Here are some common questions students ask about our school and studying martial arts in general.
What are the martial arts?
The martial arts, meaning military, warlike, or fighting arts, include all systems of combat, particularly those stemming from the Asian countries. A martial art, ideally, means any fighting discipline, either with or without the use of weaponry. Each nation has its own specific martial art, or several of them. China’s martial art is Wu Shu, better known to Westerners as Kung-fu. The Okinawan martial art is know overall as Karate and is subdivided, much like kung-fu, into dozens of branches. Arts like Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, which came before Karate, are two of the national martial arts of Japan. Western boxing and wrestling could rightly be called the martial arts of the United States.
Why should I train in the martial arts?
Martial Arts is intended to teach the following essentials: Character, self-control, combative techniques, health consciousness, and self-confidence. Practicing the arts has many benefits. Some are obvious. Learning to defend yourself grants self-confidence and helps to eliminate stress and fear. Exercising regularly improves your fitness level and can help to lose extra pounds. With a student’s sincere and prolonged commitment to achieve real change, the cumulative effects of martial arts can produce a happier, healthier life.
Where are the classes held?
In Bellingham, Washington near Western Washington University. Call 360-676-9909 for exact directions.
When are the classes held?
Classes are Tuesdays 6:15-7:15pm, Wednesdays 6:15-7:45pm, & Thursdays 6:15-7:15pm
How much does it cost to enroll?
A minumum $50 donation is required to be a member. By training frequently you can pay even less. Dues are collected at your first attended class of the month.
Does Unbridled Martial Arts incorporate formalities such as bowing?
As it pertains to the martial arts, bowing is equivalent to the Western custom of shaking hands, and it does not bear any religious overtones in most systems. When entering or leaving a martial arts school, a student may bow to show respect for the place of learning. Once inside the school, students may bow to the instructors and other students both to show respect and as a greeting. Unbridled Martial Arts is a practice without boundaries, without ritual, without convention, so that martial arts skills can be purely evaluated and absorbed on a strategic and tactical level. Acts such as meditation have considerable merit in helping dispel irrelevant thoughts and sharpen concentration. Bowing is a valuable practice that instills humility and courtesy in students and teachers. As much as the practice of meditation and customary salutations are significant traits, we do not devote time to them. In my opinion; they are not necessary for an adult’s general education in martial arts.
Does Unbridled Martial Arts use a Belt system for its students?
Many schools of Martial Arts use a system of colored belts to organize levels in the learning process; beginner, junior, intermediate, advanced. The colors generally graduate from light to dark, reflecting the duration spent engaged in the art. Often schools have a testing day that judges a student’s expertise and knowledge before they are allowed to progress. Students sometimes get far too wrapped up in earning belts and titles. UMA prefers not to use this approach and would rather the student focus all their attention on the journey than the destination. In my background of Karate (two words, kara – te, “empty” “hand”) this perspective would take us back to when Karate was only referred to as Te. Karate was not originally systemized with levels and practitioners of the art all wore white belts. Training was done for training’s sake, and the white belts over time turned black from the hard, sweaty, grimy work. It is my strong opinion, any school that you walk into, if instruction is delivered with integrity, if you stripped away the color, you should be able to tell who is experienced and who is not. Much the same way a new employee at a workplace can readily figure out who the seasoned, professional co-workers are and follow their example.
How do you determine the level at which a student is learning?
I don’t. The student does. At times I may divide a class into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. You select which category you belong in. You are free to learn at whatever pace you want and whatever level is comfortable for you. It will become obvious if you are not being challenged or if you are in over your head.
What language do you use for terminology when teaching class?
Sometimes a particular technique will be referenced in its indigenous language. For the most part, everything is directed and identified in English. I love traditional Karate. Everything in Karate is instructed in Japanese (the same way ballet lessons are done in French). Front kick = mae geri. Reverse punch = gyaku tsuki. I saw that this actually slowed down the learning process and did not have any merit on the execution of the movements. New students continually had to translate directions in their minds before they could make a move. It’s fun to learn another language but I am interested in people being able to instantly comprehend instruction without any added complications. I am not advocating condensed or accelerated training. I am steadfastly in favor of making the most of our increasing limited and valuable training time and for the busy American student, using English terminology makes more sense.
Aren’t you doing a disservice neglecting some of these vital cultural traits inherent in martial arts practice?
Although there may be a lack of traditional customs in UMA there is certainly not a lack of respect, courtesy, and discipline, which are the important qualities of the martial arts experience. I am 100% American. Why would I try to replicate within a classroom another culture that I didn’t happen to grow up in? Of course, my martial arts upbringing was done within the walls of Traditional Japanese Dojo(s). Therefore, through that influence, I have incorporated certain Japanese attitudes and formalities into my personal daily life. Yet, in my past, each time I exited the school I had to readjust to the culture of American society in which I participate in. I have never lived in Japan. I have only traveled to Japan, so I cannot behave as though I know their culture inside and out, or the full implications and context of their language.
