View Full Version : Martial Arts Training Advice Wanted

Mike Spight
April 21, 1999, 10:01 AM
As I prepare to retire from the US Army, I find that I would like to get back into some type of martial arts training. I live in the greater KC metro area and I do not plan to move EVER AGAIN if possible. Back in the early 1980s I studied Okinawan Ishyinryu w/Sensei Steve Armstrong in Tacoma WA...I also studied Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan w/Master Don Southerton in Newburgh, NY...finally studied Modern American Karate w/Smokey West in Fayetteville, NC. Like a lot of military types, I found myself PCSing before being able to take a Black Belt test and could not find the style I had previously studied in my new locale. Of course, field training, deployments etc did not help the situation. Bottom line, I'm almost 50 years old, but in excellent physical condition. I'm not particularly interested in studying something where I'm constantly being slammed into the mats. Any recommendations on the KC area any of you can make? At my age, I'm more interested in the PT and mental discipline than becoming a tournament fighter as that isn't a realistic expectation anyway. I do want to learn PRACTICAL ways of defending myself w/o weapons. Finally, the local dojo I visited is run by a gentleman with multiple black belts in TKD, Japanese Karate, Akido, and Ju-Jitsu. Is there a real advantage of studying w/someone with those credentials or is it best to study with someone who has concentrated in one discipline? This particular Sensei has about 30 years experience in the martial arts. I spent about an hour watching one of his classes. On the downside, he mixes kids w/adults...there was one Brown Belt present, and (IMHO) the man did not appear to possess the level of proficiency I would expect from a Brown/Red Belt...could be a bad sign. Opinions and advice are greatly appreciated!

Byron Quick
April 21, 1999, 01:45 PM

This a very personal decision with many variables. Ultimately it can only be answered by you. There is a book titled "Living The Martial Way" by Maj. Forrest Morgan USAF. It explores how to choose a teacher and a style based on your personal objectives. It also discusses how to avoid unpleasantries such as getting taken by a glib fraud. It is a very good investment to make before choosing either a style or a teacher.

I personally study at the Bujinkan Atlanta Dojo. There are Bujinkan Dojos across the US but the quality of the instructors vary. I prefer to study with instructors who train on a regular basis in the country of the art's origin. My sensei spends two to four weeks a year in Japan with his sensei and has for over twenty years now.

This is not to say that there are not very good instructors whose training has been totally domestic.

Mike Spight
April 21, 1999, 02:09 PM
Spartacus: Thanks much for the excellent and wise counsel. You're very correct that making this choice is deeply personal and is not without potential pitfalls. I'm not familiar with Maj Morgan's book, but I will obtain a copy and read same. In a real sense, I've been very fortunate to have trained with three great teachers(especially Don Southerton) who genuinely care about their art and students. For them, making big bucks is not the ultimate goal, although they are very successful. In reality, this makes going to a new sensei/so bob nim extremely difficult as the quality of my previous instruction and experience was so outstanding. Hopefully, I'll also hear from someone in the KC metro area who can provide 1st person advice about a dojo/dojang in this area.

April 21, 1999, 05:31 PM
There is a school associated with Hock Hochheim in the area I believe. It is Mid-America Combat Guild. The telephone# 816-690-8006. I do not have any first hand experience, but I hear they are pretty good.

April 21, 1999, 08:21 PM
I started taking karate early this year as a way to get back in shape (45 yrs old) and learn a practical skill at the same time. I just couldn't make myself exercise without the possibility of gaining something useful.

I had several choices of discipline in this area and chose Okinawan Isshinryu for it's fairly low impact, get down to business style. Our Sensei studied under Master Wheeler and uses tapes of Master Shimabuku to refine our katas. I have found the practical self defense nature of Isshiryu to be very beneficial.

Since you have already studied Isshinryu you would not have to start at the bottom.

Byron Quick
April 22, 1999, 03:57 AM
There are reasons I personally do not study karate. But if you are studying Isshinryu for God's sake get Shimabuku sensei to your area for a seminar or go to San Francisco on vacation to train with him. The man is awesome. In the future, I hope to train in Eishin ryu iaijutsu with this man.

Byron Quick
April 22, 1999, 04:12 AM

One other comment that I meant to make earlier regarding your brown belt comment. The Japanese term for first degree black belt is shodan. There are multiple nuances to this in translation as there are in many Japanese words. Sho can be translated as first or primary. Dan can be translated as step or level. First step or primary level.

The dan rankings and belt system is only about a century old. It was initiated by Jigoro Kano- the founder of Judo. When Judo had grown to the point that Kano san could no longer know each student's level of advancement personally, he needed a device to cue him to that student's level to avoid injuring the person. That's its only purpose.

The depiction of the black belt as an awesome killing machine is a Western phenomenom. The true meaning of shodan is that you have now reached the physical, mental, and emotional point where your instructor can finally begin to teach you without an inordinate risk of grave injury. The various colored belts were added in Japan later for CHILDREN'S classes. Very few dojos in Japan use colored belts for adult students.

April 22, 1999, 07:24 AM

Master Shimabuku died in 1974 but many of his students are still teaching. This is why we study Shimabuku tapes at our Dojo. We also invite Shimabuku trained Masters for seminars and demonstrations.

