I received a lot of very interesting and valid questions since I posted yesterday, and I would like to cover them here! It’s a long one, again, best settle in now.
Can you teach me anything (online/offline)? I’d feel safe with you teaching (me/my family/friends).
First of all, I’m honored you’d want me to do so. I would be glad to, should we ever meet in person. If you are ever in my area, I am allowed to bring you with me and you would most likely be tutored under me the whole class with little direction from my sensei, as he would want me to have the experience mentoring/teaching someone. It would be free of cost, up to two weeks’ worth, and from there, due to knowing me and depending on how long you’d be around, we’d work out tuition or fees from there and potential discounts. But if you’re only on a short visit, rest assured you can at least get a couple free real lessons in with me. It’s better than nothing.
However, online instruction is of little benefit if you already don’t know what you’re doing and is intended as a supplement for students who work in an established school already. The most I can do for you is be honest and talk and help you find a school, as I am now.
I have (belt color) in (style)! Is this enough training?
Belt colors honestly tell nobody anything. Everyone knows most styles from Japan/Okinawa have a black belt as the highest ranking, with degrees for further recognition. A lot of Chinese ones simply go by how many years you’ve been in it (my sensei refers to it as ‘playing’ for basic training and 'fighting’ for anything involving free sparring. They count it separately here.) and active. A lot of others adopt from the Japanese/Okinawan methods and use a graded color system, but literally every style has a different series of color grading, and even within that it can vary between schools/teachers.
The way we count it is by 'kyu’ which means grade. You count backwards from black belt (or equivalent) how many belts you are before it, and that’s your kyu. The average amount of kyu is around 10 before black belt. Someone about to obtain their black belt is a 1st kyu. Our school has 8 kyu, so if you just start off, you’re 8th kyu. Kyu is the international and universal marker of rank.
Not to be a downer or anything, but most styles that are taught seriously do not consider anything below black belt to be anything but before beginner’s, and at black belt you’re consider a true beginner. The Japanese term used is “shodan” which means the first step, and you are now seen as conditioned enough to start more serious, lifelong training now that you’ve built a solid foundation. Not to say those below this rank are worthless, but think of it as a diploma and now you can actually get a job in that field you studied so hard to get and get some real experience in that vocation under your belt (aha). Be careful with your hubris.
Fun Fact: Belt colors come from Judo, where the founder saw people who do flower arranging of all things differentiated instructor and student by a specific kind of obi (belt). At first, it was white for students and black for instructors and that was it. The other ranks filled in in time.
Other Fun Fact: Okinawans are the least likely to care about rank, as I have discussed, it’s easy for people to cheat and claim rank and write it off for each other, and they believe people place too much emphasis on what’s around your waist and not what your skills and power actually say. They more care that you’re willing to do it, and you can see the greatest of masters training alongside anyone else regularly. This is my subjective opinion, but I’d rather see more of this attitude than anything else, but belt mills and McDojos have soured me. That and you really just don’t fucking know what people are capable of.
Can you tell me stuff about different Asian swordsmanship styles?
This was a specific question brought up by someone who does fencing at one point, to which I offered some information here. For fencers, it’s a matter of taste, we’ve had several join, and they wind up in any of those three I talk about at equal rate. You have to try it all to see where you fit best.
What’s an easy way to start learning weapons?
I mention this in the answer above about swordsmanship, but Filipino arts like Arnis/Escrima are highly under-rated and under-loved and deserve your attention. They use a stick as a base weapon but the skills are universal to anything else in their curriculum, including a wide range of blades and swords and knives. The movements are so universal, you can even apply them to non-weapon objects in a pinch and do well with it. Think kitchen knives or other things you may have on hand. My sensei even demonstrated it with one of his shoes once and it worked pretty well to slap something across someone’s face or out of their hand.
We’ve seen seminars taught for this yield great success and popularity to the point we use it as incentive for fundraisers and other events, like if you attend or help out, you can stay after for a free seminar on using it. A good rattan stick for it is only about $5 on average, too, and can be used for home safety if needed for peace of mind.
Can physically disabled people be taught? What are good styles/techniques for them?
Absolutely you can be taught and trained as well as anyone else! If a school/instructor is worth their salty sweat on the mat, they’ll know how to accomodate for others, be it size or weight disparity, illness, or any physical or mental handicap you may have. It’s an essential part of training anyways is knowing how to handle anyone as you never know whom your opponents would be in a real incident, and while you should train with people close to your size for comfort usually, if you don’t break out of that zone, you’ll never do well elsewhere.
We’ve had people of all sorts of physical and mental handicaps train with us to great effect. Exercises and such will be modified to support your needs rather than push you to conform to a fully capable standard and further injure you. Hell, one of the best people I knew at kendo was a man in his 70s who had some mobility issues, but he took and dealt hits very well.
The good news is you can do any style if the instructor is accommodating, so it’s mostly what you’d like to learn, but my sensei has known people with physical handicaps who do grappling and locking arts like judo and jujitsu to great effect. The best jujitsu practitioner he knows is someone who is permanently wheelchair bound, but if you get in range of his hands, you are pretty much done for, and half blind/blind people make very good judo practitioners as they only have to rely on how balance and weight feels and shifts rather than sight to excel at it. Try looking into those or variants like BJJ (which is popular right now, a friend of mine who does Gracie BJJ recommends it highly) if you’re unsure.
I found (style), but they only seem to reference themselves in the history of its creation and/or they’re the only ones who teach it. Do you know anything about it?
This is a red flag I should have included but didn’t think to until it came up. It is highly suspicious if you find a style of anything and they’re the only school teaching it, and the only information you can find on its history or lineage or founding relates back to themselves. Especially dubious if it’s a Western group claiming teaching rights to anything from anywhere else in the world, but especially Asia and further especially East Asia, as they’ve been hit hardest by the whole mysticism/Orientalism/misunderstanding of any of the martial arts and their founding/history. An odd and disturbing trend I’ve noticed in a lot of these unknown styles is a tendency to brag about how much they don’t like sparring and/or find things like the UFC and MMA to be supremely dishonorable, which is macho posturing at best, and as I’ve explained why in my post about finding a school, dangerous at worst. You’re better off looking at official organizations for various martial arts and seeing what styles they recognize in tournaments on an international level if you can’t differentiate things otherwise.