Shotokan Karate of America and Special Training

Discussion in 'Karate' started by YoshiroShin, Jul 29, 2022.

  1. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Hello MAP, it's been a very long time... a a long post is to come, for I need your advice.

    I continued my martial arts journey, joining a Shotokan Karate club that was operating nearby under the umbrella organization of Shotokan Karate of America or SKA. I was actually recommended by one of my Aikido Senseis to study with another teacher by name under the JKA, but this other dojo was closer and cheaper as it operates through the local university.

    Backstory: in 2012 I actually did one semester of practice with this SKA dojo but my heavy course schedule prevented me from continuing with them for more than that, but I was able to continue my Aikido studies. I announced that I was only able to do one semester to the dojo leader, a godan, on the first day I walked in, and he seemed unhappy. After I left, a sandan from the dojo and I would bump into each other occasionally when the Karate and Aikido club would sometimes be practising in the same building and he would call me a traitor every time and it was really weird.

    I later him him going to his practise as one of my friends and I were leaving Aikido one day and I opened a conversation with him to learn more about the dojo, he of course called me a traitor again before talking up the SKA and bragging about it. I asked him something about Nishiyama Sensei (I forget why), and he went into this story about how Ohshima Sensei (the leader of the SKA, they all call him "Mr. Ohshima") challenged Nishiyama Sensei to a duel to the death in the desert but Nishiyama Sensei did not show up and described Nishiyama as a coward. When the topic of Taikyoku Shodan kata came up, he said "oh yes, Taikyoku Shodan... multiple attackers..." and then lunged toward my friend. We left and I thought he was a nutcase. He and I bumped into each other one more time in a parking lot of a museum and he again insulted me by insinuating that I was a quitter because I had moved on from Aikido in 2015 for personal reasons.

    I avoided studying karate for a long time because of this guy, and I didn't try the JKA dojo because of the higher fees for me at the time (nowadays I can easily afford it) but eventually I went to the gym to bring my strength up to what I would call acceptable, started running, and started stretching every day, preparing myself to join a dojo. I decided that I would face this guy, and that if he were to harass me, I would bring it to the attention of the godan. However, when I joined the SKA dojo on campus in 2020, this sandan wasn't there; I later learned that he had opened his own dojo under SKA in the same city but separated himself from the godan who was running this club, which was really weird and caused some hard feelings within the group.

    The COVID pandemic started one or two months after I joined, so I continued to practice kata at home while I kept in touch with the club. This year, practices restarted on campus and externals were able to join in May.

    Now, in the SKA, they describe the backbone of their training to be Special Training which is a gasshuku. They rent out a space on a university campus willing to host them, and the participants eat there, sleep there, and practice there. I figured that unless I tried this, I would just be beating around the bush about practising with this group, so when I saw an email about an ST opening up on the other side of the country before one did on our side of the country, I signed up and committed, not knowing if the one on our side of the country would even happen.

    The godan of our dojo gave me his blessing to go, indicating that I was ready, despite only having practised for one month back in the dojo full time, but I figured it meant that I was fit enough. It did mean though that I would be doing the ST away from my group and with completely new faces and in a new climate as the weather in the West coast is different than it is where I live and where my group practises.

    (I later read after this event that Ohshima Sensei in his Notes on Training says that all students should attend an ST after they have been practising for three months...)

    There was no real ramp-up in intensity of normal practises at my dojo in anticipation of me going to the ST, but I asked the yondan plenty of questions about what I was getting into. I was able to gather that it was going to be very heavy training, that one of the practices would be 100 kata, another would be 90 minutes of standing in kiba dachi, and from reading an account of the Training online that we would be surprised with a practise at midnight on one night. The crazy sandan guy who was insulting me mentioned something in passing about "1000 techniques" but I didn't really know what he meant by this.

    At the beginning of July I caught a flight to BC, and then transitted another 2 hours to the campus where the ST would be held. The ST was four days with two practices a day except the last day where there would only be one. The morning practices would be at 5:45 am, and the afternoon ones at 3:30pm. The brown belts and black belts had to do a third practise each day at 8:30 pm as well. Each morning practice started with a run of maybe 10 minutes, but at least we got to wear running shoes as the yondan back at my home dojo was bragging to us that when he was doing STs they had to run barefoot. The heavy karate gi in 85% humidty (which maintained all the way through the ST) was difficult. We would run to the dojo and practice for 90 minutes, as we did for all practices.

    -no water is allowed during practices
    -if you leave the campus even temporarily or if you give up during a practice, you are permanently banned from the SKA and from ever practising in any SKA or SKA-affiliated dojo again
    -kiai with every technique is always mandatory

    The first day:
    -morning practice was 600 techniques
    -afternoon practice was 1000.

    Second day:
    -morning: one of the supervising black belts (referred to here on out as Chip (made up name)) told me to run like everyone else because I was trying to keep my hips low for training and efficiency purposes. Then we did 90 minutes of kiba dachi. During this practice, two people collapsed but they were yelled at to stand back up. Chip began to yell in the face of one person who fell down three times. When we were done, Chip yelled at the older students who were let off after 60 minutes to wipe up our sweat as we massaged our own legs, and he said it with incredible disdain.
    - afternoon practice was 1000 kicks

    Third day:
    -morning: 25 kata
    -afternoon: sanbon kumite outside in direct sunlight. During this practice a white belt kicked me in the ribs on his counter attack for real, and a black belt struck me in the throat which caused me to wheeze. Hitting on a counter attack is forbidden, but the supervising black belts did nothing despite it happening in plan view of them. My throat also dried up so the person I was practising with at that moment (we were all rotating amongst each other) got help and someone else who I was told was an MD but who wasn't licensed to practice medicine in the area led me through some breathing exercises before one of the supervisors demanded to know what was happening. I explained that I was having trouble breathing because of dehydration and he told me to get back in line and keep practising, so I had a break of maybe 30 seconds or so.

