3. Mon Iri 2–Joining a budo

The Choufukan dojo in Kyoto, Japan. 2009.
The Choufukan dojo in Kyoto, Japan. 2009.

What is the “entering” process? Where do you begin in joining a Japanese martial art? In my last entry, I indulged myself and waxed nostalgic about how I got started in budo. It was fun to compare notes with some readers who talked about their own experiences and motivations. This entry will be more informative, mainly for folk who are new to budo, or classical Japanese martial arts. For the rest of you who have years behind your belts…heck, you know it. But let me indulge.

Anyway, I’ve had enough years and joined enough clubs to have some idea of what to do/not to do, so maybe some suggestions may prove helpful to those of you just starting out.

Finding your way

So let’s say you are either a teenager or adult and decided that hey, maybe some vigorous exercise would take some weight off your gut, and learning to defend yourself might be a valuable plus, and you would like to give traditional Japanese martial arts a try. You went to some MMA workout sessions, some kung fu, Tae Kwon Do, escrima, boxing, amateur wrestling, basket weaving classes…They’re all good, but somehow they don’t appeal to you as much as sweating in those cool-looking white cotton jackets do.

You find some traditional Japanese martial arts school addresses in the phone book, from posters and flyers, or from word of mouth. You call them up, ask to observe a session. Whether you show up stone cold or not, you should always ask to observe a class before jumping in. That’s not only good for you to get the “lay of the land,” but for the instructor to talk with you and go over any preflight paperwork or discussions before the training.

Having a shokai, or someone who knows both you and the sensei (instructor) vouch for your own good character is not terribly necessary anymore. If it’s a very traditional dojo, especially what we call a koryu (more on that in a while), it’s a very nice touch, but no longer a requirement. It used to be a pretty important part of whether or not you got your foot in the door in times past, however, and if you do have a buddy who is already training there, or know a friend of the sensei, that does help because it’s a traditional form of Japanese etiquette. The sensei feels a connection to you, and there is someone he trusts who will attest to your character.

Here’s the deal. When we discuss classical, or “traditional” Japanese budo (martial “arts,” rather, they should be called martial “Ways,” but nobody uses this term in the popular English vernacular), we are talking about those schools that are embedded in Japanese cultural matrix. Some of these traditions and habits are wonderful and I think it will echo or add to your own best cultural habits. Some of these traditions can be maddeningly awkward and (to our minds) backwards. But they’re part of the whole package. You can enjoy and endure it, or you can just leave and do something without that baggage, such as cardio kick-boxing. Nobody’s stopping you. But you can’t have it both ways.

Do you feel bowing to another person or the enshrined spirit of the dojo (training hall) goes against your fundamentalist Christian belief that you bow to no one other than Christ? There’s the door. Don’t let it hit your butt on the way out. Do you have a thing against training with women or people from a different religion, ethnicity or sexual persuasion? Well, as that popular YouTube video says, “Don’t be ninjering nobody that don’t need ninjering.” Don’t expect to have your prejudices and eat it too.

The traditions, in fact, are the flavoring that sets classical budo apart from other martial arts, and if you don’t like that, then you simply have to accept that your tastes run to other forms of martial arts. Case closed.

In any case, you are allowed to observe a class. I’ve been on both ends, as a teacher and as a potential student, and here’s what you really should do to get off on the right foot. Come dressed appropriately. Don’t show up in your ten-day old sweat pants and t-shirt with holes in ‘em and chili nacho stains all over. You may think it makes you look rugged and tough. That only makes you look like a scum bag. You don’t have to be dressed for a Senior Prom, but wear clean, informal clothes such as a washed polo shirt to show respect to the dojo and teacher. Don’t let your boobs hang out by wearing low-cut, tight bikini tops. And that goes for you women, too. Think more like Sunday School, less like gym class.

One of the things you have to get out of your mind is that a dojo is not simply an Orientalish workout gym that’s for purely physical grunt-and-groan training. It’s not. Whether the training space is a beautifully handcrafted post-and-beam, polished and oiled wood structure, or a rented room at the YMCA, a dojo is a place for mental and spiritual polishing, not just physical exertion. So you pay respect with your proper attire. And a traditional teacher WILL notice. He/She will notice things even if he (I’ll use the male pronoun from here on, but there are women budo teachers as well as men) doesn’t say anything about it.

As much as you are checking out the practice and instructor, the instructor is checking you out the moment you stepped through the doorway.

