One Way Dojos Collapse

I was asked by a friend, “You said most of the top seniors you used to train with in your teacher’s dojo in Japan in the 1970s are no longer training in that teacher’s dojo. Why do so many top skilled students in the martial arts training hall so often leave the dojo once the dojo grows in student numbers?”

In any dojo you have:

  • “A students” – the most capable and motivated members (20% of student base?)
  • “B students” – the worthy and admirable, dedicated to learning (65% of the dojo?)
  • “C students” – the “skill and motivation challenged” who train despite lack of perceived improvement (15%?)
  • Some dojos even have “D students” – dark-hearted ones who perversely delight in staying around just to cause difficulties. This is a form of mental illness based on resentment of those who work harder and contribute more. Seems weird but is surprisingly pervasive.

When the teacher treats B students like A students, it makes B students think they are A students. B students then quickly grow an entitlement mentality. They forget they are indeed Bs and not As. They start to make opinion statements they have no right to make. They judge others they have no right to judge. As a result, A students then rightly feel disgusted and either 1. lose their motivation to strive for higher mastery, or 2. leave the dojo.

When the teacher treats C students like Bs by giving Cs all the same belts as A and B students – despite their lack of advancement in skill and leadership – A and B students will be demoralized.

When the teacher tolerates D students, As and Bs perceive the teacher as weak or foolish, and Cs are often seduced by Ds into degenerated D-supporting behavior.

When I was a young teacher, I was guilty of not understanding the truth of A, B, C, and D perceptions and preferences. I optimistically maintained a “Golden Rule” approach where I treated all students as I wanted to be treated myself – as determined to strive to become the top A student.

My own teacher teased me as being majimesugiru – “too sincere” or too serious. He felt the way to build a big dojo was to reward each student with exactly what he or she wanted. Some wanted knowledge. Some wanted skill. Some wanted belt rank. Some wanted an identity. Some wanted a father figure. Some wanted to feel more important than those better than them. Some wanted techniques for navigating daily reality, and some wanted escape from reality. Like the magical little man behind the curtain in the Great Oz throne room, my teacher happily gave out whatever his student came to him to find. It was just that easy for him.

I suppose I differ from my teacher on that point, even as I acknowledge his warning of my being too serious about maintaining quality in the belt ranks. I do agree with him though on finding the familiar Golden Rule as usually inappropriate for the dojo. You cannot ascribe to all students an assumed similarity of motivations and willingness to commit. Not everybody truly aims at full martial mastery.

Therefore, as a best practice, a teacher needs to maintain a genuinely fair and transparent program for training advancement, and reliably reward and recognize people legitimately based on their performance in:

  • Skill – “How good are you, compared with all others?”
  • Advancement – “How much have you grown beyond where you started?”
  • “Nobility” – “How much benefit have you brought to others above you and below you?”

(Watch for a future blog wherein I pose an opposite argument. There is of course no contradiction, just a bigger view of the fullness of reality.)

28 comments to “One Way Dojos Collapse”

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  1. Conceptually, I agree with this overall idea, though I believe the distribution looks more like a Pareto power law distribution, meaning that the top 5% are the A students, another 5% are the B students, and the C students are the remainder of the curve, trickling down to infinity.


    All you need do is count total attendance in the dojo over a ten year period with the number of awarded black belts at that dojo. As long as wonderful teachers such as yourself continue to strive for standards in testing and rank, the number of people who wash out, the C and D students, and even a good number of the B students, vastly outweighs the meager number of A students.

    How many people can lay claim to being a To-Shin Do black belt? How many people keep going? How many people walk in the door, do the trial month of classes, and walk out, never to be seen again?

    There are far fewer A students than we would like in the martial arts, and I suspect Hatsumi sensei’s practical, if less than motivational to A students, philosophy addresses this. But then, there are far fewer A-quality people in every aspect of life. As you’ve taught over the years, one of the secrets of happiness is to dig really hard to find those people!

