Last week while I was doing a little pre-class workout in my dojo a visitor stopped in. They were interested in Karate and started asking questions right away. I was excited, as most of us are, at the prospect of adding a new student to our Karate family but this one turned out much different than I could have expected.
During the course of our discussion they stated that “I must not be very good since I don’t wear a “fancy” belt”. I wasn’t ready for this statement at all and it totally set me back a bit. In my dojo we wear our black belts to teach and train in. Our ceremony belts, as I call them, are reserved for special functions, events and belt exams. We don’t wear them nor need them to teach in the dojo. So, being a bit flabbergasted by this statement I responded with “And what does a “fancy” belt have to do with my abilities, both in the art I train and as a teacher”.
This young man said that “His Master wears a red belt” and “He always says that I should never train with just a “black belt” person because they don’t know what they are doing”. Ok, so not once did it come up that this guy “trains” with some “master” somewhere. Let me first state that this young man never bowed, never showed any etiquette or signs that anyone, from a good dojo, would upon visiting a school. So began the process of finding out more about his art and “master”.
Through the conversation it became apparent he trains at some backyard dojo and his “master” is a “founder” of some martial art system…all at the ripe age of 28. Upon discovering this I asked my visitor a simple question…”who taught your “master” the arts he claims to have learned”. Sadly he didn’t know. He said he was only a green belt and had never asked and it was never discussed in the dojo. Now, this will throw up flags to any and every legitimate martial artist out there right away. In my dojo my green belts better know the art they train and who I learned it from as well as the history of where it came from…even the kids.
After about another 20 minutes or so of “talking” it was apparent that this young adult was being lied to, training with a self promoted fraud and had no idea. He wasn’t from my area but about 35 minutes away. I decided to ask him to invite his “master” to come in and workout with my class sometime. I said their system sounded interesting I would love to hear more. Today I got the phone call at my dojo from this young man’s “master”. Instead of being polite, having a discussion about the arts and sharing things he immediately went into what threatening me to leave his students alone and not to try and “steal” them from him. Here again are more flags that this guy is full of doo doo to say the least. I asked him who his Sensei was, his background and why, if he was Grand Master I have never heard of him…especially since I have trained all my life, and lived, in this area. He gave me a long winded story about how he learned from some Japanese guy since he was 2 years old because his Dad wanted him to be trained properly and blah blah blah. Wait, I think I saw that movie…if you were thinking the same thing I just said then we are on the same page.
Regardless I still invited him to stop by my dojo today and work out at 3 PM. He agreed. Well 3 PM is long past and no word. Tried calling, no answer…guess my plain old, tattered black belt isn’t good enough for him to come “show me his stuff” as he put it.
Now this type of thing does happen, and has for many years. Sadly people don’t bother to investigate the martial art system they are training (or their kids are enrolled in) nor do they bother check out the instructor’s credentials / resume either. They just see the price, think they’d like to “try it out” and get bamboozled into believing they are learning anything of value or authenticity. It does seem to be happening a lot more these days than it used to but I guess that is because everyone is a Youtube expert today or watched enough UFC fights to be qualified to teach…sadly, the real victim, is the student…be smart about where you train, who you train with and ignore the fancy belts, uniforms and patches…those things can’t teach you. It is the person that you are investing in…not their appearance.