Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sparring School Culture part 4

School Culture 4
All pictures taken and printed by Mark Lynn for a college photography course project on the Proctor dojo, these are scans of the photos.

Sensei Proctor kicking Joseph
In previous posts in this series on School Culture I was comparing a sparring type school culture in posts 1 and 2 in a commercial school setting, this post is a continuation of my personal experience of training at my instructors home dojo that was a sparring type school as well which was started in post 3 of this series.

As I mentioned in my previous post one of the great things that developed in sensei Proctor’s home dojo was a deep bond between those that trained there.  This attitude was fostered and built into the training by sensei Proctor; for instance we have New Years Day workouts each year to celebrate the New Year and then celebrate lunch afterwards with family and friends.  Even if you didn’t workout people and students would still show up for lunch afterwards to

visit with old friends.  This is one of the great things about the sparring type of a school if it is fostered right is that feeling of family, comradely, that feeling we are special because we all go through this together.  

But there were some negatives as well.
Tony side kicking Meg

Looking back on it from an instructor’s point of view now, I’ve realized that I wasn’t really prepared to teach karate in this type of environment.  Sensei Proctor taught me how to fight which in and of itself was a valuable lesson, but as a young blue belt (early 20’s) being taught in this type of an environment I didn’t have the years of training in a formal class that sensei Proctor and the others had.  By not having the years of training under my belt I didn’t have the experience of practicing nor developing my kata, basic techniques, sparring drills, etc. etc. leaving me with  nothing or very little from which to draw from in order to develop others.  By not going through the type of training my sensei had, or put in the time he had to develop his kicking skills, I couldn’t or wouldn’t really develop the body mechanics or methods to pass on and teach that material later on in years. 

I’m not saying that I wasn’t trained in my basics (i.e. blocking, punching and kicking skills) because I was in the commercial schools and the private lessons when I was at college.  In fact I took over the karate program at the college I was attending because I knew more about the basics, kata and such than the black belt instructor who had gotten his black belt in Korea (when he was younger) and at the time I was a brand new 4th brown. The next year I ended up teaching the karate program three nights a week at two hours a night for my last year in college.

Sensei Proctor is/was a mentor to me who was and is still instrumental in my growth as a martial artist; he not only taught me karate and how to fight, he also encouraged me to look into the Filipino Martial Arts, Thai Boxing, JKD and other martial arts.  The down side was I had no real way to incorporate what I was learning, because I didn’t have that type of training foundation in the first place.  Also I had no idea how to lay out, design, or structure classes much less a curriculum when I really started teaching on my own in 1994 several years later.  I simply used the kata in our system as a basis to structure things around and went from there but as a curriculum it wasn’t really well thought out.  

While the sparring type school can build that feeling comradely, it can build good fighters, it can be used as an attitude building mechanism.  The big draw back I see in a school that is focused mainly on sparring and teaches kata or basics only as a method of rank progression is that it could be stunting the student’s growth in the martial arts, and in turn for many students of theirs in the future.

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