Tag Archives: martial arts training

I have a female character in her early twenties. How realistic would it be for her to be skilled (enough to hold her own against larger opponents) in hand to hand combat in under two years? If not, what would be realistic for her to master?

It’s realistic, sort of. There’s a few minor issues that don’t
really fit together here, making it (at least seem) unrealistic as written.

Practical martial arts training intended to put someone into
combat lasts far less than two years. You can learn effective hand to hand
techniques that you can then apply in combat in an eight week course. If you’re
coming out of the military or from a police background, your hand to hand
training took, at most, a couple months. Then you go back every six months to a
year, and update it, meaning you learn what others have developed to counter
your training, and how to deal with their counters.

Practical training isn’t so much about spending years
learning how to fight, as checking in often enough to see what’s changed. When
you’re dealing with untrained opponents, it really doesn’t matter. Most people
haven’t been in a fight since high school, and even basic police adapted Judo
from the 70s will take them down.

As we’ve said many
times
before, most martial arts apply to larger foes without missing a
beat. This is especially true of the adapted Judo/Jujitsu which forms the core
of most American police and self-defense forms. This may be a difficult concept
to wrap your head around, but it is far
easier to put an opponent on the ground when they’re a foot taller, and a
hundred pounds heavier, than the other way around.

Depending on how zealous they are about keeping their
training up to date, someone who underwent training two years ago will have
gone back four to six times, to update. They may have also elected to retake
their training just to, “brush up.” Either way, we’re not talking about someone
dedicating a lot of their life to this.

That said, if you’re talking about someone who signed up at
a Dojo, and has been taking weekly classes, there’s no way to know what they’re
trained to deal with. Some recreational schools will get into practical
applications for their martial art, and offer it as an optional advanced class
for their students. At that point, it’s entirely dependent on her instructor if
she gets in (as an adult, these would probably be open to her if she wanted).
It’s also, depressingly common for a martial arts school to offer, “self-defense,”
classes that are just their normal curriculum with a different advertising
hook. A class like this will not prepare your character for a self-defense
situation.

For reference: If you’re taking a self defense class, and
the discussion doesn’t include a serious discussion on situational awareness,
and/or your instructor puts a lot of faith in your ability to overcome via
superior force then you’re probably in the wrong place. Real self-defense
training focuses on creating an opening so you can retreat to safety (if
possible). It’s concerned with your ability to escape the situation and
survive, not your ability to win a fight. Sticking around and dealing with an
assailant is something you would only want to consider very situationally.

Also, in case it’s not clear, when I’m talking about Police
adapted Judo, it is not the same
martial art as Judo. It was derived from Judo after the Second World War, and
the modern martial art still shares some techniques, but there have been
substantial modifications to it, in order to produce something functional for
combat. Judo itself is intended to be a sport martial art, and not something you’d
take into combat.

There’s also no way to know exactly how fast the school
moves its students through, and how quickly your character would advance. These
are all dependant on human interactions and how quickly they learn and
internalize techniques. In a more traditional school, two years is not a lot of
time, but a modern Dojo may move a lot faster. It all comes down to the
instructor’s preferences.

That said, recreational martial artists are not (usually)
trained for combat. There’s a fundamental disconnect between how practical
martial artists approach techniques, and how recreational ones do. They’re
often studying the exact same techniques, but with different goals in mind. The
recreational martial artist is learning to perform it, the practical one is
learning to apply it. This might not sound important, or could come across as
irrelevant trivia, it’s not. This is a large part of why practical training is
so much faster. You’re learning how to do things to your opponent, not how to perform
the techniques correctly.

A character who’s spent two years taking a martial art in a
recreational capacity, may be able to handle an untrained opponent (it’s
actually, fairly likely, assuming they don’t make any critical mistakes, which
is also quite possible), but may face serious issues dealing with a trained
opponent (this will depend entirely on what each character’s training focused
on). Someone who has trained with a practical focus will be able to take on an
untrained opponent (assuming they don’t make any major mistakes or misjudge the
situation). Ironically, they’re also far more likely to attempt to avoid direct
confrontation, and try to defuse the situation non-violently, than a trained
recreational martial artist would.

So, your character’s been training for two years, and you want
to know what she can tackle. If she was simply going to a Dojo twice a week,
that’s not combat ready. That may not even be combat ready, if the Dojo’s “self-defense”
class was run by the same instructors who believe their decade training in a
sport martial art is good enough for “the streets.”

