View Full Version : My Sensei can beat up your Sensei

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Ari Bolden
05-21-2004, 03:48 PM
Martial art instruction is a wonderful and enjoyable activity. For some, it is a lifestyle, for others, it is hobby. Whatever the reasons, it impacts many people, both in positive and negative ways. Yes, negative to. I know that may fly in the face of popular belief that all martial artists are saintly, moralistic creatures, only using their arts to defend the innocent.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Instructors are of course human, susceptible to the ebb and flow of life, and able to make bad choices from time to time. And even some, more often than not.

I’m certainly not perfect and have made bad choices in my career. I’ve learnt from them and moved on.

I’ve always lived by the precept that there will always be someone in the world bigger, stronger, or faster than myself. Their technique may be superior, smoother or more refined than my own. I can accept that. But in the past ten years, there has been a shift in the martial arts. Ever since the first UFC, where styles were put up against styles, egos have been on the defensive ten fold. Whether you support competition or not, the UFC finally put the age old question “Is my art better than your art?” to the test.

These programs (UFC, PRIDE, XFC) started a ripple that was felt throughout the world. Now, martial art schools had to justify ‘why’ their art was the ‘best’ and why YOU should study BASH HIM DO. People were taking notice.

Martial art instructors were holding their breath every time one of their respected arts entered the ring for competition. Million of people would be watching after all.

Now, on a smaller scale, these competitions are happening in every city around the world. Take this experience for example.

A student of one martial art decides to visit another dojo in town. The two dojos do “similar” things, grappling for example, but of course offer different curriculum. With the blessing on his sensei, the student visits the other dojo.

The student, while visiting the other dojo, is consistently arm barred by the other sensei. However, NO instruction is given, but rather a lengthy demonstration of the sensei’s skill in submitting a beginner. The student, being very bright, realizes that the sensei is ‘show boating’ but doesn’t understand why the sensei isn’t giving any tips on how to avoid the attack.

The sensei says, ”We are simply the best. Why would you want to train anywhere else?” The student looks around and notices that this school is putting out fighters. They are big, strong and aggressive. Their technique is sound, which comes from the instruction of course. There can be no doubt that the other sensei is good at what he does.

Then the student hears conversations on the mat of steroid use and what can only be labeled as “machismo”. The student begins to think that this place isn’t for him. The final remark from the instructor to the student “ I’ll fight your sensei anytime and show you why our school is better.”

If one sensei beats up another sensei does that make him/her better? I am amazed how narrow-minded instructors can be. Martial art instruction is more than about winning. Some would argue that winning has nothing to do with it at all. The greatest danger is polluting the mind of the student with aggressive and unproductive behavior.

Since the inception of Aikido, students of that art have had to fend off remarks such as “Does aikido really work?” or “Aikido can’t cope with a grappler.” The keen observer will soon realize that aikido doesn’t have to defend itself at all against these remarks. To redirect the conflict is the ultimate goal of aikido, (and any self respecting martial artist.)

My point is this: The martial arts are about more than technique. Not every instructor teaches the same way. There are only so many ways to twist and turn the body. Therefore, good martial art instruction helps develop subtleties that can’t be seen without closer inspection. Loyalty, Courage, Veracity, Compassion, and Honor.

Sun Tzu said that the greatest warrior wins without fighting. As an instructor, you don’t have anything to prove. Obviously getting drawn into a ‘school yard’ fight is better left to the movies. What the other sensei failed to realize (or understand) was that the original student was learning how to be a better human being, not a better fighter.

John Boswell
05-21-2004, 04:22 PM
Huh uh! You take that back! You're just a meanie and MY sensei can out aikido YOUR sensei any day of the WEEK! :p

/sarcasim off

You make a very good point, Ari. Fortunatly, I haven't had the displeasure of seeing a lot of the machismo of which you speak. Thank GOD!

About a year ago, Sensei Byrdsong of Austin, Texas, came through Midland on his tour of Texas... venturing out to see and spread Aikido throughout the state. He was yondan at the time and my sensei was sandan. At that time, I had heard a lot about politics in aikido and didn't like what I heard. I felt a bit threatened by an "outsider" coming in, but thankfully my sensei welcomed him with open arms. It was a great night of training and I saw and learned many things; most of all was that politics and differences in style should have no place on the mat and that TRAINING is above all.

Since that time, Sensei Riggs has been promoted to Yondan and Byrdsong Sensei has been promoted to Godan. Both of whom are very deserving and despite two different affilitations, both very respectful and even appreciative of the other.