  2. Very, very interesting post. I waver a bit as I try to determine where I myself stand on that scale, as I sometimes have great difficulty in perceiving improvement in my own skill. This helps to further my resolve to be an asset to the dojo, if only a small one, and not a mere observer or, heaven forbid, a hindrance to others.

    I look forward to your next post, as I feel there was a certain ruthless wisdom in your teacher’s choice to ‘give the students what they ask for’.

  3. Here at the Boulder Quest Center, we have been thinking about how to help our students become more conscious of what kind of student they are. We recently revised our testing forms for belt promotion. I would guess that most dojo have some form the student fills out to apply for the belt promotion, and it’s usually a fairly boring piece of administrative paperwork to ensure that fees get paid, address updated, etc.

    We thought that form is an opportunity for self-reflection, so our new form has a couple of places for a person to consider how they fit in to the dojo in terms of their skill, personal growth (called “advancement” above), and contributions (called “nobility” above).

    Of course, we operate in “everybody wins” America, so we use an elemental mandala model for the answers so a person can identify their skill (or advancement or nobility) in terms of an elemental association rather than a positive/negative… but of course if a person has to stop and think about themselves to make an elemental identification, they can’t help but notice the quality of their training as well.


  4. Another great post An-Shu , what about those students who whilst following their instructors tuition, try to remain impartial to the selected groups you stated, or maybe flow between them depending on the situation/circumstances?

  5. I’ve also encountered teachers who neglet the “A” students and teach down to the lowest common denominator, disregarding the learning need of those deemed the better student.

  6. This all seems to be a great distraction. We teach, we learn.
    It is so Wonderful!

  7. Christos Karatsalos says: -#1

    Another five dollar on every A B C and D student account, it is up to him what his going to do with this valuable stuff he learns, for D students no mater how far the have made progress is good to read over and over again and to compare over and over again their role in life and make their D side of life more valuable, it is also a good reminder the number nine and forteen from code of action. And yes many times we need to dig very deep in dirt from human soul to find diamonds and share them with people we love. Thank you An-Shu

  8. Thank you for this article. I like the belt system (though i would not consider myself anything more than a novice in the martial arts… still, I have my views) It seems as though the belt system would/could inspire people to do better and to reach for a depth and breadth that they didn’t reazie was possible… and I think this happens a lot. That’s cool.

    However… it’s scarry to think that people could/would become so fixated on the external aspect of “color” and “status” …. that they would lose touch with, say, their intuitive inner spirit…. become a drone of some other kind of system (i’ve seen this a lot, sadly ppl would sell out their soul for the illusion of power and control)

    I’ve seen this a lot in religions where people get ‘raised up’ by the leader for doing the leader’s (or church’s) bidding. then the person becomes an addict for that kind of special attention… sooner than later, that person’s transformed into a goon, truncated off from their divine inner spirit… in exchange for a man-made system of false elevation… i would call this example “the chruch of the false prophet”. and it’s something to be careful not to fall into; nomatter what industry one is involved in;

    I’ve also met a (successful) man who has stopped using a belt system in his martial arts school. He’s brave I think… because he has to approach each student, daily, as if he’s meetig them for the first time… one cannot sit back and relax into their ass’umptions in that kind of classroom …’ nor can they rely on their intellect to guide them or the lesson… as it’s unfolding anew for teacher and student.

    Anyways… thank you for all this. I feel that martial arts are a great gift for all of us who would use them to remain true to ourself and eachother.

    Peace and God Bless,

  9. Alan Labianca-Campbell says: -#1

    Thank you for the perspective and the challenge. Most interesting and helpful.

  10. Daniel L Dunn says: -#1

    I find it interesting how there are also A, B, C & D teachers as well. Who’s students clearly reflect their teching environment (provided they learn what they’re taught). Some raise the martial arts to new heights of quality and excellence and others aim to discount the authentic for a false notion of ego or prestige without taking into account the true purpose of martial practice.