If your character’s been training with a cop, or ex-military,
relative/friend/rando, or been in police sponsored self-defense classes, then
two years is more than enough time to be able to deal with an opponent.

There’s an unrelated issue that Michi would be irked if I
didn’t bring up. (We both started typing up radically different responses to
this question.) Mastery a term that gets tossed around a lot in fiction. In
martial arts, two years isn’t long enough to master anything. It’s not enough time to master the basics, it’s certainly
not enough time to master advanced techniques. Mastery reflects a very high
baseline of skill, and can easily take decades of dedicated training. A
character can become proficient in elements of a martial art fairly quickly.
That is to say, they can perform them correctly, and present a solid (or
effective) technique. But, mastery, in this context, is a much higher bar to
hit, and not one a character will reach within the first few years of starting
a martial art.

There’s one last thing, “hold her own,” is a very difficult goal.
Unarmed combat doesn’t tend to equalize out like this. You either win, lose, or
wear each other out in fairly short order. Combat is extremely tiring, it’s
part of why real self-defense tends to focus on creating an opening and
escaping. Sticking around and trying to win a fight through attrition is a losing
proposition for nearly everyone. Getting a good clean shot in on someone is
usually enough to create the distance you need to escape. It’s not, “winning,”
but, if all you need to do is retreat, that’s all you need. If you’re going to
stick around, then the goal is to take your opponent down quickly and
decisively. Unarmed combat doesn’t allow for protracted dueling the way Wuxia
films present it.

-Starke

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Do martial arts like Judo or Tae Kwan Do actually help you against a street attacker, or do they only work in controlled fights were the opponent is following the same rules as you?

Judo is actually the basis for modern police hand to hand training, and more
often than not when you have an officer offering a “self-defense” class in
the US, what you’re actually getting is an adapted form of Judo. It’s not the
exact same martial art, but they’re still close enough that a practitioner in
either can instantly recognize and understand the other.

Tae Kwon Do also has a very strong following as a practical martial art,
particularly in South Korea.

These aren’t bad examples. Almost all modern martial arts are like this.
There’s recreational forms, and practical forms. Which makes it sound like
there’s a hard line between the two, like you go out there and learn a
recreational version of Shotokan, and then come back and take a different class
to learn a version you could potentially use in a real situation. That doesn’t
happen.

If you’ve trained to be a practical martial artist, your focus has been on
applying what you’ve learned in real world situations. It doesn’t matter if it’s
Judo, Tae Kwon Do, or even Tai Chi (and, yes, there is a practical strand of
Tai Chi), if you trained to apply it in the real world, then you’re going to be
able to apply it outside of a controlled environment.

If you trained as a recreational martial artist, you might not be able to
transition over into a live situation. Again, this can go for nearly any
martial art, even ones like Krav Maga and Sytema, that ostensibly only exist
for practical application.

It is worth remember that martial artists are people; unique individuals,
just like everyone else. So it is entirely possible for a recreational martial
artist to rely on their training, buckle down, and work their way through real crises
without any problems. Or they can attempt that gun disarm they learned and get
shot. Unfortunately, it goes both ways, and being trained with either goal
doesn’t mean you’re going to win.

Two things affect if someone is a
practical or recreational martial artist. Their outlook, and (more importantly)
their instructor’s outlook. If the instructor and the students have conflicting
outlooks, it will cause problems. Not violence, but it will affect their
ability to communicate.

A recreational martial artist comes to learn a new way to relax, a way to
entertain or divert themselves, to learn something new, maybe just to exercise,
or any number of other reasons.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It’s fine. I’ll admit,
recreational Ninjitsu practitioners strike me as very odd. But, it’s a
legitimate choice. Also, the whole thing about using martial arts to find a
kind of spiritual enlightenment, or meditation isn’t bunk. You can actually use
it as a venue for that.

A practical martial artist comes to learn how to deal with immediate, human,
threats. In the process, they horrify most recreational martial artists.

As a practical martial artist, you’re learning to use your body as a weapon,
with the expectation that you may, some day, have to.

Either way, you still learn the same stances, you’re taught the same
techniques (mostly), you undergo (most) of the same physical conditioning.

The biggest difference is: For practical martial artists the priority is in
being able to execute the techniques, closely enough, to make them work. You
still drill for perfection, but the ultimate goal is to be able to apply it to
another human being, and that doesn’t require perfect form. You also learn more
about how opponents will respond and behave.