Our Sensei says that the colored belts are just a way to reward progression thru the katas and learning the history of the discipline. When you reach Shodan it means you are now ready to start doing some learning on your own. Before that you can only learn from a Sensei.

Byron Quick
April 22, 1999, 07:44 AM

On accessing my references, I find that a chance similarities in names had confused me.
I am referring to Masayuki Shimabukuro, who is about 7th or 8th dan in ****o-ryu karate and 7th dan in Eishin-ryu iaijutsu. At least ****o-ryu is an Okinawan karate ryu :) Oh, well.

Byron Quick
April 22, 1999, 07:50 AM
Well, the asterisks come from the stupid censorship algorithm. The asterisked word is hit with a s in front of it. -CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED-o-ryu.


April 22, 1999, 03:20 PM
Have you thought about Aikido? It's not the norm when it comes to martial arts. Circular patterns, no closed hand strikes, fluid motions, harmony, and tossing people across the room. I'm a second degree BB and I have been with it for twelve years. I studdied under the Budoko-Kai in Va under Sensei Hiroyuki Hammada, hanshi in the arts of Karate, Aikido, and numerous others. You way not be able to get to Va so I would go for a change from the so-called Hiyahh! martial arts, and try out Aikido. If you don't like it go back to what you like. There is no harm to your training to change styles as you yourself have seen. Good luck with whatever you choose.

The needs of the many out way the needs of the few.

Mike Spight
April 22, 1999, 04:18 PM
KNIGHT: Yes, I have considered Akido. I really need to go observe a class or two to get a better idea of what it's about, but I'm certainly open to that. A local sensei here in Leavenworth, KS teaches Akido, along with other disciplines.
Spartacus, Britt and Mikey: Thanks again for the good advice...I'll start working the KC metro websites for more info too. Spartacus, I understand your point about the colored belts...it's just that when I was studying Tang Soo Do by the time you achieved Red Belt rank (same as Brown Belt in Japanese/Okinawan arts), you were pretty good in terms of flexibility, speed, and crisp execution of technique. The Brown Belt I saw while observing the class in question the other day looked about like he had yellow or green belt level skills...nothing more. For me, a possible indication of people being promoted before they're ready. I don't want to study with someone who may do that in an attempt to attract students to his dojo/dojang.

Edmund Rowe
April 24, 1999, 01:09 AM
The most important things about searching for a good martial arts school you seem to understand well already:

-Find a school that emphasizes training for defense, not sport
-Find a teacher who has a wide background of experience, and isn't narrow minded by "My single art is the One True Way"
-Make sure the advancement system is for serious progress and not a black belt mill.

I think ANY teacher can be beneficial if he is smart enough to (as Bruce Lee put it) "Absorb what is useful". With that in mind, I don't think the particular system is so important as the individuals making up the leadership of the school. The top dog may be fantastic, but if all his senior students are coattail-riding sorry wannabes....

With your experience I would try something I hadn't learned before.

Hope I helped.


April 24, 1999, 11:04 AM
I see youve already received good suggestions....personally I like issinryu and living here in tennessee, its around there might possibly be a school in the kc area that teaches this. If you like I will ask and find out for you...I know in my area they arent in the book, and what is listed dosent say isshinryu. Its a complete system, which as of late has incorporated much of the Jujitsu as well as the "normal" karate training......now if contact is a problem, Ive never taken akido so I dont know how it is, slthough some of the basics Ive seen seem to be incorporated in karate as well...dont know if this added anything, but Im glad to see so many issinryu students...fubsy.

Mike Spight
April 26, 1999, 11:28 AM
Edmund/fubsy, et al: Thanks...good advice from all. fubsy, if you can, send names of KC area Issynryu dojos. Contact is not a problem with me...I'm just not interested in doing something with potential for high impact on my lower back (slammed into the mats ala Judo/Hapkido) on a constant basis. Too much time spent as a human lawn dart (legs call it jumping out of perfectly good airplanes) have made my lower back overly injury prone. I'm definitely interested in something with PRACTICAL defensive applications.

Covert Mission
April 29, 1999, 08:24 PM
I've studied (Hakkoryu/Yosh-tsune)(the dash is an 'i'...damn censor) JuJutsu off and on for several years. I've found it to be a very interesting alternative to all the KEEYAAA styles. Much more technical and intellectual,with an emphasis on sophisticated joint locks and pressure points, and you take less of a beating. Because it is so effective, there really isn't full sparring...too dangerous.

The most interesting aspect is that YOU can control the escalation of force. You can dial it up from one to ten, depending on the situation. YOu can use a come-along hold to sit your drunken abusive brother-in-law down at a wedding and have a chat with him, or you can put several assailants in the hurt locker. Aikido, a descendant of Jujutsu, does this, but it seems to me to have evolved far away form a true martial style in many cases.(watch Steven Seagal movies... all his good stuff is swiped from other, non-Aikido styles) It is the Way of Peace, but sometimes that just doesn't work. I hope to resume my Jujutsu studies soon. IMHO

[This message has been edited by Covert Mission (edited April 29, 1999).]

David Wright
April 30, 1999, 04:00 PM
Check into the SCARS training. It's the absolute fastest I've seen when it comes to getting you "up to speed" for actual hand-to -hand stuff. Much more efficient use of your time. If you don't have to have the "spiritual" aspect of martial arts and just need the education to fight smart, it can't be beat. www.scars.com