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Is your instructor harming your martial growth?
How to understand if a martial arts (or self-defense) instructor is damaging us
Before any guess, the first step is to understand what the path we are searching for is, because:
Not all the martial arts courses have the same goals (sports competitions, wellness, self-defense, etc.)
Not all instructors who cannot give us what we are looking for are in bad faith
Some classes are (legitimately) for amateurs, some for people who aim at the highest levels
Note - This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).
The point is that we are wrong and not those who organize the lessons if:
The school we found is not deluding to offer us something that cannot give
We do not follow its indications with the right commitment
Said this let's pass to analyze, through some examples, how we could be damaged by wrong, not open-minded or misleading teachings.
Some of the most common risks of poor quality courses
A note by Master Kongling - It is important to stress that we are describing limits, difficulties and errors from the point of view of our method: we will explain why we consider them problems but in some cases, there could be different and legit points of view. It is up to us to assess what is reasonable for us and our goals.
Let's see a few examples, of possible problems in relation to the most common martial paths.
They are harming us:
If they force us to keep only the right or left guard - This could be opinable because it could be a tactical choice but not for a beginner who is not already conscious of his / her combat instict; in any case, we firmly think that training both sides is more effective and formative, it helps to discover our real side, to correct our coordination gaps and to avoid to get forced in positions where our range of options will be inevitably limited
If they tell us that all other martial arts are ineffective and that the perfect one is their one - This is an extremely common hoax, all beginners fall into; there is only one way to know if a martial art is useful for our specific purposes or not and that is to try it; in addition to this, it must be said that there is only one person that (after a serious and honest try) can tell if a martial art cover his / her requirements or not, us (read also Is it legit?); every martial art has strengths and weaknesses, focusing on just one means condemning us to be limited
They are harming us:
If they tell us that it is useless for you to protect a certain part of the body (e.g. head or genitals) - This happen very easily in combat sports courses, they tell us to forget to defend a certain area because it is forbidden to hit it in their competitions or because we will wear a protection; clearly there is nothing wrong with this if our goal is to compete in official competitions (eg Kudo, MMA, etc.) but if instead we delude ourselves to be ready to fight even on the street (against a serious opponent), this can represent a serious handicap (read also The 6 types of martial clash)
If they do not dedicate an ample space for the mental aspects of self-defense - Many imporvised instructors confuse (more or less guilty) self-defense with street fighting (limiting the psichological aspects to phrases like "do not do it if not necessary"); to trust them is the worst error we could do; those who teach this way immediately give us the certainty that they have never been involved in a real scenario (or who have learned no lessons from it); self-defense is first of all made up of prevention, negotiation, self-control and legality, only as a last resort we are allowed to apply a (proportional) violent reaction (and in any case at our risk, read Best martial arts for self-defense)
Combat purpose (sport, self-defense, etc.)
They are harming us:
If they make us train below our psychophysical abilities or if they make us tired at the point of not being able to perform any kind of solo-training - It is completely wrong to train only at a level that is not ours and this unfortunately happens most of the times; the only way to understand what our pace is, is to train daily by ourselves and limit this way the influence of group training (that however remains funtamental, read Learn Kung Fu online: why it is better and when)
If they force us to do sparring only by following specific tactics that do not suit us or that we do not feel ours - For whatever reason they could ask us to do it, this is very counterproductive; in combat we have to use our personal instinct and quick reasoning (read Concentration: reason and instinct), if they impose us something that we would never do, that we are not good at or even only that we do not trust, during the fight we will be slow and usecure (in other words we will probably lose)
If they force us to train things like muscle memory, speed or power before having reached a basic technical level - Nothing is more crazy than trying to optimize something that is not already working; it is certainly not necessary to be a fight expert to understand that amplifying something that contains errors also means amplifying its ineffectiveness; not to mention that once an incorrect method of execution has been mechanized it takes an incredibly long time to correct it (when possible)
Mental and physical wellness and health purpose
They are harming us:
If they force us to build extreme aggressivity - If that (legitimately) is not what we are looking for, a course where it is mandatory to do sparring to the last resort and employing a high level of violence will only bring us useless damage to the whole body and mental stress
If they force our body to work below the necessary effort level - If we train too far from the minimal level necessary for improvement, we only waste time; all people sweat differently but (apart from stretching, meditative exercises, etc.) if after the practice we are dry as if we have not done anything, it is clear that for all intents and purposes, we have not done anything (anything physically useful)
They are harming us:
If they lie to us - Nothing could be worst than basing the effort we are doing to improve on something that is not true and that at the test of the practice will not work; pursuing nonsense and absurdity is extremely deleterious, it does nothing but get us used to clinging to illusions in which we will never really believe completely; but the problem is that if we do not believe in the goodness of what we do to improve ourselves, how could we learn to believe in ourselves?
If they humiliate us - Unfortuntely even this is not so rare (being excluded, targeted, mocked, beaten, etc.); it is not strange that this happen for example in a very cohesive class or in one where everyone is already at a more advanced level; if the instructor does nothing (due to inexperience or disinterest) to ensure the students' respect (or worst if he / she is part of the problem), we risk to destroy our self-esteem; the consequence of these bad situations is to start harboring resentment and frustration (a real disaster)
The 6 Dragons Kung Fu's point of view
Why does 6 Dragons Kung Fu recommend having as many experiences as possible if there are so many risks?
Risk must not scare us but make us simply more attentive: studying other martial arts is always a good thing, as long as they:
Don't restrict us in vision or approach
Are not totally based on parlor tricks and fanaticisms (of any kinds)
Are all the experiences good experiences?
Yes but only if we give them a meaning and a duration consonant with it (read Measure ourselves with errors). Substantially, as long as it is not mad nonsense, everything is fine but not everything is fine in the same way.
An extreme example: for a child even touching the fire to understand that it burns can be a positive experience but only if it lasts an instant and is not repeated; on the other side it risks becoming a huge disaster if prolonged and / or if it becomes recursive (read also Is it okay to practice multiple martial arts at the same time?).
A note by Master Kongling - In particular, if we want to follow the path of 6 Dragons Kung Fu, the advice is to try many things but do not dwell too much on one or on the other (because in the long run they easily channel us into a unique way of seeing things and when we realize it is always too late).
Is 6 Dragons Kung Fu free from errors or limits?
Certainly not but at least we can count on some strengths that others do not have:
We enhance the practitioner's innate abilities (starting to work exactly from them)
We look for the connection points between the various systems we implement (read 6DKF: what does it teach?)
We are always aimed at evolution and we don't have to answer to anyone (traditions, flags, styles, federations, sport rules, etc.)
In-depth video courses
Basic 6 Dragons Kung Fu Exercises - The spep by step path toward the acquisition of real martial skills
Mind self-control hacks - How to get control over our mind and obtain what we want
How to start practicing from scratch - The starting point for a serious Kung Fu path
Recognize a good / bad master: 5 characteristics - A simple scheme to spot the wrong instructor
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
Have you ever faced / seen one or more of these attitudes?