So you come in, introduce yourself, ask to observe the class, and sit where you’re told to sit for visitors. Sit properly, without being too stiff or without slouching over. Perish the thought, but don’t get horizontal and open up a bag of potato chips. Again, quietly observe the class as a way of showing respect. Wait until there’s a break and the instructor has time to talk to you, or wait until the end of the session. Don’t try to engage the teacher in the middle of class unless he makes the first move.

Even if you’re so excited you can barely hold your pee in because you so badly want to join, wait. The worst thing you can do is go up to the teacher in the middle of training and tug on his sleeves and beg him to join. You can jump up and down with joy and wet your pants later, at the end of class. The teacher is busy. And out of the corner of his eyes, he’s watching you.

–This etiquette of sitting quietly, by the way, nearly did in a friend of mine. We had a nice laugh over dinner as he recounted the situation. Having trained in various forms of Asian martial arts for decades, he was steeped in their culture and tradition. One of his friends one day suggested a Western body-movement studio to help rehabilitate his nagging back ache. So he called, made an appointment to observe a class, went to the studio, and sat in a corner and watched. Quietly. All six-foot-six, heavily muscled, bald-head of him sat quietly, without uttering a word, through a whole session while the female teacher and her student worked through body stretching machines in tight-fitting leotards. Shoulder rotations. Leg splits. The teacher (who eventually overcame her initial qualms and actually married the lug) felt unnerved, she said, because of his stoic silence. Was this guy a masher?

In a Japanese budo setting, my friend was being very polite. In a small room with two women spreading their limbs apart, the silence and attentive behavior seemed like stalking. So you should temper your behavior when it is appropriate!

In sitting quietly and observing class, you are already starting the process of entering the training. Observing (kengaku) is, after all, one form of training. The instructor is also observing your behavior and bearing and if you appear attentive, that’s a positive character trait for a potential student.

In a typical traditional dojo, classes are often small, maybe 20 or less students. Bigger dojo, even in Japan, can range higher, but there will be more assistant instructors to spread the teaching load around. Any bigger than 20 without higher ranked students helping to teach and I wouldn’t recommend the class. In Japan I’ve trained in dojo that sometimes only had two people, including me and another student, besides our teacher. And I’ve been in classes where several clubs would train together that had upwards of 50 people, but at least ten of them were fourth dan (a high “black belt” rank) or higher. So the ratio of beginners to advanced people still ended up about 1 to 5. Personal, specific instruction is one of the nice traits of classical training.

Look at the class and study the environment. Besides the student-teacher/higher ranked student ratio, is the dojo hygienic? My first judo hall was in a dilapidated meeting hall whose walls were more termite bodies than wood, but the mats were always kept clean.

Observe the interaction between the teacher and the students and between students.

Dave Lowry, an author whose writings are an excellent resource for any martial artist (his books are available at Borders, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com), advises that you look at the sensei and try to envision him without that magical cloak of sensei-ness. Strip him of his black belt and white gi (training outfit) and in your imagination place him in an outside environment. Is his character someone you would trust in an office setting? In the streets? In a school? With your children?

The difficulty of training will range, depending on the level of skill and the style of martial arts. Back in the early 1960s and 1970s, during the first American martial arts “boom,” a lot of dojo sprang up run by former military servicemen or college exchange students who received a couple years’ worth of training in Japan or Okinawa. Their version of training, therefore, sometimes ran towards the militaristic and–some might say–fanatic. –Ten thousand push ups before you have knock-down-drag-out sparring sessions. That’s how they learned it in the Old Country and they mixed it up with gentle tidbits gleaned from their own modern military boot camp workouts. (“Yes Sensei! Five thousand front kicks, sir! Right away! Hoo-yah!”) I daresay if you like that kind of training, some of those sensei are still around, leading the exercises with arthritic knees and deformed fists. But by and large, I think you should find that modern budo training should be a lot more along the likes of a very focused, attentive physical workshop than a drop-dead from sheer exhaustion test of nerves. –Unless you LIKE that kind of training, and I’m sure you’ll find it.

There are also different forms of traditional budo: The “modern”’ forms such as judo, aikido, iaido, kendo, karatedo, naginata-do. There are also the rarer “old” forms, or koryu, which are distinctive subsets of swordsmanship (kenjutsu), sword-drawing (iaijutsu), grappling (jujutsu), jo, and so on.