Really, that’s, basically, the difference. Were you taught to hone your
motions into mechanical perfection? Or did you learn how to skip steps in your
katas, because the real goal was to be able to flow between techniques, picking
the right one for this moment and, not perfectly execute a pre-scripted routine
in the dojo?

Practical martial artists also need to update their training periodically. This
is because, as their training is used in the real world, their opponents learn
and, develop ways to counter and exploit it. So the martial artist then needs
to keep their training up to date. The two biggest examples of this are
military and law enforcement who receive regular updates to their hand to hand
training.

The differences also create a serious disconnect between the elements of the
community. I alluded to it above, but, the core here is recreational and
practical martial artists evaluate themselves on different metrics. I’m also
going to stress, this doesn’t make either group less, or more, legitimate as
martial artists. It’s very easy to look across the gulf and say, “those guys
don’t know what they’re doing,” but, it’s a lot like taking a sports car and a
pickup, sticking them next to each other, and then evaluating the car on its
towing capacity, or the truck on its top speed.

Recreational martial artists are, just that, artists. At the upper end of
the spectrum, they can be fantastic performers.

Practical martial artists are much less interested in looking good
(generally speaking), the purpose is to give the practitioner more options for
dealing with someone who is trying to do them harm. In comparison, they’ll look
sloppy. Hell, I can admit, I look like a terrible martial artist, most of the
time, but, I was always far more concerned with being able to use my training
to provide a degree of safety.

It’s also worth noting, both groups of martial artists can actually get
pretty omnivorous at times, when they’re looking at other martial arts. You
never completely lose your first style, but sometimes you just see something
neat and “borrow” it.

There’s a weird gray area here, which is really in the recreational side, the
competitive martial artist. These are people who participate in MMA,
professional boxers, or other prize fight circuits. They’re training to deal
with an opponent within a controlled environment. In a one-on-one situation,
they can potentially handle themselves, but they haven’t really been preparing
for combat. This frequently results in a few problems. They go way too hard,
and they don’t (usually) know how to handle multiple attackers.

We’ve said this before, many times, but multiple attackers are a serious
problem. They are exponentially more dangerous, even for trained combatants. The
problem is numbers. Fighting more than one person is a balancing act as it
substantially increases the openings an opponent has. It’s a situation where
the inverse of Hollywood is true. Multiple attackers are the most difficult to
deal with, which is why the media always has characters fighting multiple
attackers to the point where it has become commonplace. The truth is, no matter
what your skill level and background, two on one is a dangerous situation to be
in. Forget bigger numbers, an extra person can seriously mess with you. There’s
a real reason why the military works in units and cops, generally, travel in
pairs. Sport martial artists are (slightly) more likely to overestimate their
own abilities, and wade in when they’re outmatched.

For a lot of sport martial artists, when they do get into a fight, they tend
to apply their training, which is true for nearly everyone, but it’s a problem
because they’ve trained to go full throttle. Without moderating to the
situation they’re in, this results in some really messy beatings. Once the
police are called in, they view it as an egregious overreaction, and we end up
with another story about a punch drunk fighter unable to distinguish real-life
from the ring. And before the incoming ‘but’ arrives, I’ve heard the stories
about third degree black belts who did try a gun disarm in a real life
situation and got shot.

The way I’ve phrased it sounds like there’s some insurmountable gulf between
recreational and martial artists, but that’s not actually true. I’ve known a
lot of recreational martial artists over the years who were fantastic people,
and learned a lot from them, and vice versa.

-Starke

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In my story, I have my main character learning how to defend himself (fist fighting) from his friend who is literally a body guard. How would someone teach their physically weaker friend how to fight? (While trying to not hurt them too much)

Okay, beating on a student isn’t training, it’s sadism. You see this out of popular media a lot. The idea is, that it somehow makes your characters more badass when they come out the other side. The reality is, you don’t learn anything except what getting hurt feels like.

You will see some physically demanding calisthenics in martial arts training, but that’s more about building physical fitness and conditioning. It’s not about beating on the student. That said, a lot of disciplines will also use it to push the student to learn to expand their limits, and try to teach them philosophical clarity through adversity. At the risk of offending some martial artists who follow this blog, it’s not critical for teaching self defense. Also, I’ll stress, I’m talking about exercise. Strenuous, exhausting, exercise. Not beating on the student.

