Judo Chops and Other Martial Delicacies

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Having been the founder and owner of 7 martial arts schools in 5 different states over the course of 35 years I've had the opportunity to deal with the public quite extensively. My “customers” ranged in age from 4 to 94 years old, rich to poor, male, female and a few I'm STILL not too sure about.

    Now these folks came to me (or were brought to me, in the case of the younger ones) for a variety of reasons. You might be thinking that a person goes to a martial arts school simply to learn martial arts.


    That might be the most-cited and most obvious reason but it's rarely the PRIME one. Martial arts classes cover a multitude of sins, sins that the customer expects to have removed by faithful attendance and the shedding of a little sweat. And who does the removing?

    The Teacher.

    The Good and The Bad

    Being a martial arts teacher you get to see the best and the worst in people. You get to mingle with saints and psychotics, strivers and connivers, tools and fools. You hear stories such as:

    • The time Aunt Edna's Doberman took a dislike to the student and attacked them on Easter Sunday, so they wanted to learn to defend themselves in time for the July 4th picnic.
    • The student, who by the way is 5 years old and drooling like a rabid wolf, whose parents expect you to predict the exact date that Junior is going to earn his Black belt.
    • The lady executive who comes into the relaxation / meditation class dressed in the latest in corporate fashion and toting a heavy briefcase, looks at her gold-and-diamond watch, consults her scheduler, and asks exactly how much meditation and relaxation she can learn in 5 days.
    • The class of 30 autistic teenagers whose attention is anywhere but on the lessons, but when my cat strolls into the room they're all totally focused.
    • The tough guy who wants to beat up everyone he meets, and is constantly going from school to school to find the deadliest techniques.
    A common trend among martial arts schools nowadays is to try to sign new students to a multi-year contract. I was never a fan of this even during it's early years and made it a point to emphasize that I went on a month-by-month basis with no contracts. Most of my students appreciated this.

    But there were always a few that became suspicious of my motivations: WHY didn't I offer contracts? What was I hiding? Was I going out of business next week? Would I raise their rates without notice?

    The fact that I raised rates perhaps once every 5 years mattered not to them, nor did the fact that I explained at length my reasoning for not having them sign a long-term commitment. They STILL looked at me like I was a Three-Card Monte dealer in a dark alley. So I offered them a contract.


    They never signed it, and never joined the school. They just liked arguing, I guess.

    Shutos and Pshrinks

    I've had a few students for whom I served as a cheap, always-available mixture of armchair psychologist and Father Confessor. For $10/hr in group classes they would chatter constantly about their “real world” problems and look at me with puppy-dog eyes, expecting me to wave my Magical Sword and make everything better and disrupting the rest of the class in the process.

    The smarter ones would book a private lesson with me and for $30/hr would have the undivided attention of a captive audience – me – to spew out their childhood traumas and their adult phobias. At one point I was going to sell the school and open a chain of “Kwik-Pshrink”s across the country – I probably would have made a fortune.


    Many times a beginning student would ask about the effectiveness of the “Judo Chop” and I would cringe every time they asked. Hollywood has done well for the martial arts by showing them off to the world, but it has also done a disservice by mis-naming many of the actual techniques. The “Judo Chop” is one of them: it's actually called a “shuto” (“Knife-Hand”) in Japanese and, despite it's usage by millions of people after watching their first Chop-Socky film, it DOES have certain principles for its proper and effective usage.

    But that goes over the heads of most of the younger kids, so you find yourself as a teacher surveying a classroom full of hyper-active children vigorously chopping at the air and at each other.

    You Want HOW Much for Your Underwear?!?

    The suppliers of the martial arts world do pretty well for themselves, if the price of karate and judo uniforms is any indication.

    A beginner's uniform, lightweight, weakly constructed and likely made by under-aged slave labor in Taiwan, will retail for around $30-40. If you're lucky and not too aggressive in your training it will last a few months. But if you discover yourself REALLY getting into your classes and perhaps even starting to attend a few tournaments, of course you'll want to invest in something a little better.

    You can get a medium-weight gi (uniform), slightly better quality and longer-lasting, for around $90-$100. That of course is if you're a “standard” size, which to the retailers seems to mean the physical dimensions of your average Hobbit. For a healthy American lad or lass you'll probably have to shell out a few extra bucks to get the “Extra-Large” size.


    Then you get the extreme players – the ones who live, eat, breathe and sleep martial arts, or who are seriously training for competition. They think nothing of dropping $400-$500 on a single uniform.

    Now that's not necessarily a BAD thing, but if you get into the history of martial arts you'll discover that a gi is nothing special, really – in fact, all that a gi really is is a pair of underwear. It was worn beneath your “regular” clothes to keep them from becoming soiled. The funny thing is that in some schools there is a custom where you fold up your uniform at the end of class, kneel down and bow to it.

    You bow to your underwear.

    Think about that the next time you pick up a pair of Fruit-of-the-Looms at K-Mart.


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  3. Judah

    Judah fights in tights

    Loved the bit on the history of the gi. I once read a book on TKD when I was young and had just started training. It showed how to fold my dobok. I ignored it and just folded it like any other shirt and trousers. Now of course I don't fold my Savate tights, I keep them on after training so I can go straight to the tranny bar ;)
  4. MattCMMA

    MattCMMA Master

    I would have asked for my money back. Why should a student who has payed you for a service, feel stupid for doing exactly what they're paying for? Oh wait.. they are already stupid, they should have paid 3x more, where that magic sword is available.

    A student pays his dues + $10/hr to talk about their real world problems with you in group class. You are the one offering this service during group classes. They're not the ones whom is disrupting class, you are.
  5. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Unlike the macho brigade I don't force anything on anyone, including teachings. If they want to learn, fine. If they want to blab, that's fine too, until it gets to the point where it disrupts the class.

    I apologize that I'm not from your blood-'n'-guts school.
  6. arron butler

    arron butler Fist of Fury

    Sifu Phil. You the man.!!
  7. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Sometimes too many people would agree with you ...

    drewtoby, arron butler and Judah like this.

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