Nope. I have never seen the poor idiot foolish enough to "challenge" my sensei... but I'd sure like to shake his hand. I might just be the last person that gets to do so! :D

Muahahahaahahahahahaaa!! (*evil laugh*) :grr:

Chris Birke
05-21-2004, 06:09 PM
This is a really good point that I've noticed as well. I'd love to discuss it, here's some beginning ideas:

In my opinion, expecting people to show proof of their ability is a good thing. NHB isn't a comprehensive proof that any art is universally better, but it does clearly demonstrate some otherwise ignored realities. I encourage more situations that further evaluate martial arts.

That said, what's going on in this hypothetical gym is real, and it's stupid. It's the result of many factors, most of which have nothing to do with the arts in question, but rather their appeal to a new element: competitive athletes. I see these people on a regular basis, and I understand your sentiment; sometimes I feel my faith slipping.

Comprehensively, they are a source of many new elements, both good and bad. Weight training, dieting, emphasis on cardio, fierce ethic, and a different approach to technique. They also bring steroids, weight cutting, lack of restraint, and a desire to do anything possible to win. Some of them are real assholes too.

After a bit of consideration, I might hazard, that the "hardcore martial artists of lore" are a lot closer to the professional athletes mindset than you'd like to think. All their time dedicated to aggro persuits. Perhaps lots of ignorance as to the spirt. The truely enlightened were rare among the brutally effective. It seems sensible, as success in competition meant not dying. They tended to empasize it a lot.

Realise that school is not training self defense. It is training offense; assault. A different worldview, no?

I'm sure there are many out there who are absolutely looking for the sensei who can beat up everyone else. What you encountered simply isn't for you.

MMA for me is an exploration of life. There are places you cannot go without meeting brutality and bleeding for it. I've also discovered there is a lot to learn from the hulking wrestler in the sauna. To avoid this "ugliness", would be to cheapen the expirence. My goals are not those of everyone, but are they any less worthy.

That said, not all progressive schools are like that. Just the bad ones ;D. No asshole teachers for me, no steroids, no closeminded idiots, thank you.


Sun Tzu's statment you mention has been applied in many ways. It was used to promote nuclear arms proliferation with the idea that by filling the enemy with fear of an overwhelming technique they won't even try to fight back. This was also the thinking behind the recent shock and awe campaign. I'm not sure if either your usage, or this is correct. Probably something else entirely; I havn't studied Sun Tzu. Anyone know?


I'll also point out that I don't think hardcore training is needed for self defense.

1. A bit of the right basic study will bring you from helpless to competent in a fight. After that, you suffer diminishing returns; the closer you get to invincibility, the longer it takes to get there.

2. Once competent, there are some situations that simply cannot be defended. You can learn to avoid them, but again, after basic instruction, you suffer diminishing returns.

Hardcore training of advanced technique is most rewarding for offense, competition and the spirit.

05-21-2004, 10:20 PM
When a student finds herself in this position--a guest at a dojo whose sensei is getting hung up on "mine is better than yours"--perhaps she can contribute in a positive way by just not playing along. "I came to learn what you have to teach, not to worry about who is better or worse" followed by resolutely not making comparisons. That's what I've tried to do when I'm a guest. Usually the uncomfortable moments are in the first class or two, and after that if you refuse to get political things simmer down.

The most awkward moment I've ever had along these lines involved a sensei who gave a brief and rather slanted account of the difference between their tradition and mine, in front of both me and one of their own junior students. The junior student said, "That bit you just described, I think that's something I'd really benefit from learning" and the sensei turned an interesting color of pink and changed the subject. I probably turned an interesting color of pink too, because I really felt put on the spot. But I've remained on good terms with that sensei and their school, so I guess I handled it okay.

I think students can contribute positively by not allowing themselves to be drawn into this kind of unhelpful dogfight. If it doesn't impress the students, the teachers are less likely to do it....

Mary Kaye

05-21-2004, 11:47 PM
I really don't think this type of behavior is all that new, and I definitely don't think it started with the advent of the UFC etc. Some of the old stories of dojo busting come to mind. Instructors would go from school to school and try to beat the resident instructor to gain his student base.

I'm not saying it's a good thing but it's certainly not a new thing.


Green Machine
05-25-2004, 06:19 AM
Hi Ari

I never thoought that stuff like that went on outside the film industry.

