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A few days ago Matthew and I got a huge compliment from a fellow martial artist whom we like and respect very much. He commented on our commitment to our training and our teaching. He talked about our strong drive to make the dojo succeed. Finally he gave us credit for being open minded towards our training. 

(Oh and he said we were doing a good job as parents. But that's for another blog post.)

I was incredibly flattered by this person's words. We do work really hard to make the dojo succeed. But that is because it is our livelihood and our passion. Neither one of us have any interest in doing something else with our lives right now. So we need the dojo to work. Also, we have built a wonderful community of students, a family if you will, and are now responsible for keeping them together. 

Do I enjoy teaching all the time? Of course not; any more than I enjoy training all the time, or being a mommy all the time. There are frustrating days. Disappointing days. Days when the kids aren't listening. Days when I just don't feel well. But most of the time it is great, and even when it isn't, I am always proud to be doing it. Teaching karate, for me, is truly meaningful work. It is worth the stress of trying to keep a business running on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It is worth the lack of a consistent paycheck, a long term retirement plan. We don't take many vacations. We don't care. We don't care because it is 10am on a Thursday and I am home writing this blog. Later on I will go to jiu-jitsu. Then pick up my daughter from school. It is a good life, and I am thankful for it every day.

As far as being open minded goes, I cannot take full credit for that either. I started training in BJJ because I was getting bored in karate. I had no intention of quitting, but I wanted to try something new, to be a white belt again. I did not know at the time that the two martial arts would actually enhance each other, that taking  jiu-jitsu class would make me want to take karate class, and vice versa. 

I know that now.

After 3 years of BJJ, and 25 years of karate, I can say that yes, I now have an open minded view of training. I can also say that a lot of the stuff that instructors out there are spewing is, to put it bluntly, a load of crap. Not the training. The words. The questions. The arrogance.

I love karate. I have loved it for 25 years. And in that time I have seen all forms of traditional Japanese karate. I have seen Kyokushin and Shotokan and Gojo Ryu. I saw my own style go from Seido Karate to Kenshikai, and then watched as one of the leaders of Kenshikai went off to form his own style. Guess what? They are all the same. Oh sure, the styles of sparring may be different. The dojo philosophy may vary from school to school. Some dojos may do more pushups, others more meditation. But deep down it is all the same. We are all punching and kicking and blocking. My karate is not better than your karate. My school is not better than your school. 

Unless, of course, your sensei is a jerk. It is the teachers that mess it up. They are the ones who create students who think that the only thing that matters is winning. They are the ones that create bullies like Johnny from the Karate Kid. They are the ones that cultivate environments where woman are not welcome, disrespected, or god forbid, raped. There is no bad karate, only bad karate instructors.

I have not been doing BJJ for long but I am willing to bet it is not that different. Schools vary. Attitudes vary. One teacher's style may be better than another's. One school's environment may be more conducive to learning. (Read: less face smashing, more slow rolling) But, arm bars are arm bars.

Everyone always wants to know which is better, karate, jiu-jitsu, kung fu? Which is more effective? Which one is going to ensure that you win a fight?

It is a stupid, stupid question. Yes, if someone attacks you on the street a rear naked choke is more useful than a roundhouse kick. But who cares?

Are you planning on starting a fight? If so, please warn me so I can be as far away from you as possible. 

Unless it is run by an abusive, egomaniac (read: Lloyd Irvin), all dojos are good.
Unless you are hurting yourself (or others) unnecessarily and ending up in the ER every weekend (read: Crossfit), all training is good.

Anything you do that improves your body is good.
Anything you do that increases your knowledge is good.
Anything you do that broadens your mind is good.

I am not saying that a new white belt should train in multiple dojos at once. On the contrary, when you are just starting out, it is good to pick a place, and a style, and stick with it. Loyalty and consistency are extremely important, especially in the beginning. Dojo hopping is not only offensive, it is downright confusing!

But once you are a black belt, we should all train together. And if we can check our egos at the door and show up with a gi and an open mind, we can all train together. Competitors, non competitors, old, young. There is always something to be learned and if you can't see that, than YOU are the one with the problem. 

Also, there is a fine line between respect and worship. There is a fine line between leadership and forming a cult. Please don't cross it. 

In other words, I can carry my own bag. 
But yes, you can bring me a plate of food. Because I kick a lot and my legs are tired.

Wanna read more about how to do it wrong? Read this: Then pass it on. 

They teach kids at his school.
Perhaps if enough people read it, they won't be able to anymore. 


  1. Yes yes yes yes yes - to the "anything you do that improves your body is good."
    I lost 80+ lbs. My only advice to people: make healthier choices today than you did yesterday. They don't even have to be HEALTHY - just healthIER. You don't like weights - great - don't do them. You don't like BJJ - great - don't do it. You love tae-bo or zumba or cross fit - cool. Keep on keepin on.


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