Injury Prevention

Injury Prevention

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During classes the instructor/sensei is obliged to create a safe environment for members of the club. Most of us think that wearing protective gear is all that is required – we put on our head gear, gloves, shin pads and we feel safe. This is true to some extent, but safety is much more. As teachers we have to explain to students the importance of body mechanics and anatomy. Knowledge of how our bodies are designed and how they work is a key element of healthy training. For example, knowing the structure of the elbow and its mechanics will prevent over extending it when punching. Similarly, when kicking it is better to not use the full motion of the knee dynamically as our muscles do not have time to react to prevent over extension, in this case our hips should be used to help extend our range of movement. These few examples of anatomical knowledge illustrate how this is important to promoting the safe practice of techniques by students.

 

An additional safety measure is ensuring that training is conducted in a controlled environment.  To provide this as instructors we have a responsibility to pay attention to how students behave.  For instance, observing their fighting manners, their egos and their approach to wearing safety equipment. If we notice that one of our fighters behaves dangerously when sparring or is rude it is up to the instructor to intervene and correct the student, as if no intervention is made this may result in injury.

 

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Another danger at the dojo/gym is a person performing an exercise or drill without guidance and preparation. An example of this would be students being introduced to high throws without prior training of break falls.  This is very dangerous and has in some unfortunate cases resulted in the death of the student being thrown.

 

On YouTube it is easy to find footage of completely unprepared people fighting and being beaten badly. I believe it is an instructor’s responsibility to adequately prepare students to fight. For example I believe that it is irresponsible for an instructor to teach students light contact sparring when the instructor then sends them for full contact fights – these students will be ill prepared for the experience and are likely to get injured and/or shocked. Consequently when joining a dojo/club, I think it is always best to make sure that you check the qualifications of the instructor along with their insurance and consider whether the methods and equipment that they use during their sessions is as safe as reasonably practicable.

 

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Bunkai (application) session

Short footage from one of our bunkai (application) sessions. I have to say a big thanks to Martin who allowed me to perform all the punches and kicks on him! In this clip you can see one of our kihon kata (basic forms). As people will probably notice they are bit different from traditional katas. These forms were designed to be a bridge between traditional kata and modern shadow boxing. Most of the time these katas are performed with a partner. Our method of teaching forms is a bit different from other karate systems, we start with the applications and then we learn the form. Learning the kata in this way ensures that students know what the moves in the kata are for, which creates a deeper understanding of the kata.

The Magic of McDojo

 

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These are my thoughts about how standards are lowering in martial arts, especially in relation to Karate as this art is closest to my heart. Low quality dojos, money making machines and black belt factories are often called McDojos.

So what is a McDojo? I will use this definition of McDojo by Bullshido as I think the description is accurate.

A McDojo is a school that teaches a watered-down and impractical form of martial arts in the name of making money. They place the importance of profit well ahead of teaching anything realistic or credible in terms of self-defense, and are dangerous is the aspect that they send unprepared & often over confident students into a world thinking they can fight when in actuality they have no real fighting skills. Often McDojos teach a lot of bullshido, which is a term used to define deception, fraud, and lies in terms of martial arts.

There used to be a time where a black belt meant something, back in days where it took years upon years of intense training, pain, and sacrifice.  Those who wore a black belt around their waist had earned it, and they knew how to fight.  Those days are gone though, and honestly, having a black belt anymore is useless. Who doesn’t have one?  With McDojos cranking out thousands of black belts to students who’ve trained maybe one or two years, there is no standard anymore.  We have hundreds of thousands of black belts under 12, many even under 6, and a society that believes they earned them.  We have 12 year old 3rd degree black belt instructors, wheelchair bound people with black belts, morbidly obese people with black belts, and we have 30 year old 9th degree grand masters. We have people who have never been hit or actually hit another person wearing a black belt, and people who think forms and one-steps are crucial to learning how to fight.  All of these people are essentially ballet dancers with gi’s on: they’ve taken the martial arts and turned it into a dance.  To accommodate everyone and anyone willing to pay for their black belt, they’ve lowered the standards so that even a 6 year old could pass the test. They’ve ruined any honor of earning a black belt forever, yet these students who unknowingly wear the rank they have not truly earned yet don’t know that they don’t have any real fighting skills.  They don’t know that all they’ve done essentially is memorize forms, punch the air, and then pay for their belts month after month, and they won’t know until either it’s too late or until they seek out the truth.

