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Empty Your Cup of Tea II
Part 2: We Visit a McDojo
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• Part 1: A Timeless Fable
• Part 2: We Visit a McDojo
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"You're in a McDojo if...the phrase 'This is where you fall over' is used. It happened to me."
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• Empty Your Cup of Tea
• Martial Arts: Beginners
• Martial Arts: History and Origins
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Contrast that to our experience visiting a local tae kwon do school, many years ago. We didn't know the term at the time, but in the vernacular of our About Martial Arts Forum, this was a McDojo--a school without substance. We sparred with several students who enjoyed the chance to test their skills against a rather foreign style. Many identified the key to holding their own: staying away from our grappling or unbalancing techniques, and using long-range kicking attacks to keep us at bay.

However, their instructor could not accept that there was anything for him to learn. After going several rounds with many of our group, he kept insisting that his initial strikes would've kept us from doing what we were doing to him--closing the gap and using grappling techniques to unbalance him, and striking while he was vulnerable.

This was pre-Ulitimate Fighting Championship (UFC), before grappling had really caught on outside of wrestling or ju-jitsu schools. I don't dispute that his first-strike ability would give him an edge in many situations. And he did have really fast techniques--getting caught unaware by that hook kick would've knocked me out.

But it was his attitude--that there was nothing left for him to learn--that was shocking. Paraphrasing Bob Orlando's book Martial Arts America, this master was burdened by his black belt and his ego. I later read in the local paper that he was brought up on fraud charges and left the area.

Today, a savvy sensei, even one as business-oriented as our host was, wouldn't cast aside grappling as useless. Historically kick/punch-oriented schools now advertise their grappling techniques--as if there always were armbars in karate, or takedowns in tae kwon do. I feel this adaptation, brought about by the exposure to such techniques in mixed martial arts events like the UFC, is improving the martial arts. Even if instructors remain true to the traditions of their styles and keep them pure, these days they're likely to demonstrate responses to grappling attacks that remain within the doctrine of their style--yet still are effective.

Studying the martial arts is a journey; and like near the end of a long trip, you might feel that you've seen everything there is to see. But to ignore the new experiences and learning that comes next could mean missing the best part of the trip. Only by keeping an open mind--by emptying your cup--can you truly grow in the martial arts.

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