Monday, October 14, 2013

"We're the Recreation Center Martial Arts Program" or The Other Guys



We're Different

The Roanoke Recreation Center where classes are held.
Yesterday was the Celebrate Roanoke festival in our town, and for the first time our school Hidden Sword Martial Arts had a booth.   I was horrified as I heard Jackie (who along with her husband was graciously helping me man the booth) start off her greeting potential customers with “We’re the Rec. Center martial arts program”.  Not “We’re Hidden Sword Martial Arts…….” and then she would start with the pitch “we offer classes in this and that etc. etc.”  Now Jackie who has a background in advertising, as well as her husband have really helped me in the past to promote our school, so when she proudly sat down in a chair and told me “We’re the Rec. Center Martial Arts program, we’re different I like that!” I listened to her.  As far as promotions/advertising she’s the black belt and I’m the student.

You see in most martial artist's eyes as well as the general publics, words like Rec. Center, Parks and Recreation, after school martial arts and the like scream out HOBBYIST, PART TIMER, and those that can’t cut it in the real martial arts teaching world.  I mean the general consensus is that the real true masters are the guys who own a school; they are the ones who are teaching hordes of students, they are the ones that train their students so they become the Texas Tournament Champions of the Year school.   The bigger stand alone schools have the painted signs on the windows in bright day glow letters that say “train with the Insert state or country champion here”, have the most black belts etc. etc.

I have tried hard to distance myself from the view that I’m a hobbyist, a part timer, because I teach at a recreation center.  Those that know me know that I have invested a lot of time and money into making sure that my students have good quality training equipment to train with, just like the big schools.  They know that I teach and offer several classes per day for both adults and children at the rec. center, they know that I assemble exam boards of outside instructors to examine our students and to give me feed back on our program.  They know that I have been training and teaching now for 32 years and earned black belts in 5 different martial art systems.   Also many of the parents who have been with me now for several years also know that last year I gave up a career at American Airlines after 22 years (30 years in the aviation career field) to pursue my calling as an instructor, so I’m not a part timer.

If you have ever seen the movie “The Other Guys” than you have an idea of how I was feeling we were being promoted; you know, we’re not the A team we’re the other guys.  Wisely though I listened to the master and got what she was saying.  We are different, we are the other guys and we should be proud of it.  You see we don’t do things that many other schools do.
·        We don’t give kids black belts. (I’m seen them as young as 7 get their black belt and there seems to be a race now for schools to promote the world’s youngest black belt.)
·        We don’t test a student for black belt in a couple of years. (Our program is based on 4-5 years)
·        I don’t teach 6-7 year olds knife defense (I’m serious, I’ve seen this).
·        We are not a tournament centered school, we don’t train for the Olympics, we don’t even teach Olympic style Tae Kwon Do.  
·        I’m not a tournament champion, I don’t fight in rings or octagons.
·        I don’t teach XMA type weapons forms with fake and play toy weapons (see the earlier weapons blog for pictures of what I mean). Nor do I teach 7 year olds kamas (farm sickle) or any weapon for that matter.
·        Our weapons program doesn’t last only a couple of classes so the students can say they have learned Nunchaku, Sai and Kali sticks.
·        We are not a belt factory, nor do we have long contracts (we don’t promote on a time table due to the parent paying for a contract or a belt program).
·        I don’t have a high pressure sales pitch, in fact if I talked with you at Celebrate Roanoke that was my pitch.  When I think about it, my sales pitch yesterday really centered around us being the other guys, and our program being different.

So what do we do, here at Hidden Sword at the Roanoke Recreation Center?  It is very simple really, we teach three different martial arts; American Karate/TKD, Kobudo, and Modern Arnis to kids through adults.  Ours is a monthly on going program where the students progress from one class to the next as they move up in rank.  When they are an advanced belt (purple through black rank) the student has the opportunity to cross train into Kobudo and on a case by case basis Modern Arnis.  This gives the student a chance to widen their training experience and grow in the martial arts.

·        The American Karate/TKD program is based on the Chang Hon (Blue Cottage)Tae Kwon Do patterns.  However the training drills and self defense training come from many different influences not just from Tae Kwon Do.
·        Unlike many schools, training with real weapons is reserved for the higher ranks and the classes are taught weekly on Saturdays.  Our Kobudo training helps the student to learn focus, control and confidence as they learn katas with real training weapons and two man drills where they learn to hit something.  Kobudo is an extension or a bridge art for our Tae Kwon Do program.
·        Our Modern Arnis classes are centered around learning the Filipino martial arts and it is taught as a stand alone complete art not just as an add on to the Tae Kwon Do program.
·        Training drills and techniques from Muay Thai, Arnis, Karate, Jujitsu etc. etc. are freely exchanged between the programs to help the student to develop their skills.
·        Kata applications (applying techniques from the kata) are taught from a self defense view point instead of a physical performance based (i.e. tournament) view point. 
·        We train in a simple classroom environment; we don’t have dream boards, loud music to motivate students, flashing disco lights etc. etc. just plain old kicking bags and shields.


Being a competition orientated school isn't bad, it’s just we aren’t one.  We focus on being here for the student who wants to learn self defense, not those students who want to compete every weekend.   We don’t teach mixed martial arts for the octagon or UFC type fights, but we do teach mixed martial arts (i.e. three arts which I pull drills, techniques, and skills from and that my students can cross train in).  We don’t teach from the perspective that the martial art is sacred and is above the student at all cost; rather the art is secondary to the student.  However we also don’t put the student’s felt needs, nor the want of money above the learning of the martial art (as in a belt mill) or above a person having to earn their rank.  I don’t teach 6 year old Yellow belts arm bars and joint locks along with knife defense and call it self defense.

So we are different, we are the “other guys” and you know, I’m proud of it.  So if you want something different come visit us at the Roanoke Recreation Center we are the martial arts program there.

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