Good training involves showing the student what to do, explaining how to do it, walking them through the techniques. Correcting their form. Practicing. Correcting their form. Practicing. Repeating until they can do it right. Move to a new technique. Repeat. Teaching them to connect what they just learned to a previous technique. Correcting the transition. Practicing. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

You train techniques starting with the foundation of the style, and then branching out into more advanced techniques. Usually this means starting with simple strikes, before moving on to holds, ground fighting, kicks, throws, advanced strikes, and weapon forms. Though the exact order varies based on the master’s preferences.

Depending on the master, training may include a detailed explanation for how techniques function (not how to perform them, but when and why they are used). Complex discussions on combat psychology. Or it may simply involve cryptic comments designed to provoke the student into philosophical enlightenment. Generally speaking, practical martial artists are far more prone to talking about why, but this really is about who the master is, and what their perceptions of “proper training” are.

Second, martial arts are built around the idea that you’re going to be dealing with opponents who are physically more powerful than you are. You learn to fight so that you don’t need a raw strength advantage.

I don’t know what your character would emphasize in training. Self defense is about situational awareness and creating avenues of escape; not being the better fighter. That said, there there are strands of self defense that focus on using the minimum possible force, while others advocate using lethal force to protect your life. Your character could easily end up in either camp, based on their background and outlook.

-Starke

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What would be the 1st things a teacher would teach to students who aren’t new to martial arts but have studied either a completely different set of techniques/style or a set of techniques/style that share some similarities but is still different?

They would still teach them how to stand and they would still start at the very beginning.

Transitioning from style to another doesn’t automatically allow you to skip over the basics. In fact, the basics become that much more important. All martial training is a re-training of the body’s natural responses and muscle memory is very confusing. Doing one will not necessarily allow you to jumpstart into another. You’re actually much more likely to fall prey to the minutiae. Getting caught between a technique in one style and the technical details of another will lead to confusion during a fight. It’s a costly mistake, a deadly one. In some ways, it’s faster to train someone who has already been trained in another style because they grasp the concepts faster. However, it’s also slower because you also have to retrain or find a way to harmonize their body’s now natural responses with this new style. Even for two styles that are very similar, the differences can be vast and the last thing anyone wants is to see their student die because they decided to skip necessary steps.

The early stages of training are the most important.

I said it in the other post, each style has their own unique way of going about training and everything is slightly different. Those differences can create drastic flaws in the techniques that they’ll be trained in if they’re not corrected. You can never completely rewrite their foundation, but they still have to learn the new rules in the same way that any student would.

If you’re going to write a student of two different martial arts styles, then you’re going to be beholden to both of them. Thorough research will be needed on one and then the other in order to understand the transition and the conflicts between the two styles when it comes to training in more than one. This is also why it’s best to do one and then the other rather than two at the same time, two will lead to conflicting signals and constantly force them to unlearn what their body recently learned which sets back their progress. Unless the student works very hard to assert the second style as primary, the first one they’ve learned will always make up their “base”. This will be true even if they don’t use the skills at all as the stylistic tendencies inform their body’s movements. These qualities become more apparent within an individual style due to the proclivities of different teachers. It extends beyond just martial arts too and into other physical activities, a character raised in ballet will still subconsciously carry themselves like a ballerina even after they’ve switched over.

And, sometimes, even in the same style when switching to an additional discipline such as a weapon discipline will also return to basics. The student will spend the first day learning how to stand with a sword, hold a sword, and balance a sword in their hands long before they start learning the techniques.

The basics of training work like this:

Learn to stand.

Learn single techniques while standing without stances.

Learn stances.

Learn to move in single line in stances with no techniques.

Learn single techniques in conjunction with stances.

Practice moving forward while doing technique in stance until student becomes comfortable with single technique.

Put techniques together into combination of different moves. Have students practice in a single line.

Teach students “form” comprised of techniques, which includes transitions into multiple different angles and turns.

A basic beginner form from Taekwondo would be:

Stand in beginning stance/ready position facing instructor. Turn left into basic fighting stance, slide front kick into double punch. Hold. Breathe. Turn right into basic fighting stance, slide front kick into double punch. Step back to turn toward instructor into fighting stance, front kick, front kick, front kick into double punch. The whole of the form takes place on a T shape rather than a single line.

As training progresses, include more complexity i.e. different stances and kicks. Always return to beginning when adding additional training or new concepts.

There are plenty of aspects of martial training which can (and often are) short changed in order to speed students through the process, especially when they’re on a condensed schedule with a limited amount of time. The basics are not one of those things. A broken base leads to a broken trainee.

Basics are what save your life.

-Michi

What would be the very first thing a teacher would teach a group of students learning how to fight hand-to-hand?