    Thankfully we have head-masters such as An-shu that reflect the clear light of perseverance and quality commitment.

    Domo Arigato Gozaimas An-shu

  11. James Turner says: -#1

    Wow! What a great topic. As a new owner of a martial Arts school this problem is always on my mind (sadly). I hope that I’m not revealing to everyone that I am a weak person, but I worry about balancing “budget” and consequently staying open in a small town, and “Quality” and possibly shutting the doors for good. This problem is only more complicated when you put your own family’s money into the pot.

    My partner, Brandon Deschner, is constantly stating that this is a hard business to be in, because you are getting paid by the people that hired you to Tell them what to do. If they don’t like what you have to say then they stop paying. America is steeped in an entitlement mentality, right now, and, I think, is largely uneducated in the actual role of a martial Arts school in their lives and community.

    I can definitely see it from both sides. On the one hand, you are a business selling a product (whether that be skill, belts, etc.. or the opportunity to learn and practice life changing ideals). On the other, you will, inevitably lose your higher ranks if you do treat all people as though they are seeking the highest of Martial Arts standards.

    I will be reviewing my own personal stance on this topic.

    Thank you so much An-Shu

  12. As always Sir, Great Topic!!
    Though I understand the concept and realize there are all types of students (A though D). I must admit I really appreciate when a teacher does not always teach to the lowest common denominator. I have seen both teaching styles over the years in and out of martial arts. I have left a schools in the past that only teach to the lowest common denominator, (staying there was a great source of frustration).
    I was in one other school, (( non-martial arts) before the Quest Center) that taught (maybe not to impossibly high standard) but to reasonably high standard and I found it to be very encouraging and though advancement was not easy, I found it to be very motivating for me.

    I have often wondered if we as instructors/trainers addressed the issue of entitlement with the students, helping them understand that this attitude not in their best interest. How different would the world be?
    Just as individual responsibility is a attitude that is taught,
    so is the attitude of entitlement .
    If all a child sees and hears their parents talk about how they are in entitled to this thing or that thing.
    What should except from their children?
    Does not the same go for individual responsibility?
    A child sees and hears from their parents that hard work and being responsible is the best way.
    The children will believe and act the same way.
    I believe if we as a society continue to teach to the lowest common denominator we are robbing future generations.
    We see this in the public schools lately, they do not teach to high standard and it shows.
    There are schools that teach to a higher standard, and it shows.
    The balance between the two is the challenge that teachers have today.
    I must admit I am in favor of teaching to higher standard.
    In my EMT job I work with those who have the entitlement attitude and are mediocre in their work ethic. (it is very frustrating).
    I would much rather continue to teach to a higher level and bring others up with us along the way.
    Some will come with us, others will not.
    If we are going to impact the world for the better, the standard will need to be high.
    An-shu, Thank you for teaching to a higher standard. please do not ever stop!!!

  13. Serge R. Yee says: -#1

    This is a very engaging topic. Personally, the day-to-day training between belt tests matters as much to me as the testing itself.

    I’ll stay tuned for that future blog!

  14. Guido Corsi says: -#1

    Very interesting topic. I think that A students need personal coaching and a stricter relationship between teacher and learner. This is possible because the number of A students that endure decades of committed training is obviously low. On the other side they have to develop a service spirit toward the Dojo and other students. At A level, rank motivation (and also “collecting skills” motivation ) should be replaced with higher aspirations. If this does not happen arrives a point where the only way to get a higher rank is to quit and estabilish ones own school. In order to delay this issue some teachers decided to expand the number of grades to gratify the Egoes of rank collectors. I do not think this is a good solution in a long-term prospective.
    In modern times develop this kind of intimate relationship is very difficult. It requires to share daily life with your teacher (at least partially) and honestly I think this can be hardly done at distance visiting your teacher a couple of times every year.
    As for the B students they are more subject to life fluctuation. Their skill and motivation is not rooted in enough to be stable. Sometimes I can note a flux and reflux between B and C levels. In certain periods of personal distress students can change their attitude toward the art they practice. Sometimes they can even fall at D level and you do not throw them off the Dojo because you hope they can redeem themselves.