Maybe you’re not so drawn to competitive grappling after you’ve seen a judo class. Well, maybe you might enjoy fistic sparring a la  modern, AAU-type karate. Or you like karate kata more than sparring, so you could find your way to a traditional Okinawan style karate school. Or you like banging people over the head with a bamboo stick: try kendo. Or you just want to go through forms for the sheer beauty of it and your competitive days are behind you: try the koryu. There are a lot of flavors and tastes in just classical Japanese martial arts alone.

–Just a caveat: The modern budo forms are often run in America through large national governing bodies. There may be some maverick schools, but by and large, most of them adhere to a standardized and clearly discernible training method. There are national and state organizations for judo, aikido, kendo, and karate. So if you join a judo club and the teacher begins to teach you “secret judo-ninja stars throwing methods,” it’s easy to find out whether this is legitimately part of the art or not.

The koryu schools, however, are by their nature smaller and more fragmented. Where there is only one kendo standard of training, to which many state kendo federations work towards, there are a variety of, say, kenjutsu schools based on different strains and traditions. A Yagyu Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu school will have different kata (forms) and training methods compared to an Ono-ha Itto-ryu kenjutsu school. This is great for preserving a variety of ancient, historical techniques. But it’s also a lot easier for a scam artist to make up his own koryu form because there’s no comparative national and international standard against which to compare it. I’ll discuss the problem of fake teachers later. For now, be forewarned.

There is no national certifying body for koryu in America, but you can go online and make a query in discussion sites like e-budo.com, or at the Shudokan Martial Arts Association, or by reading up on posted stories about koryu at koryubooks.com.

Sign me up!

So let’s say you really like what you see, you like the vibes of the class. You want to join. You talk to the teacher or one of his sempai (top students) for more info.

The reality of modern day martial arts practice is that you have to pay dues. Even in Japan or China, there’s no such thing as the romantic notion that you are going to mooch off your sensei and train 24/7 in martial arts for years and years until you master the Dim Mak Death Touch of David Carradine, God rest his whacked-out soul. Your teacher has to pay his bills, just like anybody else.

How much tuition is reasonable? That depends. Professional or semi-professional martial arts teachers need to eat, so they will charge you appropriately. I’ve heard that in some places, upwards to $100 a month is considered ho-hum. I charge $35 a month, and all of it from my five students go towards covering the rent. My friend uses a spare room in a recreation center for free so he charges only $5 a month to cover sundry supplies. I would think, however, that if you pay more, you should expect more, such as more training time, relatively speaking, or better facilities. Due to its popularity, MMA and  composite grappling schools charge a pretty penny, but you may find that nonprofit judo clubs, which teach pretty much the same thing except you do a lot more bowing, may even be free for little kids, or only a few bucks a month. So tuition varies wildly.

Some schools will charge an initial sign-up fee. That’s appropriate. I’m not a big fan of long term contracts. If you end up not liking the class after one or two sessions, you should be able to quit without taking a big monetary hit due to a contract.

Practice times: I only train once a week due to my busy work schedule, although I really would like to have structured training times at least twice a week. For larger, better-run schools, two or three times a week is a really good schedule. You should try to see if the training times meet your own work and family schedule. Ask what they think would be the best frequency of training for you if you can’t make each and every session.

It is not bad behavior to ask a teacher, at this point in your steps toward enrolling, what the provenance of the school and his own training are. If a teacher sniffs and says, “Only the top students are allowed to learn the secret origins of my Baka-Tare-ryu,” then thank him and leave as fast as you can. Something is rotten. In asian cultures, a mark of pride is the ability to trace oneself to one’s teacher and teacher’s teacher. That shows a connection to an appropriate lineage, like how proper breeding records are a mark of pride for dog owners in the American Kennel Club. If it’s a purebreed, he’s got papers. If it’s a mutt, then he should say it’s a mutt.

The sensei may then ask about your own background. He’s as curious about you as you may be about the school. Be forthright and honest. Consider it like a job interview. If you were in a different martial art school, but left, be honest about your training history, but (like describing a former job) don’t badmouth the previous teacher or school needlessly. It reflects badly on you. If you had legitimate reasons for leaving, then of course you can offer them up: You moved across country. You hurt your back so tumbling is out, kendo is in. You can’t do competitive judo anymore due to bad knees so you thought you’d try naginata…

I wouldn’t say things like, “Man, I didn’t like krotty point competition and quit because it’s unrealistic in a street fight, I wanna learn your jew-jits because it looks like it kicks ass!” Uh-uh. Bad idea.