They’d teach them how to stand.

It’s not that they’d teach them a variety of stances, no. They’d actually re-teach them how to stand, how to spread their weight, where their feet are supposed to go, and how best to balance themselves. They’ll usually spend the entire first lesson teaching that with a lot of modifying the body’s position to hold it. This is practiced on the first day and, sometimes, the second until it’s second nature.

The reason for this is: base.

All students need a solid foundation and it begins with your feet, your body, and how you hold yourself. Your base is the first and most important skill you’ll ever learn in any martial arts program, it informs every skill you are about to acquire. It’s important to remember that nothing about martial combat that is “native” or “natural”. It’s a learned skill.

Your foundation is necessary to be able to generate power and to take hits. It’s about being able to properly balance in order to do the techniques. To keep your back upright, your gut tight, your shoulders spread, to breathe from the diaphram, to bend the knees slightly, and lean forward onto the balls of your feet rather than leaving all your weight in your heels. Training in this is central to a student’s ability to perform well and to survive. Without an understanding of balance or of the body before strikes, without understanding the pieces which make up a greater action.

It’s actually up to the individual teacher as to whether or not they’ll explain why this is to their students. I suggest you do because most audiences genuinely don’t know.

Every style has a different way to stand and every school has a different way of teaching it. Some spend more time on it than others, some less so than others. Sometimes they build it in with learning to fall/roll, where one slaps the ground to spread the force of the fall.

It’s a very “hands on” experience for the students. The teacher will spend a fair amount of time readjusting their body. Prodding the spine so they open up the chest, nudging their feet wider apart, resetting the hips, and poking the stomach. Later in training, they may bring a tool like a light stick to test their ability with a few smacks but that won’t be on the first day or the second.

I cannot express how important this actually is and how often it gets skipped, because it’s either considered to be uninteresting or the author genuinely doesn’t know.

-Michi

Hi. I joined a martial arts club so I could learn self confidence/self defense. But yesterday I was taught by a guy who made me so uncomfortable, I don’t want to go again. I cant believe the irony! I wanted to learn self defense against misogynists & ended up being taught by one who roughed me up & pretended it was a lesson. He kept saying “girls are so much worse than boys” (about school bullies, like at over 20 yrs old that’s why I joined?) & when I disagreed he aggressively pulled me. Advice?

Get out of the class.

This guy obviously has nothing to teach that you’re interested in learning and in the words of the Karate Kid: “There are no bad students, just bad teachers.” You don’t have to go, you don’t have to stick it out, this is not a toughness test. You have the right to say “no” and go find an instructor who will help you achieve the goals you set for yourself as opposed to working out his personal issues on you.

This is not acceptable. It is not okay. Leave.

I cannot stress that enough.

LEAVE.

If this guy is the one running the school, then find another school. If he’s not and is working under a leadership then (if you feel comfortable talking to them), you should let them know. If this is a position or attitude that they endorse, then, again, leave. Unfortunately, that may be all you can do. Safeguarding yourself is important. You are important. You are entitled to a safe, constructive learning environment with someone you trust and who believes in you. This guy is obviously not giving you that, therefore he is neither entitled to your time or your money.

Abusive environments in martial arts schools are not normal. However, they do happen. Assholes exist and, unfortunately, regardless of training, shitty people will continue to be shitty.

So, get out. You don’t want to go back? Great. Don’t. You don’t have to. This is not you giving up. This is not cowardice. This is not you failing. He has failed you. If you do to get a refund, bring a friend. Don’t go back without one, or two, or three. There’s safety in numbers. Whatever you need to feel safe.

Here’s what you shouldn’t do.

Don’t let this guy scare you off getting what you want. Okay? He’s not the norm and those goals you mentioned: building self-confidence and learning to defend yourself? That’s admirable. I’m proud of you for finding the courage to go after what you want. Tackling new experiences is very brave and I’m sorry this situation has been so horrible. All my hugs to you. Those things you want? You deserve them. Find a different school.

Martial arts schools are like any community, they’re all different. Think about the different cliques in your high school, even the people who seem very similar can be vastly different. What you need is to find an environment where you feel comfortable. Find someone you want to learn from.

Martial arts require trust and respect, it’s a shared path between teacher and student. You need to find a teacher you respect and one who respects you. A good teacher is one who believes in you. They believe in their students, they are invested in their development, they are with you ever step of the way, and they are a second family. They will not disregard your fears, they will listen to you, and together you will work toward achieving what you need. It’s a partnership. Because of that, it’s important to remember that not every teacher can provide what you’re looking for. This is why finding the right one is so important. Remember, what’s right for me or Starke may not be right for you. We all learn differently and thrive in different learning environments.

