More on Poor Martial Arts Instructors

15Dec11

In my previous post I answered a question on the use of resistance bands in improving kicks. However, the video example of a class practicing kicks with those bands showed such poor instruction standards that I gave my opinion about its instructor—quite typical for m.a. So today I have another example of a typical martial arts instructor: Mr. Hu Zhengsheng, a Shaolin kung-fu exponent, in China. He is actually a master of the real Shaolin kung-fu, not of the flashy variety sold for the masses. He is described and interviewed in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic (“Battle for the Soul of Kung Fu”, pp. 94-113). Here is a passage from the article (p. 106) that gave me pause:

“A boy dressed in the school’s dove gray robes and sneakers appears at the office door to report that a student has twisted an ankle. By the time Hu arrives to check on him, the injured pupil has resumed practice, gritting his teeth as he kicks a heavy bag. Hu nods with a teacher’s satisfaction. `He is learning to eat bitterness.’”

So, neither the chief instructor, Mr. Hu, nor any competent professional, was present during the workout. Children were not adequately supervised doing high-intensity exercise. Injuries happen with ample warnings—a good physical education or sports instructor can see them coming well ahead of time and can intervene—but one needs to be there watching! The surest way to stifle an athletic potential and make mature age miserable is to accumulate injuries at an early age. The sure way to make the injuries’ effects last a long time is to make them worse by not resting to let them heal. Persisting or even allowing intense exercise of the injured body part takes it to another level….

The Shaolin kung-fu master is a very competent exponent of the style, possibly a very proficient fighter, but a negligent instructor. He wants to make a living and to raise funds for his traditional Shaolin kung-fu school. He doesn’t care that his pupils get injured—it doesn’t occur to him that their injuries and thus long-term health are his responsibility.

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6 Responses to “More on Poor Martial Arts Instructors”

  1. Your point is generally valid.. for us here in the west with our culture and our societies’ expectations of meeting the responsibilites of the care of children, ‘martial’ training or not.

    However the culture there is obviously different, attitudes are different.

    Parents may well become aghast and ashamed that their kid was sent home or hospitalised or had medical personnel swing into action or whatever, for a sprained ankle if the instructor there were to respond as we would expect them to here.

    In any case, it’s easy to criticise on very few facts. It’s not apparent how severe the injury actually turned out to be (your expectation be that the boy be evaluated by a ‘competent professional’ being present during the workout notwithstanding) – it’s possible the boy’s injury was such that he could well continue, albeit with some discomfort.

    And if so, and not to over-romanticise it a la kwai-chung cain, but equally they could look at what you say and shake their heads in disdain just as much and see it as missing one of the very essential lessons of martial training, to be indomitable in the face of pain. (note, I say ‘pain’, not ‘debilitating injury’.)

    To conclude, I think the example you cite is at best used to illustrate the model that cannot be followed in the US rather than attacking that instructor in the tone set in your final paragraph.

    “The Shaolin kung-fu master is a very competent exponent of the style, possibly a very proficient fighter, but a negligent instructor. He wants to make a living and to raise funds for his traditional Shaolin kung-fu school. He doesn’t care that his pupils get injured—it doesn’t occur to him that their injuries and thus long-term health are his responsibility.”

    Bit presumptuous, Tom?

  2. Exercising with little injuries leads to big injuries. Instructor’s duty is to prevent injuries and maximize effectiveness of training.

  3. Greetings from Venezuela,
    I agree with Mr. Kurz. If the master was not watching the class, at least he should have pointed a younger instructor to take care of the children. An ankle twist might not be considered a big injury, but what about if the boy has injured his neck or spine?
    Regards

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. Training through injury is completely different to training through fatigue or effort. One is character development, one is a sure fire way to a short career. Coaches have a duty of care in this respect.

  5. 5 FFF

    Kurz is right, even the littlest injurie requires maximal attention and proper healing technique.
    Near all my friends involved in some sort of sport training have chronic injuries unfortunately developed by ingnorant application of near non existent training methodology.

    Regarding shaolin’s practices, I have doubts about their programming abilities. They could be much stronger with less conditioning and proper nutrition.

  6. 6 Leonard

    You make an immaculate point in regards to avoiding long term injury/debillitation and poor form at the hands of the ‘fear-reactivity’ principle response alone. But it does raise some doubt in my mind about cross-cultural and even spiritual persuation. I have only my own experiences to depend on and one of them is as such: after a childhood of torture and abuse, I spent my early teens drugged out of my mind skateboarding. I must have sprained, bruised/broken bones and torn connective tissue in my ankles thousands of times. I continued to skate through it all simply because it was the only thing that made me feel good in any way and at that point it was the only blessing this world had offered me. As a result I’m now 30 and my ankles are now bulletproof. I can dance on them like a proffessional ballerina and they are now so strong that they simply don’t sprain anymore…my leg bones will break first. I’m not saying that these old school methods of “no pain no gain” are valid, I’m just saying that it raises questions in my mind about the application of mind to hindered human movement. let’s face it, back in the day primitive man could not spend 6 weeks on his back after a hunting injury.
    Regardless of my contemplation I’d like to second that motion. He’s not an instructors arsehole. success early should come gently with the aid of an attentive master who allows no room for even freedom or deviation from true form. heavy impact simulation is afterall a pre-real life/pre-competition activity that let’s face it, if it isn’t absolutely perfect in practice, will almost certainly fail you on the mat or on the street.


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