When my jujutsu sensei encouraged me to start a club in Hawaii, he said, “Don’t worry about how strong or tough new students are, or how good they are in martial arts to begin with. Get students who have good character, because your students’ personal character is how people will judge your school.”

I’ve made mistakes in character judgements over the years, but by and large, I’ve come to realize the truth of my teacher’s words. I try to encourage people with good character to stay, and shady characters to leave. When you are talking to a potential teacher, be on your best, most humane behavior. You don’t have to make “big body,” you don’t have to show how macho you are. Just be yourself, and hopefully you, unvarnished, are a person that the teacher will like.

In other words, how you comport yourself, how much respect and self-control attitude you display may have more impact on a teacher like me than any physical or technical skills you may have in the beginning. And at least for me, having a sense of humor is a plus. Budo is serious. It can be deadly. It can be exhausting (but hopefully NOT sadistic). But really, the reason you signed up is because it’s a whole ton of fun, isn’t it? Laughter, when appropriate, should be allowed in the dojo.

Readers: Comments on your first encounters with a budo school?

16 thoughts on “3. Mon Iri 2–Joining a budo

  1. This is a gem. This has the perfect balance of humor and information.

    My first experience in a non-Western koryu dojo was pretty memorable. I learned the very essentials of manners…such as “would you please stop playing pocket pool when you bow?” AKA take your damned hands out of your pockets, fool. How about sitting with your legs crossed in a chair. Ha! Thought I was being suave and debonair sitting perfectly upright, with my legs crossed in the figure 4. “You get an ‘A’ for posture, F for sitting buckaroo! C- for effort”. Apparently that is a rude thing to do. Also, I’ve found that if you are going to be sitting on your legs ab you are bit used to ir, it is probably a good idea to practice that a little before going to watch. Namely because when you stand up to speak or leave, you’ll be introduced to your first front-fall as you plant your face on the mat from wobbly, sleeping legs.
    If you have to leave, because of a previous engagement, make sure that you announce that BEFORE the “viewing” session (kengaku), especially in a small dojo and get permission. That way one does not create too much of a distraction as one leaves and it does not look like your are uninterested (even if that is true). Also, it’s important to keep your past training at a humble level of expression; like conservative. Being braggy, trying to impress your potential sensei with a bunch of facts and figures, showing how much you know, yadda-yadda-blahblah is sometimes seen as, well, being a real d!ckhead. I mean, sure one can be enthusiastic, but one is there to learn, not to impress. *until the sake/beer comes out*. Then all bets are off and the giant lotus leaves flow with imbibements (oh yeah….I know about that…party animals that you Takeuchi ryu folks are).

    1. Ha! Funny!!! Short, succinct, and to the point! Great addition, Russ, to the general knowledge for beginners of what to do/not to do! Thanks!

  2. Your comment about being observed as you observe very much reasonated with me. When I first arrived to observe the koryu I now do, the soke was training with one of the veteran students. As I sat down, I marveled at the intensity of their focus. Even just standing facing each other, their fukuro shinai in a low gedan stance, the air crackled with tension. All through this, the soke never looked my, seemingly took no notice of my presence. But as soon as he bowed out to his partner, he turned and made a beeline for me. Used as I was to layers of senior students between budo bigwigs and new students (let alone observers), this was rather unsettling!

    Ultimately, the form of the art was unlike anything I was expecting, and perhaps in a different situation I would have passed on joining, seeking something faster and more dynamic, with the frisson of bokuto clacking together. But the atmosphere of the dojo, both the intensity of the practice, the friendliness of the soke, and the relaxed smiles of the practitioners compelled me to join.

    If I might add something regarding shokai, in a sense I’m very glad I didn’t join by shokai, and often feel a tug-of-war between wanting to share this with interested friends, and hesitation to arrange a shokai. When someone arranges a shokai, they are vouching for that person, and all that person’s subsequent actions reflect on the one who arranged the shokai. It’s not such a big deal if the introduced person eventually quits, I think. But if the introduced person becomes a disruption, it can look very bad on the one who arranged the introduction. If you join a dojo, modern or classical, via introduction, I think it’s important to be very aware of the continuing debt and responsibility you have to the person doing the shokai. It’s not just your good name on the line, but theirs as well.

