View Full Version : The "there were NO tourists" syndrome

Tripitaka of AA
12th August 2002, 15:06
You've heard people say it. They go on a holiday to a far-flung destination and proudly proclaim that it was so "unspoilt" and "uncommercial", yet by their very presence they contribute to its transformation into Resort #23425 in the World Travel Brochure.

How many people have joined Shorinji Kempo for the exclusivity of practising a style of martial art that is less well-known than many others? You can learn some unique and fascinating techniques in a short time, soon feeling like a member of an extended family of students sharing a secret style that no-one else knows. You listen intently when Sensei gives a Howa lecture, yearn to be his Seiho subject, count your blessings when he uses someone else to demonstrate randori.

Yet, so often, after a ridiculously short while, the student starts looking further afield for tuition. Videos, books and internet are all used as a substitute for the training Dojo (present company excepted, of course). Not content with learning in the traditional way, from a trained Master, the modern Western student seems to demand instant tuition from the most senior Hombu Masters (right here, right now, with instant replay and zoom-in please).

It is, to my mind, like going on an African Safari, but staying in a 5-star luxury hotel with hot showers, cable TV, telephone, Fax and internet connection, the newspapers from back home, McDonalds and KFC across the road and aroma-controlled air-conditioning in every room. Aren't you diluting what you came here to see?

Your thoughts welcomed...

Steve Williams
12th August 2002, 22:12
Have to agree with the safari analogy....

Saw this "in action" when we were in the US a few years ago.
After walking down into the Grand Canyon and back up (about 5 hours of hike) we were shocked by the busload of overweight americans who turned up in their tourbus, all piled out took lots of pictures, lots of oohh and aahhhh, then stated that they had "done" the grand canyon all got back on the bus and left.

But do not agree (totally) with the other observation.

I look at videos, read books, and get on the net.... all to increase my knowledge of the martial arts.
None of this is as a substitute to my "dojo training" but as a supplement to it. There can be no substitute for training in a dojo under a qualified instructor

I would not recommend this approach to any of my kyu grade students, but would (and do) recommend it to my dan grade students.
As good and well rounded as any martial art can be, I can safely say that none are "complete" and you should always search for knowledge.... you never know where that might be.

By the way.... even my instructor (you know who that is) has an 'extensive' library of other MA books/videos, all for the purposes of 'research'...... everyone can always learn something.

Tripitaka of AA
13th August 2002, 05:55
Steve touches on a subject that I was thinking of for another post, but it fits right in here; How experienced do you have to be, before you start looking around for other sources of information?

Should the keen student be persuaded to restrict their enthusiasm to the one club, one Sensei? Or encouraged to view, read and study under different Sensei or even different styles? Steve would suggest that there is a different answer depending on the grade of the student. I'd have to agree. And also accept that there is no hard and fast rule that can be applied here - Shades of grey exist between the black and white of "Exclusively Kempo" or "Multi-Styled Freefighting" (Sounds like Jeet Kune Do). You wouldn't want to ban your students from watching Jackie Chan movies, would you!

An Instructor, should be able to guide students through their journey to becoming adept at Shorinji Kempo. If he wasn't good enough to do that then he wouldn't have been allowed to open a club. So how does the Instructor feel when the student start going to all the other clubs in the area and answering his fellow students questions with tips and info picked up from elsewhere. Or should an instructor be prepared to accept that his role is to entice and attract the new students into the Dojo, and that any of them who are keen enough will eventually pass on to another club seeking higher knowledge.

I trained under Jee Sensei at the Abbey Dojo in London. As I progressed I trained occasionally at other clubs, and eventually became a regular at the "extra" class on a Saturday afternoon, which Jee Sensei also attended. I was his student and he was my Sensei, although there were opportunities to train with Mizuno Sensei, who was Jee Sensei's immediate superior. From what I saw, I remained satisfied that my Sensei was "the best" and the one for me. But what if I was tempted to change classes, for convenience/schedule/location, to Mizuno Sensei's class (I use this as an example, it never happened), would I still count Jee Sensei as MY instructor. How would the new instructor feel, knowing he was teaching someone who had greater loyalty elsewhere?...

Sometimes choice can be a bad thing.

Ian Sparrow
13th August 2002, 09:30

As far as the safari analogy goes, I can't really comment as I more or less started kempo by accident and beforehand had a virtually non-existent interest in the martial arts.

With respect to videos and other teaching aids I personally found that there was a point at which they became interesting and a point much later on when I started to notice things with 'educational' value, much as sensei Steve says in his post above.

I remember watching a video a few years back and seeing the techniques but not really having a clue about what was going on even though it all looked good. Some time later, I saw the same video and began to understand things and notice slightly smaller detail.
For me, its a case of how well developed my 'kempo eye' is as to whether I benefit. After a two year break from kempo, videos, books etc turned back into a meaningless blur. One day I hope to be able to see it again and learn something.

The opportunity to study under different senseis and at different clubs is a valuable one. Mixing with other clubs is always fun (take the UTS for example) but also a chance to see new things - different taiso, slightly new take on a piece of howa, variant of a technique or a different method of helping you to understand something. Choice and variety is a good thing, certainly from my perspective.
Certainly, the chance to be taught by another sensei is far better than looking at a picture book or video.


Tripitaka of AA
13th August 2002, 12:17
Nice point about the "Kempo Eye" there Ian. It is true that you can get a completely different impression from the same image, depending on your own grasp of the technique.

I like to think about things, but I share a feeling that was expressed by an Archbishop a few years ago who said "I am cursed by the ability to see both sides of almost any debate".

Would it be fair to compare the relatively small number of BSKF Dojos to a group of Dojo working to a Doin, as you might find in Japan? That would be where one Dojo in the region is considered the senior club, where the other Sensei go to train (as I understand it to be, please correct me if I'm talking Kintama). Or on an even smaller scale, to a single busy Dojo, which has many senior students, such as you might find in Japan (where 3rd Dan grades are still just students, with no intention of forming their own clubs). In such a case, a student might train with one Sempai (senior student) almost exclusively, but still regard the Sensei as his Teacher. In that comparison, a British Kenshi could train at any Dojo at all, considering Mizuno Sensei as their true Instructor, for all the BSKF Sensei trained under him (OK, I haven't forgotten Maehara Sensei, but I'm getting all hypothetical here, let's keep it simple).

Perhaps I'm going around in circles (remember the Archbishop), but I think I'm clear on one or two things. One student should have one Sensei. If the Sensei suggests visiting some other clubs to vary the instruction then that's fine. If the Sensei decides that the student needs more advanced instruction than he can give then that's fine too. The student needs to "Do as the Romans do" while practising away from home and try to avoid contradicting the instructors, showing good Dojo manners.

Doesn't it all come back to Shu-Ha-Ri, there is a time to copy, time to adapt and time to develop. It is not always easy to wait for the Instructor to tell you that the time is right, but patience is another virtue worth developing.