Most importantly: This is supposed to be fun.

I’m going to borrow a section from The Ultimate Guide to Tai Chi, an article by Dr. John Painter where he discusses selecting a school. This is going to be specifically about Tai Chi, but really, it’s good advice for any martial art.

to find a school to suit your needs, you should first decide just what you expect to gain from studying tai chi chuan. Do you simply want better health, or do you want to learn tai chi to defend yourself, or to enhance your internal power? Or all of the above? Getting in touch with your needs is a good idea before you start your quest.

Where to Look
In most large cities across the United States, there are usually several teachers available. Look in the yellow pages or ask around to compile a list of candidates. Checking with the local community college programs is another option. Anyone who wishes to study this art should identify as many teachers as possible in the area. Then go visit the training sites of each. Some may be in a commercial gymnasium, or a church hall, or a college gymnasium, while other classes are taught in parks. The authenticity of the art does not rely on the place in which it is practiced. However, for a beginner, it generally is best to have a quiet serene environment in which to train.
If the site matches your needs, call the instructor and ask to visit an actual class. It’s most helpful to observe both a beginner’s and advanced class to determine how you might progress as a student of that particular school. Avoid a teacher who will not allow visitors during class time. Legitimate teachers have nothing to hide and do not conduct “secret” classes. (pg XIV)

I also suggest checking Yelp and other sites to see if the school is listed. Not all experiences are going to be favorable, but this is an easy way to check the pulse before leaping right in.

This part is the one I feel is most important.

Once you have located a teacher to visit, do what the Chinese say: “Empty your cup.” Let go of any expectations about how a competent tai chi chuan teacher should look, act, or sound.

Good teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and nationalities and in both sexes (genders). A teacher does not have to be Chinese to have a command of the art. A good teacher has to communicate the basic principles in a clear and concise manner—this is essential.
The hallmark of excellence in teaching is not how the teacher performs, but how he or she gets you to perform. No matter how many awards are won or how perfectly the forms are executed for the class, if the person in question cannot explain in simple terms, or communicate in some way how you can do the technique, you are not looking at a good teacher! (pg XIV, bolded for emphasis)

Learning is about you, the student. The teacher’s job is to serve the needs of the student. If those needs are not being served, then the teacher has failed or is not a good one. When you look for your next school (leave this one), look for someone who makes you feel comfortable, whose class is comfortable and relaxed, who promotes an environment where you feel comfortable learning.

You are not being selfish. It’s okay to say no. If the school cannot provide what you need, then feel free to look elsewhere. This is why looking at multiple schools is important. Much like applying to college, you’re looking for a place where the learning environment is right for you.

Do you trust this person? Do you feel safe? Are there other women present in your classes? Are they present in the higher classes? Are there female instructors? When you observe a class, how does the instructor treat them? How do the students behave? Do they look comfortable and happy?

Again from The Ultimate Guide to Tai Chi:

Taking the Pulse of the Class

When visiting the school, talk to the students and find out what they like about the program. Watch the classes and see if the students are having fun learning. It is best to avoid teachers who run their classes like a military camp or who never smile. Discipline is important and should be part of the class, but remember that tai chi chuan is based on Taoism, and Taoists do not take things as seriously as many of their Zen-oriented brothers in budo. Look for laughter.

You want laughter. You want comfort and friendliness. People who smile, who are warm, friendly, and welcoming. Community is what keeps you going when things get tough.

This is what’s most important. Women are often taught to sacrifice themselves for the good of others, to put aside their own needs in order to make someone else more comfortable. Screw that. Trust your instincts. They are right. If you find yourself having to make a lot of justifications, if this school is somewhere you don’t want to be, if you don’t feel like you’re learning, if you don’t feel valued, and you don’t feel respected both by your instructor and the other students then it’s time to go somewhere else.

Take care of yourself first.

I’m sorry this experience has been rough for you and your instructor is an asshole. Don’t give up. The sense of betrayal you’re feeling right now is natural. It’s not your fault. It’s his fault. You don’t have to go it alone. Most importantly, find a safe place.

Don’t go back.

(If you absolutely must, take a friend. If you are nervous about signing up at another school or even just visiting, again, bring a friend. Someone you trust, someone who will look out for you.)

-Michi