    1. Josh, this is a good point about being the shokai for a new student, and I’m glad you mentioned that. I also had the same experience when I first stepped into the Butokuden to meet my late iaido sensei. The intensity of focus and concentration shown by the students were incredible, but in one-on-one conversations with the sensei, he was a really, really nice person. Later I would find that he was an incredibly highly regarded teacher, but that first night, he seemed so friendly and down-to-earth to me, a rank beginner.

  3. Josh that’s right. The jerky nyumon issue has happened to me before and it puts multiple stresses on more than one relationship. 😦

  4. Thank you for starting this blog. I am very much looking forward to reading and learning.

    I hope my comment isn’t too far off topic, because it doesn’t deal directly with joining a budo, but with your observation about training difficulty. While I’ve seen dojo which were exactly as you described, in their macho militaristic hard-assness, I also have seen, experienced and read of dojo in which shugyo was taken very seriously. In the second kind of dojo, Japanese sensei taught that very arduous practice transformed a person in ways that could not be accomplished otherwise, and that such transformation was integral to budo. I’m thinking of Kanazawa reminiscing about the Takushoku University karate club, the JKA Instructors School, or Randall Hassell writing about “spirit training.”

    I’m really not trying to pick an argument here, being very conscious of the modesty of my knowledge, but I would love to have more of your perspective on this matter.

    1. Doug, thanks for the input.
      To clarify, I think there is a time and place for hard, serious training. But training that gets sadistic and overly machismo is really not conducive to learning much about anything other than being sadistic and machismo, IMHO. As an example, one night when I was training in Japan we went for eight hours straight, until my body pretty much couldn’t move anymore and my mind couldn’t absorb any more new techniques. So I asked to sit on the side. No problem. How far I pushed my old body was up to me. If a teacher expected me to NOT stop, and to go until I dropped dead from exhaustion, then there’s a problem. Martial arts should build up someone’s strength, health and endurance, not wreck your body.
      Suffice it to say that training at a Japanese university in judo or karate, or in a special seminar such as the JKA instructors school is a special situation. For the average, everyday neighborhood dojo, I would think you would need to temper your training. Budo is not like a knitting club, but I wouldn’t expect working folk to crawl out of the dojo because they’re so beat up two or three days a week. It would wreck their ability to hold down a job. On the other hand, there’s special training times or seminars or workshops when you should try to put in as much as you can. Or you’re training for competition full time. It’s the difference between a golfer trying to get to Tiger Woods’ level and a someone who wants to just play for fun on the weekends. Both are viable in the wide world of golfing. You can’t say the weekend warrior shouldn’t even try to golf because he can’t train 24/7. He’s doing the best he can and he enjoys it. There should be room for that kind of participation too.

  5. All excellent points. Thanks.

    One follow-up, as someone who’s interested in the implications of budo for teaching in general: John Donohue once wrote, “The students sit, row after row of sweaty swordsmen in dark blue, slowing their breathing and listening to the master…At that point in the training session, you’re so used up that the mind is extremely open.” So is it possible that intense practice can cut both ways with respect to teaching—too tired to learn or so exhausted that learning finally becomes possible?

  6. …Yes,true. But also from experience you can also be so used up nothing sinks in. Intense practice can cut both ways. Pat Nakata, of Shorin-ryu, used to say that his teacher, Choshin Chibana, used to always say that most of the time, practice should not be overdone. What “just right” means may be open to interpretation, of course.

  7. Wayne has a good angle here. You can’t go throwing your health away like that and expect to progress. There are times to whip the body into a state of pain and glory, but too much is going to burn you out fast. Maybe I can put this into a different context? I dunno, I may not be convincing, but I can see what he is saying echoed in a little story I have to tell:

    I am fairly good friends with a small Sumo stable that summers in Kuwana during the Nagoya Basho. One of their youngsters would push it to the limit all the time- really HARD intense training every day. This guy would eat handfuls of sand and headbutt trees if he thought it would make him better. If you have never seen the way o’sumo san trains, they do not sit around sucking down bowls of fish soup all day in giant diapers. They are very adept, agile and strength like no one’s business (especially the smaller and younger ones looking to cut their teeth). Anyway, two days before his turn at the basho the younger guys sprains his ankle. He tapes it, ignores it and just keeps going. The next day, the day before his big moment, he passes out from heat exhaustion. They drove him to the hospital and it turns out he is so dehydrated that they won’t let him leave. They stick an IV in him and plant his butt in a toy-like bed.The nurse undoes his foot dressing and calls the doctor in and force him to get his ankle x-rayed. Not only is he down for his big day, but his ankle is bad enough for them to stick a caste-boot on it. So he spent his hour of limelight in tears watching Sumo on NHK in a bed a size too small for him. He was out for the year, meaning a drop in pay. On the other hand, his senior, one that was wise to his training and his limits, would take breaks during training and keep himself healthy. The stablemaster was all too glad to let him rest for a while knowing that he would get back to business refreshed. He even took a day off to let his achy-breaky toes rest, which was good for me because he came over and he cooked (and then we got drunk, which was funny to me but ticked my wife off because she had to drive him back before 10pm. We were ready to keep going but she got a call from the stablemaster and had to deal with him- it turns out he was not supposed to drink). Indeed, big guy in daiper went to the basho, did very well and got his raise for the year.

    Moral of the story: The smart fat guy in diapers knows how to spread his training out over a day, week, month and throughout the course of a year (and make time to come over to my house and cook for me, get hammered and then get in trouble).

  8. Nice story, Russ. I think Japanese notions of “ganbare” and perseverance CAN sometimes be taken to the extreme, as cited in your story. You got to know when to fold ’em, as they say. Then there’s the stories of “karoshi,” Japanese businessmen dying at their desks from overwork.
    Working hard is admirable. Working at something to a point where it kills you or negatively impacts you in the long term is illogical (put on Spock-ears now…). I think in the budo world, we need to understand limitations and long term effects of overstressing the body, esp. if we wish to continue training well into our old age. I know of too many judo, aikido and karate folk who had to have knee and hip surgeries, or suffer from arthritic hands, due to an imbalance between training and rest in their youth. If you intend to be a professional, that’s one thing. Train like a MMA fighter and go for it. If you intend to do budo as a pastime well past your prime, I think you should consider pacing yourself. And there are all sorts of in-betweeens.

  9. Don’t forget, Donn Draeger called judo “the great crippler” in the early sixties. I’m scheduled for a hip replacement soon and have arthritis in my feet, knees, elbows, and hands as well as in the hips. I can understand, looking back at some of the crazy activities, all justified as “strong training” at the time that I will not allow my students to do now. Most of this stuff I remember had little to do with learning budo but were really machisimo stunts to show how tough and stubborn we were. Ganbare has nothing to do with being foolish and reckless . Wish I knew then what I know now… It’s up to the teachers and seniors of today to show a more intelligent way of training.

    I’ll repeat what I said in an earlier post, it’s good to see you writing again Wayne.

  10. Thanks, Chuck. I really enjoyed your comments. This was what I was hoping for when I started the blog: A dialogue with other people to discuss certain topics, like we were doing it over a brew or two.
    The whole concept of how hard to train is really peripheral to my main theme in this blog, which is how to start. But it’s an important subject, and I think I’ll bring the topic up again later on.
    Geeez. Draeger said that? The guy was a really great judo player in his time. And yep, there are things I wouldn’t do nowadays that I did in my early judo and karate training. It may make for temporarily tougher players, but it may also lead to longterm crippling effects. Now that we are old farts and teaching a new generation, we owe it to them to have them learn from our own mistakes!

  11. Welcome Back!

    I miss Furyu, too, but this will be the fix. Keep the sub money and put it into some worthwhile and beneficial project…like say a book maybe…(hint hint).

    We will meet up in Hawaii one of these days, or at least I promise to keep bugging you every time we make it there.

    Interesting comments re: throwing your health away. From a more martial angle it makes sense as well. One of the things we teach our officers is that they must train realistically, but not to the point of injury, because the injury may mean an inability to deal with a threat in order to protect themselves or others in the field. It is a hard line to walk, some go too hard, and others don’t go hard at all. Neither turns out well.

    I only do Judo part of the time now, electing to do much more newaza with BJJ. I have to say, looking around at a competitive Judo club, everybody over their mid-40s no longer really trains – they teach, often wincing as they do.

    Then you see the BJJ old timers (the “traditional” guys, many of whom are dismissive of the overly-sportive and overly-competition centric direction of the art) still out on the mat and it really makes you go hmmmmmm.

    Looking forward to reading more.

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