Top Document: rec.martial-arts Newbie Guide
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Some years ago a movie came out: They Call Me Bruce! In this comedy, an Asian man made his way through a number of people who thought he was a great martial arts Master simply because he was Asian, triumphing in the end. The moral is clear and directly applicable. Do not assume that because the instructor of a given school is Asian that he is, in some way, superior to the instructor of another school who is not. Skill in martial arts is not inherent to any given "race." Likewise, do not make the same mistake concerning the sex of an instructor. There are many very talented female instructors. Don't let yourself be distracted by a fancy school or unrelated goodies such as weight machines or saunas. A well kept, safe training area is one thing but extraneous features, though nice, ultimately only add to the expenses of the school. There are a good number of excellent instructors teaching out of their garages, basements, and back yards. Don't get distracted by uniforms either. Many Asian martial arts wear the traditional "white pajamas" gi while other martial arts have different uniforms and some, no uniform at all, preferring instead "street clothes" or comfortable, loose fitting training clothes. Also, don't pay too much attention to numerous trophies and medals. Trophies are easy to come by in martial arts competitions. On top of that they are inexpensive and easily purchased by unscrupulous scam artists from the local trophy store. Though this practice is uncommon, it has been known to happen. Don't judge a school or instructor by how much they charge. It's human nature to assume that a higher priced product is going to be somehow better, yet this is not always true in the world of Martial Arts. Some instructors are simply teaching for the joy of teaching and not trying to make a living or any real money from it (more on this in the rec.martial-arts FAQ). Some arts and Organizations discourage their instructors from trying to make money from instruction and will therefore be inherently less expensive. Yet other arts are the flavor du jour and suffer from higher demand than there are available instructors, thus making them more expensive. As long as the price of instruction falls within the range that you are willing to pay, don't worry too much about it. Further, don't pay too much attention to lots of certificates in Asian script decorating the wall, particularly if you don't read the language they're written in. Most instructors will display only the rank certificate of their top rank (or the top rank they hold in each art they're ranked in if they are ranked in more then one). In general, this should mean that there aren't many certificates displayed. With the state of current computer technology, it is easy to produce impressive looking certificates that say anything you wish them to say, even that the bearer is a high ranking martial artist. Finally, don't be overly concerned with the rank of the instructor. While in the early stages of training in your new art (say the first 10 years) you probably won't be able to tell the difference between a 3rd Degree Black Belt and a 9th Degree Black Belt.