  15. Jim McFarland says: -#1

    Great post…maybe this method ensures a couple of things: first, that only the most motivated and absolutely sincere truly advance because they are the ones that aren’t ever satisfied with merely ” getting what they were looking for.” It seems like a great way to “purify” a dojo, if you’re looking for only the truly dedicated, most sincere students to share your secrets with. The rest disappear. “A” students stay “A” level because they’re constantly challenged to “bring it.” And, they have to summon all the patience they can muster by listening to the “mess-ups” deride both they and other “mess-ups.” Belts don’t mean anything in that realm, true hard-hitting skill does. “B” students have their weaknesses exploited by giving them what they want. They want to believe they’re good, they’re told they’re good, so they go away… happy. “C” students believe they’re just as good as “A” and “B” students, so they go away fat, dumb and happy too. And the “D’s” expedite the whole process of purification. You’re left with lots of happy folks, happily financing the real learning of the very few “A’s” that will hang. Sounds like Japan to me. Lots of folks leaving happy; lots of folks with transparent ranks. Lots of folks with very little skill. Lots of folks coming back claiming they have “the real thing as Soke teaches it.” But they can’t truly function under real, hard-hitting, awful violence. They happily finance the ones that stick around to get the real lessons and insights.

  16. Great post!

    However, I want to pick apart some semantics where I disagree.

    You state that when teachers treat their B students as A students (or C’s as B’s, etc.), they grow an “entitlement mentality” and forget they are B’s and not A’s. This is where I have to disagree.

    Personally, I think there is a subtle and yet grand distinction between “treating” someone like something they are not and “rewarding” them for something they are not.

    I’m a staunch believer in the Thomas Theorem, which states, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” So if you -treat- B and C students as A students, give them the same learning opportunities, attention, and care as you would your A students, then they will also become A students.

    But if you -reward- them as if they were successful A students (granting of titles, belts, pay grades, what have you) without properly earning it, then they will get that entitlement of which you speak. The same will happen if you -reward- an A student if the A student hasn’t first earned the reward.

    Also, to designate students as A, B, C, D, may lead to over-generalization, a sense of indomnitable failure (“Man, I’ll never be as skilled as the A students because I’m a B student.”), over generalizations, stereotyping, and a negative effect by regards to the Thomas Theorem as well.

    So in closing, I really liked your post. However, I strongly believe we should -treat- everyone (within Quest and without) as the A student they could be, but only -reward- them when they’ve worked hard and proven themselves worthy of the reward.

  17. Please accept some perspective on your ‘D’ students. Im am writing as a former teacher of cognitively and behaviorally challenged students, so this is close to my heart. I had to restart this post several times in an attempt to be clear and, I hope, useful and I hope you can take these remarks in the spirit intended.

    “dark-hearted ones who perversely delight in staying around just to cause difficulties” is unfair to them, to you as a teacher, and unproductive. People have different experiences as they attempt to learn, and many have not learned how to deal with frustration appropriately, either because previous lessons have come too easily to feed anything more than the ego or because they are too practiced in failure to know how a student must act to succeed. Instinctively, human beings measure ‘progress’ by changing their environment, which is why students often respond to failure in the curriculum (be it martial arts, academics, whatever) with disruptive behaviors. It is maladaptive, but until invited to examine the behavior, most people will do it (think of the common practice of kicking a malfunctioning appliance).

    You certainly do not have to tolerate disruptions, let alone reward them. It is appropriate to decide that your dojo cannot meet the immediate goals and needs of a particular student. However, please do not respond to a clumsy and failed attempt at self-improvement with such a pejorative description of the student. It can do more damage than you think, even to an adult.