I don’t see a point of replicating something unfamiliar for my students who have to function in this society. Why shouldn’t I just teach what I live and breathe from my own life experience and vantage point? That point would be from the perspective of an American teen to an American adult who intimately knows service and sacrifice, and has learned through the study of martial arts how to conduct himself in a productive, positive manner.
Will I become proficient in the martial arts?
Over time: absolutely. I am approachable and if you have questions I am free to answer them. I will admit if I don’t know something. Best of all, if I don’t know something I will research it and find out.
What style or system do you teach?
This subject has been addressed in the “What is UMA?” section. I just like to say I train and teach modern martial arts. I know that sounds very generic. It keeps it simplified. I have a wide background in different arts. Therefore, I would like the program to be multicultural and not pigeonhole its identity to one region, culture, or style.
How would you describe your style of teaching?
Teachings are based on science and circumstance. One thing does not work straight across the board at all times. A style can become limiting if you only adhere to what is historically contained within it. All styles have underlying principles and a block from Chinese Wing Chun can be identical to another found in, for instance, Indonesian Silat. I am not handpicking components from every different artform and assembling them together to create some new system. Instead, I like to identify the circumstance of what needs to be achieved and then select the best tool scientifically proven to accomplish the deed.
Again, let me reiterate, one particular technique does not work for everybody, simply because everybody is not built the same, and everybody has different attributes. We all aspire to become stronger, faster, smarter. As we are on the uphill climb to better our body and mind, there are always people further ahead than we are. There is always somebody stronger, somebody faster, someone more experienced and more clever. That is why, for example, no matter how much you perfect that outside block there is eventually going to be a powerhouse puncher with arms of steel that drives right through your defenses. Are you going to keep attempting to match your strength against his? Maybe you aren’t stronger. Perhaps you are quicker. Instead of fighting fire with fire, why not use your existing attribute of speed and get out of the way?
Maybe that answer explains a “stylistic” attitude, more than just a “style”. Please refer to my bio page and you will see the influences and art forms I have participated in. If you recognize them, then you probably know what my practice is like.
Can I still maintain my style training in the UMA School?
Students are encouraged to cross train. UMA promotes a community of sharing and learning from one another. I don’t feel any of my lesson plans should conflict with your training if you are a student pursuing effective combative principles and techniques. Believe me, good information does not replace other good information. If something introduced in a UMA class makes you reevaluate your arts’ effectiveness or identifies a weakness, it might signify an area that needs work. A significant part of martial training is identifying weaknesses in ourselves and dedicating ourselves to the work needed to strengthen those points.
Are there uniforms?
Nope. Just come in normal workout attire. (see “Equipment & Attire” in Rules & Regulations)
Do I need to bring equipment?
At a minimum you must bring hand wraps. (Again, see “Equipment & Attire” in Rules & Regulations) As you will discover, the great thing about martial arts… not much is needed.
Practice it anywhere (anywhere you feel comfortable, that is). It can be done solo or with a partner, with a lot of gear or none at all (depending on the desired level of intensity).
To free-spar and free-roll, you must have a mouth guard and males need a groin protector.
To stick-spar in the weapons class, you need to purchase a safety stick and have proper head and hand protection.
How often should I practice?
The school is operated three nights a week. I advise training an additional day or two on your own. Two to three days a week is sufficient for beginners. You will be learning new material all the time and you will need time outside of practice to assimilate all the information. Make time the next day after a session to review on your own what you remember. This will help your muscle memory and give you time to work independently. As you become more proficient, you may wish to practice every day. Definitely devote time to stretching every day.
Aside from the physical skills, what is the one main attribute you want people to learn from training?
If I had to pick just one? That would be tough. Really, there are TWO characteristics I would want people to get out of my lessons.
The first would have to be self-control. That is what I want the entry level participant to learn. And that would be control on several levels: emotional, physical, mental. And that doesn’t mean a cold detachment from your feelings. I always say you should feel everything to the fullest, but only express what you choose to the fullest.
The second is a vital characteristic to have, and would be something for the experienced student to have: tenacity. Through hard work and dedication, I want my students to develop their tenacity to an unyielding degree. Having that will allow them to achieve anything they set out to do. It is a fierce, powerful attribute that can help even the most inexperienced fighter succeed. Tenacity is crucial. It can save your life. The best thing is that the process of developing it doesn’t cause any emotional baggage, because it doesn’t need to stem from a place of hate or anger. I had a dog when I was a kid that was the embodiment of tenacity! He loved playing fetch with socks, but after a sock was thrown one time he wouldn’t let it out of his mouth and then it became a tug-o-war. I could raise the sock up into the air and this little dog would hang from it, teeth clenched tight. Case in point, this dog didn’t have any driving force such as hate or anger that allowed him to achieve this feat. To him, it was purely that it was his sock and he wasn’t letting it go and he wasn’t giving it up. This is what I would want to inspire in my students, regardless of how well they can physically kick or punch.
