“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special.”- Bruce Lee
I didn’t make a return to Martial Arts until I was at least 29 years old, maybe 28, and a ton of the perceptions and culture out there surrounding the martial arts, what works as opposed to what didn’t, what was downright fraudulent to what seemed legit, and how people differentiated the combat from the sport aspect of it.
Perhaps it can be credited to the rise of the ufc and mixed martial arts as a legitimate and organized sport and promotion, which exposed how techniques work or fail amongst styles; perhaps the widespread use of the internet also , with its various forums and sites exposing ‘Mcdojos and Bullshido’s that had been preying on minds that couldn’t grasp that many of these schools and personas out there were just a new form of snake oil salesman in the guise of mystic action hero, out to make your money and instill a false confidence in shoddy stuff techniques that couldn’t possibly be effective on the street or in sport.
Either way the past few years information wise has been a game changer, with those interested learning in how the body moves how different body types affect the way one should train, all things Bruce Lee opened the door to back in the 60’s and early 70’s.
Schools were being called out for being belt factorys, a sort of ay for rank progession system, ridiculous contracts and again, poor representation of material or outright fictionalized .
I was married with one daughter at the time things didn’t seem bad, and at first, I thought I’d get back into martial arts slowly but with interest to capitalize on the mma phenomenon and learn the fundamentals of grappling. My ex ( at the time my wife) was interested too, and we thought we’d start with tiger schulmanns, a suspected by rep being a ‘belt factory’ that recently introduced grappling to its schools and rebranded itself as tiger schulmanns mma.
I wasn’t crazy but they offered a trial period deal which didn’t seem bad for a month or three ( I forgot which) and for a layman to grappling , I have to say it really wasn’t bad. It was an intense workout and to me it taught me the fundamentals of the guard and pass and various basic mounts and positioning. The kickboxing classes were more geared for cardio workouts, they also were intense and there was little to none that I recall as far as self defense . They seemed rooted in a hard karate( I suspect the schools root style) with elements of Muay Thai.
My ex didn’t care for it; she felt pushed and didn’t get the impression they were trained to spot people who were overwhelmed and allowed them to break. I have to agree , but I also suspect they would have had no issue giving her one had she asked. Neither here nor there just an observation.
I honestly enjoyed the workouts and I enjoyed what little I learned in the grappling school too. There were two problems I had, and one was they definitely tried to rope you into a very expensive contract agreement something that wasn’t clear when you do the trial period. There was something very shady in the agreement where when it came time to sign up I decided against it. I honestly forgot what it was so Im not gonna gripe about it too much . But I remember the price skyrocketed and I just couldn’t afford it. Tae Kwon Do in the 90’s was expensive for 88$ a month but this was more than double if I remember. Anyhow as far as the teaching and despite the rep they get, I thought it was decent. I just realized schools that allow you to pay month to month were few and far between , but I did find one in White Tiger Kempo, a style which I thoroughly enjoyed for a good year before ,while they did switch to contracts, did somethingvery quickly which I found terrible and left too.
This form of Kempo I took was rooted in an American made martial art called kajukenbo. Ka for karate, Ju for Judo, Ken for kenpo, and bo for boxing. It was developed in Hawaii by mainly a man Adriano Emperado, but with a few friends who specialized in each root art mentioned above, and was designed for street fighting effectiveness. It had some dirty tactics and I liked that about it. This version of Kajukenbo was under a Richard Fescina, a guy I met once or twice never got to know him well. I remember reading a side note on a forum about purchasing rank but no proof or disproof was ever really provided. After all the teachers there seemed legit, and amteuar mma fighter and ex cop/navy guy among them.
The training was good, I found some of the techniques rough and it covered a lot of what I had learned plus techniques not just rooted in the kajukenbo styles but kung fu, weapons and sparring. There was an emphasis a little bit too much on forms, some rooted in karate and some in kung fu. I have no prob with that sort of training as long as their isn’t emphasis on it, and it just seemed like filler for promotional tests, as all forms in all martials arts styles seem to be: increasing in complexity to demonstrate some sort of progress, though seldom it makes a better fighter.
I enjoyed the sparring and a few times proudly returned home w some bruises to show. I had to be careful though not to get too into it, my ex was expecting out second and I have a career to think about too. The people there for the most part were the nicest most supportive students I had come across in a while.
I trained Kempo for a good year and some months, got fairly fit and felt good too. I achieved a blue belt within that time, at a pace I felt correct. My problem was that seven months or so into it, they forced every month to month person (75$ too a real bargain) into a contract and raised the fees ten bucks a month. While I was annoyed they did that, the fee was supposed to be good for a year and that I could handle.
Another six months into it they raised it to $110, and then$125. It felt like a real bait and switch and with another child on the way, I wrote them a letter, and got out of my contract, as much as I would’ve liked to continue. I understand that costs and expenses and overhead add up in time and long island is waaayyyy overpriced but to me they changed the terms of an agreement they practically forced and I couldn’t do it, thus being the last time I practiced martial arts.
Now eleven years later, 41 and separated and in the process of putting my life back together from chaos, I feel a time is coming when I can return to this in some fashion. When my daughters were younger , I remember showing them the fundamentals and they both had fun and did ok, but wasn’t so much their thing at least then. At least I kept up with stretching and the fundamentals to show them something and I still do. I lift, do cardio and try to retain the stretching Ive learned over the years, Tae Kwon Do in particular, to maintain as much as possible while my body slowly succumbs to age and gravity . Ha I exaggerate but I try to always keep the basics in mind, and to read up or watch when time allows.
While I am burdened financially (I make no excuse for that, taking responsibility is critical before improvement can happen. Learned that in martial arts ) I am freer money wise and while there are setbacks on the horizon I have managed to make some small improvements and soon enough may be able to start looking. In fact I think I’ve found a school that coaches kickboxing ,mma ,jiujitsu, and boxing together or individually at a reasonable rate and fair contract for sixth months or a year.
I’m particularly interested in boxing this time around; I have a working knowledge of the fundamentals, but I never trained in it. I remember wanting to when I was really young and wanted to be Rocky too. Id like to learn jiujitsu as well, so I am definitely going to do it. 41 is still a young age to stay fit and I’m certainly not dumb enough to want to compete, but to stay fit and learn practical defense, why not?
Martial Arts have been in and out of my life, but its impact has always stayed with me. The training and discipline it instilled has helped me endure some very difficult times in my life, and helped build a strong work ethic in me as well. I think any physically demanding training builds character, its also why its so important even if you do martial arts specifically or not, that you take something up and love it and learn it. A sport, an instrument, anything where you can gauge your progress and results by earning it through work and discipline and express who you are through it. Its not emphasized enough today to young people, sometimes I wonder if its deliberate. ( that’s a whole other discussion though)
I still have a love for it, dissecting and researching, the training the philosophical approaches, disciplines and tenets as to what it takes to achieve mastery of self, mastery in life. Whether its eastern Asian based arts, Western arts, for sports for combat trainin etc.
So before I sign off for the evening, if anyone who reads this has practiced martials or has a discipline theyd like to share by all means do so in the comment sections
What it IS!!- Citizen G