I took aikido up for the reason that it is defensive and not aggresive, I spent a lot of time in my early child hood being bullied and recieving a good kicking. I developed over the years into a recluse and a coward frightened of people because of this bullying. I started to come out of my shell and started looking for a martial art to better myself. I went to a few karate classes and found that I was stepping back into that bullying scene again the instructers were mean and aggresive, I did not want to be that way so I just kept my self to myself and hit the weights. I did not become a big huge guy my frame would not allow it but I became strong really strong then I was out one day and some guy decided to pick a fight with me he headbutted me and I went flying he came at me again but I was up on my feet and grabbed hold of the guy and managed to re-strain him. The conflict ended after the guy realised that he could not beat me and I had not even landed a puch. I felt good that I had not retaliated but acted in a way that did not use agression to beat agression. I then found aikido and I am now at a turning point in my life I have made friends developed confidence and the future looks promising.

I know I have gone of the track here but beating someone up in my eyes is bad and thinking about beating someone up is bad, as you mentioned there is allways going to be someone better, than you out there and if that bigger better person had the same attitude then society would just fall into chaos. We are developing an art and our conduct reflects our respect for that art. So going from dojo to dojo thinking that I am better that you is truely disrespectfull of the art and a little immature. :D

Domo Arigato Andrew

05-25-2004, 07:25 AM
I am sure i have incountered this. I usually start every new person with this phrase, " there are a 1000 people that could walk through that door right now and kick my ass, and a million more that i wont let get close enough to hurt me, but that would not make them better than they were before they walked in. If they walk in the door and i do not antagonize them and they practice one class that might make them a better person, AND this is our goal. I don't have to be a better fighter than you, i just have to be better than I was yesterday, you just have to be better than you were yesterday." This usually dispells any agression, then they get to feel the techniques and often a strange look of shock will come at the discovery what the "Art" feels like and a quick, where do i sign up. But still, to the guys, that say" thats' crap, my jujitsu will kick you ass!", i hope they don't pick fight with an expert in........

Shotgun Fu...
Ha, well forgive me?
"Aikido seeks to contend with nothing, that is why it is victorious from the begining" now who said that?... oh yea!

well that's what i usually say, because to me it is more about wisdom than wise-ass.
just a view point from the Deep South.

05-25-2004, 08:11 AM
In order to learn i think we must all accept the need for limits. The story (or modern myth) is of one martial artist threatening this unskilled individual. the individual refused to be intimidate and simply pointed out that "You have to walk home every night and my cars outside". This sort of story really tends to calm down the win at all costs guys. Anyway as far as I've been able to tell the people who feel the need to prove how good they are, usually aren't.

Beside which my assessment of an instructor isn't about how good he is, it's about how good he can make me.

05-25-2004, 08:13 AM
The sensei says, "We are simply the best. Why would you want to train anywhere else?"

Having trained with and sparred professional fighters, I've never encountered this attitude. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm sure it does.

I'm just saying that there are schools that have less than totally healthy training environments, lead by less than enlightened people, and these schools do exist for all arts.

Ego is present in many forms. More than once, I've heard instructors suggest that their students are more enlightened, more peaceful, more spiritual than others in much the same tone that I imagine Mr. "we are simply the best" used.



05-25-2004, 08:24 AM
The best fighters aren't necessarily the best martial artists. I think one of the reasons for clubs to avoid competition is because students want to learn to defend themselves as best as possible i.e. what is the best that each student can achieve. Many of these students would never be good fighters, but they could learn to defend themselves against an attacker. Certain individuals will have a predisposition to fighting, and, whatever the art, they will have an enormous advantage in arranged fights.

An important aspect of aggression in the street is that you don't have to win - you just have to make it hard enough for the attacker such that they will stop trying to hurt you. In real life this often is not much (in fact it is often just the confidence to stand up to them).


05-25-2004, 08:26 AM
P.S. traditionally is you are challenged it is your top student who fights first (as your challenger is too lowly for a direct match). If they beat your top student, hopefully you have learnt enough about their tactics to deal with them!

05-26-2004, 02:07 AM
What happens when your top student challenges you? :P

I'm not sure, but I have a nagging thought at the back of my mind which I would like to ask the forum. I kinda feel that this thread would serve as well... since its really a case of different paths of senseis. The question is, as a Sensei... what is your aim and how do you go about doing it?

Some would observe that martial artistes are people who specialises in martial arts. They may have other labours that sustains their lives like farming, but the core of their lives is spent practising, living and improving their art. What about our modern day senseis? Those that practice at night before supper after a days work? Well actually they teach then... I don't really know when they actually practice... Are they construed as martial artistes?

I just want to hear from you guys what you think of the responsibility a sensei must have to himself, his students and his art.