Feeding Crane Seminar, June 2014

Sifu Liu Chang’I will be in Boston twice this year. The first time will be in June. We’ll be having a seminar on his family’s Feeding Crane Gong’fu June 21st and 22nd, Saturday and Sunday. It will, as always, be a great time! There is more information on the Events page of our site, and the sign up and information sheet is here. Please contact us if you would like any more information. We are looking forward to a fun weekend and hope to see you there!

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Too Many Black Belts?

So I had a conversation a little while ago about rank. Someone was saying to me that they felt a certain dojo had too many black belts. The implication was that standards were low. I am not going to speak to standards here: the last thing the anyone needs is yet another rant about McDojos and what they are doing to the martial arts. However, the idea of a dojo having too many black belts stuck with me. If you have been training for a while you have probably noticed that not that many people stick it out. For arts that use that ranking system, just before or just after black belt is one time where you see a lot of attrition. So given the turnover, and that it often happens right around black belt, it seems obvious that a dojo with a lot of black belts is giving them out too easily. Otherwise they would be rare, since people that stick it out are rare.

But that is bad math. Bad statistics, really. How many people stick it out in general does not matter. You are not looking at the entire population of people who have ever trained, but at who is currently training in a given dojo. If a dojo is a good one, and by this I mean one where there is a solid knowledge base, good teaching methods, high standards, and a collaborative atmosphere, there should be a high percentage of black belts. If the knowledge base and atmosphere are good people will stay. Not all. Maybe not even many. But some will stay. And unless the teaching is bad they will learn. And since 1st degree black belt is a relatively junior rank, they should eventually become black belts.

People that stay learn, and are (eventually) black belts. People that leave leave, and are therefore not counted when looking at who is currently training. So at any given time only the newer members will not be black belts. The statistics are simple: in a well established dojo with high standards you should see a large proportion of black belts. If not, it means either no one is staying, or no one is learning. And that would not be a good dojo.

 

Kodokan Boston in the Blogosphere

Hello,

as you may have gathered by the last post, the new Kodokan Boston website is more than a dojo site. While we will certainly be using our blog for news and information for dojo members and announcements of upcoming dojo events (like our open training) the blog will also be a forum for some examination of the arts we practice and how we practice them, additional information on these arts, and hopefully the thoughts of various members of the Kodokan Boston community. We hope that people find these posts interesting! Please enjoy, and welcome to the Kodokan Boston blog.

cheers,

Fred

Master on the Mountain

Pai Mei

Everyone knows this image: the old master of the martial arts living alone on a remote mountain top, students coming to him for wisdom and training. His mastery comes from arduous training and an enlightenment that springs in part from his solitude. It is an image that plays perfectly into our “self made man” ideal, and I see it reflected in martial artists who claim they “just train alone”. A nice image, but in my opinion it is nonsense.

This stereotype does spring from something. Training is a profoundly lonely task at times. Endless repetitions, hours spent developing strength, stamina, and mechanics, and knowing that while your teacher can guide you, you are responsible for your progress. No one else but you. That is lonely. Nevertheless, for most of us, and certainly for any real martial training, our practice is actually a profoundly social act.

Day after day, year after year, we come down to the dojo and train. Sure we also train alone, but we train with others. We are members of a dojo, or a club, or simply a group of people who share a common interest. We come together to learn, to sweat. We share our weaknesses, our failures, and our successes. We rely on each other for support, assistance, criticism. A group that is really pushing you will see you fail. They will see parts of yourself you like to keep hidden- fear, lack of faith in yourself, laziness. They will also see you succeed and develop. You have to trust them with your safety, and with your emotions. You have to be trustworthy the same way. I don’t know about you, but to me that is pretty personal.

And it cannot happen alone. To push your boundaries in the martial arts you need people to work with. In primarily solo activities- strength training, forms, flexibility, etc.- partners help you push past barriers, show you where you are making mistakes. But while you may be able to develop strength, form, or flexibility alone, you will never learn how to apply them without partners.

Real martial arts are interactive because violence is a form of social interaction. In learning to deal with it you need to feel other bodies, deal with different weights, sizes, ways of moving and ways of thinking. You need to respond to attacks and learn how to manipulate an opponent, physically and psychologically. An imaginary attack is just that- it has no intent, no feeling, no heft. Without partners, the arts are a hollow shell, like learning a foreign language without ever speaking to anyone: how do you know if you can communicate? So training is, has to be, social.

And that is a good thing. While the ideal seems cool- being a master sitting on a mountain alone- who really wants it? I don’t. I would prefer a group of friends around me. We share sweat, pain, failure, and sometimes blood. We share laughter, achievement, and the pure joy of training. And more. We have dojo parties, go out for an occasional drink, know each others’ families, share milestones like weddings and birthdays. If I am going to spend this much time at something, I want that something to have depth, value. If I am going to show that much of myself to a group of people, I want them to be people I trust and respect. People I like. They are my community, my martial brothers and sisters.

So when I hear about great masters or experts in the arts, I tend to wonder: who are their training partners? Who helped them get that good? Who do they continue to train with? Who questions and critiques them? Who are their friends? For me, who their friends are will show me more about them than their technique. If they have no friends, no training partners, and are sitting alone on a mountain, then I know all I need to.

Open Training!

Thank you to everyone who came out for our demo and open training. It was a fun afternoon! Everyone in the dojo did an excellent job, and it was great fun share some of our practice with friends and family, and to see folks trying a few things- chishi, hitting the bag, and pushing each other around in kakie! It seemed like everyone enjoyed it, and we had a great time.

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Group demoing saifa

As always, we appreciate the support and friendship of the community around the dojo, it is one reason we can keep doing this.

New Website

Hello everyone,

Welcome to the new Kodokan Boston website! We’ll be posting news, commentary, information about the dojo and our system, and other events here. Our old site was beautiful, thanks to a lot of hard work by Corey Tedrow sensei, but it was time to update, and take advantage of some of the things the web offers the dojo now. We are looking forward to using the new page, and I hope the dojo and our friends and family will find it a good place to come for information about us, and what is happening with the dojo.

Fred