I’ve been a member of the martial arts world since the mid 1970′s. Over the course of time there have been a number of “fads”, for lack of a better term, that have seen meteoric rises and almost equally dramatic declines.
When Bruce Lee hit the movie screens, martial arts finally became cool. Schools popped up everywhere and people wanted to get in on the action. Some stuck around but the great majority quitetly went away and the schools subsequently folded.
Then the full-contact and tournament craze was upon us. Again, more schools popped up. Prospective students with money in hand arrived to learn how to be the biggest and baddest in the ring. Short-lived martial arts magazines were full of articles on how to be the next great champion. This incarnation, too, fizzled after a few years.
What followed was the ninja phenomenon. Sho Kosugi seemed to have one movie per month crank out. The American Ninja series had a cult following. The magazines that survived from the tournament era now shifted gears to provide everything you wanted to know about becoming a stealthy assassin. The rush of charlatans claiming to be ninja masters arrived as well. Again, after a brief run at the top, the ninjas went back to the shadows as did the unscrupulous “teachers”.
So where are we now? Why MMA of course! You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a hastily thrown together school full of bags and mats and gloves and such. Instructors are happily greeting you at the door to separate you from your money – and possibly some teeth – as long as you are between the ages of 18 and 25. You’re either too young to sign the waiver or too old to get in the ring otherwise. And truthfully, how long can one’s body tolerate the beating that passes for training in one of these schools?
What comes next? I truly have no idea. What I can tell you is that over the years, every time a new fad hits, I see an increase in people showing interest in my classes. Phone calls or emails come in with the questions “do you teach (fill-in-the-blank)?” When I answer to the contrary, some times the contact ends there. Other times, a prospective member will show up for a free trial class but never be seen again.
Every once in a while, though, a person comes in and sees what we teach for what it is; a legitimate martial arts system with a strong history and effective technique. It allows one to begin training at a comparatively early age and continue through the rest of their life if they so desire. They receive not only excellent self-defense instruction, but through diligent training they also gain strength and balance of both body and character.
I’ve been our dojo’s instructor since June 1 of 1994. Regardless of the latest hot topic hitting the news, magazines or movies I have taught Kokondo and only Kokondo. Not having an expensive storefront and the related overhead I have successfully avoided the trap of becoming a shopkeeper enslaved by his customers. To truly master our system takes a lifetime of continuous training that doesn’t need the distractions of trying to be what we’re not.
We don’t have 31 flavors here. Just one. But that’s more than enough.