In my opinion it is not always money that drives a decent club to become a McDojo, there are a few factors:

a)      The amount of students is overwhelming the amount of instructors at the classes, which results in the lowering of standards as students do not get enough attention.

b)      The head instructor has lost his/her interest and passion for martial arts, resulting in less attention and guidance for instructors and students.

c)       An obsession with making black belts as a result of a keen drive to show that the club is strong, e.g. “look how many black belts we have produced”.

d)      The creation of a money spinning machine through frequent gradings where students are encouraged to grade when they are not ready and so have not learnt techniques properly.. This results in students who have low technical standards and who cannot remember what was required for each grading, which eventually leads to black belts/instructors not knowing basics.

 

All of those factors contribute to a club becoming a McDojo, so why are these kinds of places doing so well?  To know the answer to this question we have to look at human behaviour.  We are evolved to conserve energy like any other animal, when our brain is satisfied then it loses drive to do anymore. That is why so many of us have bought a gym membership and never gone, or maybe go once a month just so that we can say “I have been training, I have done something”, therefore we get rid of the feeling of guilt.  The same is with martial arts with a McDojo ticking all the boxes:

a)      I have done something – I went to the martial arts class so I am actually training.

b)      I am not exhausted – training was not so hard that I need time to recover, I can get on with my busy life uninterrupted…

c)       Training is simple – I do not have to think, I just follow commands.

d)      Socialising – I have friends at the club, it is nice to meet them at training and have a chat.

 

So why do people end up staying at McDojos?  Well, partly for the reasons listed above, but also because of not doing market research – members join a club and take for granted that they are being taught by experts. This is an odd behaviour as most people would never do this in other situations.  For example, when buying a car we do not tend to just go to one car dealer, look at one car and just buy it, we tend to look at multiple cars, test drive them, weigh up the benefits etc.  So why in martial arts do so many people just come through the doors of the dojo and never check other clubs?  I am still looking for an answer to this one…

At my club I always recommend new students go and explore other clubs/arts around.  Sometimes new people never come back to my classes and I am happy that they must have found something that suits them.  So many teachers say to their students that they should not go to other classes as ”we are the best“, however in many cases this may be paraphrased as “don’t go looking elsewhere as they might be cooler than us!”.

I have been training with my two teachers for over 17 years now because they have always been open minded and encourage me to explore all roads in martial arts.

I hope these few words will make people recognise and consider the consequences of training at McDojos.

International Budo Seminar

International Budo Seminar

International Budo Seminar Details:
The seminar will be held on the 31st of August 2014 at the Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex (Arena B).
The seminar is open to all and costs £10 per person, which is payable on the day. However, for planning purposes if you wish to attend we would appreciate it if you could register by Friday the 1st of August. To register, please email Les at shinaido@yahoo.com .
Instructors that will be teaching are as follows:
– Sensei Dietmar Schmidt, 8th Dan Karate (Zendo Ryu)
– Sensei Roger Payne, 7th Dan Aikido
– Sensei Jacek Marchewka, 5th Dan Ju Jitsu
– Sensei Jim Rooney, 5th Dan Ju Jitsu
– Sensei Artur Marchewka, 4th Dan Karate (Shin Ai Do)

There will also be a demonstration of Seitei and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu sword work.

Important timing information for the day:
– The Arena will be open from 09:00 and we will start promptly at 09:30.
– We will have a lunch break from 12:00 to 12:30. The Guildford Spectrum has a café and fast food outlet available on site.
– The seminar will finish by 16:00.

For those who require accommodation, the most convenient hotel would be the Guildford Central Premier Inn, which is approximately a 10 minute walk from the Guildford Spectrum.
The address for the hotel is Premier Inn, Parkway, Guildford, Surrey. GU1 1UP. http://www.premierinn.com/en/hotel/GUIPAR/guildford-central

For any further information please contact Les at shinaido@yahoo.com or on +44 (0) 7707 321975.