Sunday, October 3, 2010

Learnng How Not To Be A Victim: The Rest Of The Story

Phew! Computer internet is finally working again! Sorry about that, everyone. We've changed from Brighthouse to AT&T and, for whatever reason, most of last week I either wasn't able to get on-line or I was able to get on for VERY short periods of time..... as in, open up, log in, click on a site, freeze up, control/alt/delete/task manager/shut down program (no, do NOT send a message to AOL) and try to get on again only to repeat the WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN!!!
Why, no.... I'm not AT ALL FRUSTRATED by the whole thing. Why do you ask?  0.0

Anyway, here is the rest of my e-mailed interview with Mr. Richard Ray and I'm sure, should anyone be brave enough to ask the scary man a question, he'd be glad to answer (nah, he's not THAT scary! he used to pretend to catch the invisible bullets with his teeth whenever we shot at him with our invisible guns. ~~ What... we were in college!)

(Part II)

I had surgery a couple months ago but I've been released by my doctor to do whatever I feel I can do, physical activity-wise. However, I'm finding there are things I FEEL I can do and things I CAN do. If I wanted to join one of your classes and told you this, how would this be handled?

First I would want to know your limitations. Assuming they are within reason, I would encourage you to start learning at a moderate pace and use common sense when it comes to rest or restriction, and that you must notify me immediately if you feel any ill effects during class. Learning martial arts or self-defense is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, and you will see better results.

Have you - or anyone you know personally - taught someone with a physical disability? What would your advice be to someone with a disability of any type who still wanted to take martial arts?

Yes. I have taught students in wheelchairs, a student with only one arm, students who are visually impaired, and quite a few with “bad knees”. Seek out an instructor who understands your challenges and has the patience to adapt his curriculum to your needs. Seek a multi-faceted art – one that could offer several solutions to a given situation.
If your typical Josephine Average ended up in a situation where she were attacked - in spite of taking every precaution she can - what will she bring to the situation from taking self defense or a martial arts class, other the obvious "I know how to hit, now" mentality most people think of?

Mental strength is at least as important as physical strength, and possibly more important. Practicing regularly in class develops mental and physical responses. The aggressor often is planning that the victim will be paralyzed by fear the first few moments of confrontation; when this does not happen, his plan falls apart and he must form a new plan – while he is being hit.

I asked about an age limit for kids, what about adults? I'm asking from the point of view of a 42 year old woman who's thinking "I don't heal as easily as my 22 year old self." There's also the "Everyone's SO much younger than me! This is embarrassing." factor.

This is why I separate kids and adults, among other reasons. I also designed a curriculum which is fairly easy for the typical “Josephine Average” to understand and practice. The curriculum gradually gets more challenging but is always built on the previous accomplishments.

What should someone look for in a class? In an instructor? What should they walk away from?

First decide why you want to study martial arts. Then do some research – the internet makes this thousands of times easier than 20 years ago. Find out which styles suit your purpose and physical limitations (if any). Be prepared to drive up to an hour for the right class for you – don’t join a school because it’s the closest or the cheapest.
My description of the ideal instructor would be a cross between a bank president and a drill instructor. He should be professional at all times, disciplined, intelligent, have your best interest in mind but willing to push you farther than you think you can go. He will be strict and unforgiving regarding sloppy attitude or technique, but encouraging and positive if he senses you are foundering. He will use negative feedback sparingly but will not hesitate when it is necessary. He will not ask you to do something that he cannot do or has not done himself. He will not deliberately embarrass you in class but he will not allow foolishness either.

There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence; the ideal instructor will always be seen as confident by deserving people.

Walk away from schools that promote students on attendance alone, schools that require immediate long term contracts (one year or more), classes where the students are sloppy, lazy, or undisciplined, instructors who are overly friendly or overly harsh, schools that require tournament competition in order to be promoted (if your goal is self-defense), be wary of schools/instructors who “guarantee” anything. I make one guarantee to my students: I will teach you to the best of my ability. Everything else is up to you.

I personally disapprove of schools which allow students to call instructors by their first name, delegate the title “sensei” or “master” to any black belt student, use music and “positive thinking” as a primary motivation for students, push long term contracts, allow the student to choose the color and type of uniform, and generally treat the training program as if it were any other after school activity or hobby.

Any final advice you'd like to give?

There are several more modern phenomena that warrant discussion:

Aerobic kickboxing classes like Tae Bo©, etc., are excellent for cardio vascular training, but do not confuse this with self-defense. My personal observation is that most of these classes are taught by cardio instructors who have little or no knowledge of self-defense.

MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts is extremely popular now. It is without a doubt, a workout with actual self-defense skills being taught. However, the emphasis is still brutal competition, and may not be suitable for “Josephine Average” or even “Joe Average”. In general, I disapprove of this type of training for children – it is much too brutal and lacks the inherent discipline of traditional martial arts.

You may also find schools/clubs which do not teach traditional martial arts; instead they emphasize self-defense only. They should be analyzed individually. They may be a scam (any instructor who says you can make a black belt master putty in your hands in just a few short lessons is lying), or they may be just right for you. Krav Maga, an Israeli Defense Force based style of self-defense, is quite popular now. While I have no first hand knowledge of KM, I understand there are at least five major “divisions” or organizations promoting this system. Some may be the real deal, some may be a watered down, unauthorized version of the original combat system. Do your homework.

Last piece of advice – physical skills take physical practice from an accomplished instructor. Do not buy video tapes or DVDs and think that watching them will give you all the knowledge you need. Watching videos no more prepares you for self defense than X-Box 360 prepares you for NASCAR (yes, I have teens in my home).

I could watch a baby being born on the Discovery channel – do you want me to deliver your next baby?

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