  18. Elizabeth has a valid point about possible pressures and motivations behind disruptive behavior of frustrated students.

    My description of “D students” does not refer to the kind of well-meaning but wrong-placed students that Elizabeth describes, however.

    My use of A, B, C, and D classifications refers to attitude and enthusiasm, and not to a grade someone might receive on a report card.

    In calling someone a “D student” I am referring to a truly dark-hearted individual who willfully uses the dojo as a “life substitute” arena for engaging in negative gossip, undermining group morale, unfairly questioning superiors’ skill or motivation through innuendo (though never to his/her face), and recasting the negative lower-skilled but higher-ego-need D student as the solution to all the problems that D student has intentionally created in order to feel important.

    Eventually, this can degenerate down to the D student starting his or her own dojo and luring the naive victims over there as students. It can also just continue to fester in the original dojo, where this D student has a ready audience provided by the perhaps unsuspecting teacher the D student resents and envies.

    If you have never been in a martial arts dojo, you would perhaps not understand this perversion, and happily not many dojos have such cancerous individuals, although I am told that such things happen in other athletic training organizations as diverse as cheerleading to bike racing.

    – Stephen K. Hayes

  19. Michael Erwin says: -#1

    Elizabeth, you have a good point, but I know exactly the kind of “D” students that Mr. Hayes is talking about.

    One I am thinking of in particular was not in any way “cognitively and behaviorally challenged” but was instead intelligent and well-behaved. Behind the scenes he engaged in the sort of dark-hearted behavior Mr. Hayes mentions.

    Negative emails. Negative comments. Constant criticism of the teachers and their methods. He was a difficult training partner and made others uncomfortable when they worked with him. Never in a clearly unsafe way; never in a way that the teacher would obviously have to say, “Ok, you need to leave”… but in subtle ways.

    Eventually he left, but not before dragging several other people (reluctantly) away. It was actually a relief when they all left. Even during the time when he was gone and they remained, there was a tension in the training group. They ‘reported back’ to him, and his negativity was made known to all.

    Some years later, he tried to recommend a friend of his to join the same school. (The very same school he had nothing but bad words for). The teacher could easily predict that the D student was only planning to use this friend as a tool to continue his strange attacks, and (I think intelligently) refused to take him on.

    I can think of several more “D” Students I’ve met over the years at different training centers. Once the “D” Student was the owner!

    It’s interesting to think that in a voluntary activity such as martial arts, there are some participants who choose to be there only in a perverse way, but that’s how they operate in the rest of their lives as well.

    I’ve yet to meet one of these Dark-hearted (That’s how I read “D” )Students hang around long enough and be open enough to upgrade themselves and improve their situation. They just drag others down with them in their various schemes and delusional dreams.

    I once had a D-Student start training with me, and he immediately wrote out a check for several months tuition. A week or so later he found out that (like I had told him from the beginning) he had to graduate the introductory level courses before he could come to the more advanced classes.

    He had assumed that he was special, given all of his “advanced training” in other styles, and the fact that his other instructor regularly “beat him up” in preparation for tournament competition.

    I figured that I had a better chance to evaluate him in the introductory classes, and make sure he trained safely with the other students. There was no way I was going to make a special exception for him.

    He grew irate and accused me of fraud and wanted a refund. I surprised him by saying that I had never cashed the check, and in fact had no problem tearing it up and mailing him the pieces. That was the easiest I was ever rid of one of those people, and it was a great relief.

  20. I do train, at the Tampa Quest center and I can’t say enough good about the community and environment there. Illustration: over a five month period, with no ‘selling’ except exposure to the program, I went from ‘My daughter wants to study WHAT?’ to taking classes and now to working towards a black belt of my own.

  21. Michael Erwin says: -#1

    I just wanted to clarify that I when I wrote – “I can think of several more “D” Students I’ve met over the years at different training centers. Once the “D” Student was the owner!” – I meant other martial arts schools of other styles and organizations.
    None of them were Quest Centers.

