Sunday, February 23, 2014

School Culture Post 3

 The Home dojo  (Note all photos were taken and printed by Mark Lynn for a photography class at Collin County Community College these are scans of the original photos.)
Sparring in the Proctor Dojo around 1989/90
In the first two posts of this series I talked about the sparring type culture in a martial arts school using a black belt test that some students of mine and I had just attended as an example of that type of culture.

This time I want to discuss another type of school culture and which is again of the sparring culture but from my own training background, which is the family or private dojo.  It was in the summer of 1983 when I was invited over to train at my instructor’s house.  He had quit teaching at a commercial school (Texas Karate Institute in Plano) and had opened up his garage in his house as his personal dojo.

Meg watching and waiting for her turn at the door
There was a small group of men and occasionally women who would work out and spar at the dojo, many of the individuals would come 2-3 times per week for the work outs, sometimes there would be 1-2 people that would show up sometimes more.  What formed was a close knit group of people who trained with each other for several years.  It is a testament to this group that several are still training there even today almost 30 years later.

Generally sensei Proctor and I would work on kata when I came home from college, in private workouts.  However the vast majority of time for the group work outs focused on sparring.  As a group we never wore full uniforms, nor belts, nor lined up by rank, we didn’t do any real punching and kicking combinations drills like in a normal school, we simply sparred.  But not in the normal sense, sparring at the Proctor dojo was vastly different than in the commercial dojo; we fought hard, we got taken down to the floor, we got kicked into the walls, we wrestled, we did the ground and pound before it was named the ground and pound, we kicked to the legs, we elbowed and kneed each other, all with leaving our belts and egos at the door.

Vince Roundhouse kicking John

Some of us (like myself) ended up training there for a time and leaving only to come back again and train some more only to leave again etc. etc.  For me I ended up leaving for college, then relocating for work etc. etc. but we all still remained connected to the dojo.  So I trained there when I could as well as at other schools when I relocated along with the weekend classes at SMU or the kobudo workouts we had down town.  While I had outside influences from all of the other training I did; I learned to fight here in this dojo.
What sparring at sensei Proctor’s dojo brought about was a deep bond between those of us who trained there over the years.  Many of us developed deep friendships and respect for one another and a closeness that was and is almost like family.  This resulted in having the trust in others that when they kicked at your knee (one of my favorite entries) they were just playing the game and not trying to break it.  Once I took a side kick to my ribs breaking them, and having developed the deep trust we had for each other helped me to understand it was my fault for not blocking because the other guy was just kicking at the opening I left; he wasn’t trying to purposely cause me harm.  Getting black eyes from well placed kicks or punches, getting a nose broke, getting knocked out or put through the sheet rock that lined the walls was just part of our training experience.   The price we paid was blood sweat and tears as well as commitment to the training and to each other, a price that we all gladly and painfully paid.

Vince catching Meg with a left hook
While I believe there were many many benefits to training this way, in the 4th part of this series I’ll explain what I believe to be some of the downsides to this type of training.

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