shuffled away.
The “Sensei” is an interesting position in that it has built-in respect and influence. Individuals who would normally not accept abuse or manipulation allow it to happen because they aren’t sure of the “rules of the dojo”, and what should be allowed. They don’t want to seem disrespectful or out of line. Manipulative instructors know that and use it whenever possible.
Some Simple Advice
The dojo or dojang can seem like a whole different world, and in some ways it is. However, that doesn’t mean common sense and instincts should be left at the door. Parents should get in the habit of spending time with their children at the dojo and not rely on it as a day care. If they can’t be in attendance, they could instead develop a rotating system with other parents to ensure someone is monitoring things at all times. Children should not be handed off for trips or excursions without some sort of adult supervision.
Older students (teen and up) should realize that they are in no way obligated to be a confidante of the instructor, or connect with them in any way deeper than a teacher and student. There is no mandate to discuss relationships, love life, or anything of that nature. Your instincts will tell you when physical contact is normal training and when it is not.
Remember – there are lots of fantastic teachers out there who really want to do the right thing and help in your development as an artist. There is no reason to stay in a bad situation or keep quiet about inappropriate behavior.
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One staple of a good movie fight scene is a hero or villain working their way through a myriad of weapons. They might start off with knife, but that will get kicked out of their hand, leaving them defenseless until they grab a nearby pool cue. Once that breaks they eventually find their way to a chair, and so on.
You’ll find this classic situation popping up in all kinds of martial arts movies. Take this scene from Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon”:
In a mere three minutes we are treated to Bruce’s skill in open hand fighting, bo, escrima style sticks, and nunchaku.
Most of the time this is done just to keep the audience interested. However, the idea of being able to use multiple weapons effectively is intriguing and warrants a little deeper investigation.
When discussing the use of a weapon, I generally break things down into two “spirits”: the spirit of kobudo combat, and the spirit of the weapon itself. Each are equally important when endeavoring to maximize your ability to utilize tools as a means of enhanced life protection.
The Spirit of Kobudo Combat
When fighting with weapons (especially against other weapons) damage can accrue quickly. Certainly empty hand fighting can be lethal, but adding the force and physics of a weapon increases the likelihood of being mortally injured. Bearing that in mind the spirit of kobudo combat must always be one of a brief and fatal meeting.
As such there are certain matters that require special attention to achieve success. Stancing must be used in a manner that reveals as few targets as possible to the opponent, even if it means narrowing traditional stances. Centerline control must be so precise that there is only a razor’s edge allowance for error.
The need for control of distance and timing in kobudo is paramount as opportunity occurs in a moment’s notice. Nowhere is the idea of ichigo ichie more apparent.
Understanding the spirit of kobudo combat means building a solid foundation of principle and concept.
The Spirit of the Weapon Itself
Although all weapons share commonalities in fighting, each also has it’s own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Understanding how best to use the weapon means understanding the spirit of the weapon itself.
An Array of Weapons From Okinawa Kenpo
Long range implements are capable of different tactics than short range ones, which can be broken down further into wooden weapons vs metal weapons, bladed vs non-bladed, and so on. Properly assessing these capabilities will allow you to stay within your zones or strength while avoiding zones of weakness.
Just as an example of analyzing each weapon for its own unique qualities, consider the kama. The kama is weak when it comes to long range. A bo user can keep a kama user at bay and outside of the kama’s effective fighting distance. However, the kama’s unique hooking ability can control, manipulate and ensnare an opponent’s weapons or body parts in order to force a closure of distance and quickly dismantle vulnerable and hard-to-access parts of the body.
The winner in any match is determined by whomever is in better command of themselves and their weapon.
Open Hand / Weapons Separate and as One
I’ve come to believe that the spirit of kobudo is the same as the spirit of karate, with very minimal differences. The importance of centerline, distance, timing, kiai, kokoro, etc. are all present in both methods of life protection. The emphasis and execution will vary, but both systems will ultimately augment each other and spur on a practitioner’s growth as a complete artist.
An example – in sparring we often find it acceptable to take a few blows knowing that we can bounce back and try again. In weapons combat it becomes intensely obvious that a single mistake will result in real life injury. This is an excellent mindset to transfer to self defense. Conversely, training in empty hand can teach us how to move the body quickly and utilize all eight of our attached weapons (hands, feet, knees, elbows) even when one or more weapon is occupied. This resiliency and creativity can be lost when using a single weapon all the time.
It should be noted that the spirit of a weapon itself is something that cannot be faked or assumed through other means. If you wish to learn how to use a kama-like weapon effectively, you must practice with the kama. If you wish to use the sword effectively, you must practice with the sword.
As such, kobudo is both exclusive and inclusive in the realm of martial arts.
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