  22. I am so grateful that Mr. Hayes wrote about this subject. At first glance, I was wondering if it was just another political positioning piece that is all too common in the martial arts- but after reading the entire article, and the following comments, I feel compelled to add my two cents.
    I fell into the trap of only wanting “A” students years ago, in my own dojo. I was under the illusion that I could train just about anyone, that somehow, my “unique” perspectives and powerful curriculum would help people change into who they wanted to be.
    I could write an entire book about the different stages of growth, the deep frustration, anger, and loss (another illusion) that I experienced.
    “D” students taught me several very important things, and at this point, I am very grateful for what I learned: 1.) Teachers who are not ready to teach, shouldn’t. 2. ) When you teach, always trust your first initial instinct. If something deep inside you says, “Don’t teach that person,” you should listen. In this way, it is another sakki test. Sometimes I would have rather a wooden bokken cracked on my head, than having taken on some of those students! 3.) In the dojo, we do face our demons- but some people like their shadow reality more, and keep creating situations in life where their self-created messes gives them a chance to dialogue with their own dark nature. That is why it is better to never teach these kinds of students, or to expel them- they can bring down others around them, including the teacher.

    Obviously, in Ninpo we do seek life methods beyond duality, but I want to make it clear that when Stephen Hayes is talking about dark-hearted individuals, it is very clear as to what kind of person he is talking about. And I want to thank him for having the courage to talk about this subject, regardless of how others might perceive it. He is an extraordinary teacher, and obviously puts up with all the risk, strain, and drama that comes with it. It is an inspiration to those of us who have considered keeping our knowledge and abilities to ourselves, and no longer teaching.

  23. Daniel L Dunn says: -#1

    You have a very good point about the ‘cognitively and behaviorally challenged’ students Elizabeth. Which is why I find it’s even more important to have teachers that recognize the sometimes grey line that differentiates the ‘challenged’ students from the purposefully negative student’s An-shu is referencing.

    From personal experience I have found that ‘challenged’ students do have enormous potential and may be trying to find truth and authenticity through their ‘cognitive and behavior challenges’ vs. the outright demoralizations coming from true ‘D students’.

    I have also found that those willing to ‘test the metal’ and ask purposeful questions of their teachers and environment only serve to reveal the truth, whether it be the positive or negative of themselves or their teachers.

    Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo

  24. Paul Munro says: -#1

    Thank you An-Shu!

    Would it be fair to say that I drift between two- the ‘B’ student, and the ‘C’ student? I say that because at different periods I have encountered different trials personally that either make me more committed and lead to more growth, or else I stay as a ‘C’ student and show little improvement until something (or someone) gives me that all-important ‘wake up call’? I’m not sure if your framework would allow this but it’s how I think I am. It isn’t necessarily a good thing either- perhaps understanding where I am and why would help me get to where I need to be?

    I don’t currently study To-Shin Do but in the past my reality has been that circumstances can also push a student into one of those stages (I prefer stages because it seems you can, as I said, understand where you are now and where you need to be). With To-Shin Do as an LDS I often found myself stuck at ‘C’ and really wanting to be at ‘B’ with ‘A’ just a dream away 🙁



  25. Dawn Conway says: -#1

    This is very interesting, Sir. As we were driving home from Las Vegas, Scot and I were discussing the different level of performance with our students and contemplating ideas of “differing rewards” for “differing performances” of the same belt ranks. We had no idea you had written this! It all rings very true in our dojo. Thank you for your ideas. Especially the final 3 questions/evaluation. MOST helpful for us.