How can you teach for $50 or less a month?
To run a Martial Arts program it truly does not cost a whole lot. If you think about it, other than rent, utilities, insurance and upkeep, everything a student pays goes into the teacher’s pocket. I primarily began this school for members of the community that might not ordinarily afford (or want to be involved in) a commercial school – that is why I am hardly charging anything for membership. Personally, I am not making any profit myself. And I have succeeded in my intention for this to be a public service to the community, providing physical fitness and peace of mind for those sincerely interested in martial arts activity.
The next question might be “why?” Let me explain. It is a pleasure to teach and a reward to see other people reap the benefits of what Martial Arts has to offer. Now to respond to an assumption: “You must not value your teaching to charge so little.”
It is because I know what I have is valuable is why I want to share it with everyone. I truly believe in Sacrifice and Service. I have grown up in Bellingham and this is my best way of giving back to the community I care about. On top of that, I have incredibly supportive parents, a protective older sister, and brilliant teachers. I’ve been blessed, and I feel it would be a disservice to them if I didn’t make myself available and pass on the gifts I’ve been privileged to receive.
Who wants the cheapest self-defense at their disposal if they might need to use it?
This question strikes me as odd, because I have never heard of a Martial Art defined as cheap or expensive. I have only thought of self-defense as effective or non-effective. If you take the time to see what I teach and train you will know it works regardless of what you paid for it.
Do you offer a free-trial class?
No, I do not. You are welcome to watch a class at any time to assess the program and determine if you want to commit. To participate in class a person needs to officially enroll. Beginners get a lot of individual attention, especially on their first day, and it would be unfair to the members to cater to people who may only be there for one session. For the small amount that I charge, it is barely an expense to try it out.
Why don’t you teach to children under 16?
I set this age limit for significant reasons. Since my classes are more informal compared to a lot of traditional schools there is a necessity for initiative and maturity in the school’s participants. That is why at the present time I have it set at sixteen.
I have witnessed several situations where a parent enrolls their child into a program for their own needs and the child has no actual interest whatsoever in Martial Arts. I would rather teach those that have the curiosity and the ambition to learn about the Martial Arts.
Ages 16 and above has proven to be a helpful guideline and deciding factor, considering that it is the minimum age when teens are allowed to drive and whereas further responsibilities are then allotted to them.
What is the dropout rate at your school?
Some schools highly pride themselves on the meager amount of new people who abandon ship. What they neglect to point out is that they most likely have very long-term contracts and very high rates. These two characteristics can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a student dropping out, even when the instruction, class material, or overall learning experience is not satisfying or stimulating to the student. Take, for example, a situation when someone, after 2 months, decides to quit a martial arts school that requires a 1-year enrollment contract. That person is still paying for the next 10 months of their 1-year contract, and since they’re still on the books, does the school factor them into their statistics as not having dropped out? Furthermore, don’t costly obligated dues more often than not induce people to continue? I know of several people who have joined pricey schools, didn’t like the lessons, yet kept going because they were trapped. “If I don’t go this month, that’s going to be another $100 down the drain.”
Wouldn’t it be a stronger sign if people continued to train at a school with low rates, no contractual obligations, and the school didn’t automatically extract money from members’ bank account?
In his article entitled “Budo & Business: Dispelling A Myth . . .” Gary Gabelhouse, Chairman and CEO of Fairfield Research, Inc.(1) and Associate Martial Arts Business Editor of The FightingArts.com (2), states “In our studies of martial artists, only 20% of those who had trained in martial arts are still training (3). Basically, you have a high churn rate, regardless of the quality of the instruction.”
In a 1,000 person survey it was discovered half of all people who start exercise programs quit by six months (4). Likewise, research shows that half of the people who make positive resolutions at the New Year have given up on them by the end of June (5).
It is understood a fair amount of beginners will inevitably drop out. Of course this is not encouraged or embraced, it’s just a fact. At UMA every student is taught as though they were in it for the long haul. When investigating a dropout rate at a prospective school it can be far more revealing to find out what amount of their long-term students have abruptly exited. If a senior student has worked through many years of rigorous training what would make them leave the training environment? Rather than focus on the number of newcomers that leave, why not ask if there has ever been a “mass exodus” of employees or advanced students. If so, that might throw up a red flag and say something about the nature of the school operator.
1. Fairfield Research, Inc is a marketing research and consulting firm in the entertainment media and technology industry.
2. FightingArts.Com is a cyber community and network of traditional martial artists, historians, and writers dedicated to the promotion and understanding of their arts through the medium of the Internet.
3. Random survey of 10,000 adults stratified by age, gender, and census area.
4. Berardi, J.M, PhD. (2004). Long Haul Training: An Interview with Gary Homann.
5. “Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers”, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys , University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002). John Norcross is a co-author of Changing For Good.