  26. Shane Haire says: -#1

    A very interesting article. In most area’s of the majority of people lives rarely will anyone approach being an “A”. I have seen many a Dojo struggle simply because they failed to offer a meaningful total picture for the students. Fitness, technical ability, and Rank are very important; however, without a “Bigger Picture” most students will never reach a meaningful PERSONAL goal. I remember well my first Dojo and the desire to become a Black Belt. I worked hard, made progress, won competitions and earned the Belt along the way. Yet, once I got there; where do you go from there? More Dan’s? Become an Instructor?…..In othr words, how does being a Martial Artist and earning rank help one become a more fully realized person? What I could do physically at 20 years of age is not the same as 50. My interactions today are not the same as 30 years ago.
    The successful Dojo is one that helps a person become a better person; regardless of rank. The Golden Rule is completely compatable with Martial Ways. The Golden Rule is about helping another person to receive their “Highest Good”; not making them, or perceiving them to want what you want.

  27. As a non Toshindo practitioner, I find this an intersting blog in the sense that it is not limited to Toshindo, Bujinkan or Genbukan or whatever. This mentality prevails throughout many arts. I have been doing Aikido for about 17 years now, 14 of which teaching. I see this delineation that An-shu mentions as a function of the teaching methodology that Aikido and Toshindo seem to share. That being a generally cooperative exploration of techinque. Again not a deshi of the art, so if someone wants to correct me go right ahead but based on the videos and what I have seen, it seems that is the methodology.

    Because of that methodology it is easy for the student to be “good enough” and not really technically good at all. As his or her Uke is “in on it” and merely cooperating with the form being studied. This in turn superficially permits the B student to feel as if they have the same understanding of the technique as an A student, which is clearly not the case. I use the comparison of a understanding a square vs. a cube. The B student sees waza like a square whereas the A student sees waza like a Cube, the difference? The A students understands the depth of the teaching. The essential third dimension required for fully understanding the Sensei’s teaching.

    Now compare that methodolody to say a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or a boxing class, whereas your technique is applied to a fully live, resisting opponent. Now you really have to be on your game and understand not only the mechanics of a technique but the proper application of that same technique against someone who is doing everything in their power to thwart your efforts.

    As we say in the military “the enemy gets a vote too”. This is where the D student quickly can denigrate the style, the technique or whatever, because their lack of skill is everyone else’s fault but their own. Or the D student finds the techniques that work on beginners and lesser skilled and just pounds on them, avoiding at all costs working with those who are within their weight or rank class.

    Interesting to see this problem does not exist in just Aikido!

  28. Actually, the problem you describe does not exist in To-Shin Do training, Dan.

    What you describe is a misunderstanding of our martial art that seems held by more than a few people. The “you only work with cooperative partners” take is a misunderstanding of us and our training in To-Shin Do.

    When learning a new technique or new concept, we will certainly cooperate, with the goal of effective learning.

    Later, we will test response and technique under pressure.

    If we were a sport – like popular competitive jujutsu, boxing, or even knife throwing – we could quickly learn the accepted and permitted techniques and then jump into lots of “testing it out against other resisting competitors”.

    But we are not a sport, and preparing protectors for dealing with unfair advantages like multiple aggressors, surprise attacks, psychologically unbalancing verbal and emotional assault set-ups, hidden weapons, and concern over legal punishments meted out to those who zealously protect themselves, involves training for moments that would be morally impossible to test out man-to-man in unlimited combat.

    A sports event with a “live resisting opponent” is just that, and not a fight with a murderous determined enemy. Even popular multi-million dollar MMA cage matches are no longer “no holds barred”. Plenty is barred. And that makes a cage match – though truly a dangerous and brutal experience nonetheless – different from a parking lot rape or a gang street assault.

    We have chosen not to be sports competitors (though some of our practitioners are successful in competitions held in other martial art forms). But our complexity of situational judgement – as opposed to a sportsman’s challenge of making the best of skills and rules – does not mean that we merely imitate fights any more than a trained handgunner who shoots at simulated targets instead of live and resisting fellow students is “just pretending” to prepare for stopping an actual terrorist assault.

    – Stephen K. Hayes

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