    Forth day:
    -morning 100 kata

    When it was over, I cancelled my planned vacation to explore BC as I had never been there before and I flew home, telling myself I would never do that again. My friends began to warn me though that what they were asking me to do was unhealthy and that forbidding water and threatening excommunication as well as the behaviour from the crazy sandan and even more elitism I experienced during the ST, with black belts talking down other organizations and burying other Sensei's were all signifiers of a cult. Strangely I also noticed that one of the white belts there was only 20 years old and was sent there without even knowing all of the Heian kata which is the bare minimum requirement for going to the event.

    I decided to go through a couple cult checklists and the organization fulfilled most of the criteria. I'll post it here without as much elaboration as in my original report to save on space:

    Checklist of Cult Characteristics

    1. The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.


    2. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

    Yes, they're always trying to get people to join them. The crazy sandan was even trying to get me to fly to Clalifornia to attend a Special Training back when I wasn't even a member of the organization.

    3. The group is preoccupied with making money.

    I don't think so. All fees seem to be very low.

    4. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

    Doubt is framed as weakness, dissent is deflected or ignored. My feelings about the toxic black belts I met and of being hit in sanbon kumite were framed as me being "unhappy" by another sandan in my home dojo, which seemed belittling. When I presented him the idea that their organization didn't have a monopoly on Shotokan, he quickly insisted that he wasn't saying that, but that their way was better ("but some ways are better than others...").

    This sandan and the yondan ordered the other students in the dojo to attack me with full power during normal practice since I had completed an ST, though the optics of the timing of this, given that it was the second week after I had returned and it was after I had voiced my concerns about the practice, seemed strange.

    5. Mind-numbing techniques are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

    One might argue that the ST is this. Also, a sandan in the home dojo began to try telling students to not bring water to practice, even hidden in their bags saying that "human beings can survive for three days without water" which seemed inaccurate as we were doing heavy karate practice, not just sitting around. Also I've been told by one of my friends who is a doctor that dehydration can cause kidney damage.

    Another one of my friends who's worked with law enforcement and has experience with the military told me that even in special forces training, you are forced to drink water at regular intervals in order to learn how to manage your vitals. The restriction of water began to seem like another control mechanism over students and my friends insisted that this was the case.

    6. The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).

    I don't know about this one.

    7. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).

    Absolutely - most black belts I've spoken to in this organization look down on everyone else. The sandan at this dojo (not the nutcase who started his own) even implied that theirs was the only organization that had a direct line to Funakoshi Sensei, which I know to be untrue.

    8. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.

    This might relate to point 7.

    9. The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).

    Ohshima Sensei is never questioned, and the black belts follow him lock-step. They don't even seem to try to adapt new training methods to help students approach his level either.

    10. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group.

    Yes; the ends of how strong you are supposed to become justifies their training methods.

    11. The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.

    I get the feeling that people who leave are framed as being weaker or are looked down on.

    12. Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.

    I don't know about this one.

    13. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

    Hmm I don't think so, other than the Special Trainings.

    I must also add that I've noticed highly insular behaviour by the members, especially with their online presence.

    So I sent my concerns to the yondan of my dojo, with full detail of what the ST entailed, as well as pointing out that forbidding water seemed dangerous and needless to maintain the students' focus during practice, taking concern with the lack of clear communication to students about exactly what they were entering (the intention seems to be to surprised and destabilize the subjects), the concern about the threat of excommunication which only served as a factor to actually motivate me to leave the ST (I ended up staying because of my own internal motivation to see if I could stick it out), and my concerns about cult-like control mechanisms with a complete write up of the criteria from the checklist (more than I provided here). I ended my message by stating my intention to leave at least for the time being.

    In his reply, the yondan said that the ST was pretty standard, that they should've better prepared me, that I shouldn't have been sent to an ST by myself, that toxic instructors at STs are not uncommon and that he's seen worse, but that also that the people there must have been impressed with my performance, that I probably feel stronger and that I should reconsider my decision and also that I should attend another Special Training happening in a couple of weeks while assuring my that the organization was not a cult and the Ohshima Sensei was a humble person and that the people around him can just get crazy sometimes. He also mentioned that the sandan telling students not to bring water to normal practice was inappropriate (but he didn't say anything as he was watching when this happened - it took me raising this issue for him to say this).

    He told me to come back, that we were all friends, and that I should brush it off.

    Meanwhile, one of my friends said that his response seemed odd and that he wasn't really addressing some of my main concerns, which is how I felt. He also felt it was strange that he was not just trying to get me to stay, but that he was trying to get me to do another ST.

    I find myself deeply conflicted and confused. According to my values, I think that forbidding water and threatening excommunication is needless and unhealthy, and they do seem like control mechanisms. When I would go to sleep during the ST at night I felt as though I was resisting something mentally but I couldn't tell what. Meanwhile, I know I can phsycially do the practise, that it did make me stronger, and that their karate is effective.

    At the same time, it feels as though this is a karate-jutsu rather than a study of Budo, and I'm worried about mental attack. Perhaps paranoid. I also since came across this video in which students of another organization are also doing a Special Training, but the conditions seem much worse, almost sick-minded, with one mentioning a five hour practice, which seems counter-productive: .

    So, am I just whining about this? Or should I be worried? I know at the very least that I do feel uncomfortable, and I don't agree with their policies nor do I agree with the lack of enforcement mechanisms on toxic behaviour. Should I suck it up, or are these red flags? Is the yondan harmless, or is he trying to rope me back in?

    Again, I have options in the city, including an instructor that was recommended to me by name by a Sensei from an organization I trust deeply and this other instructor is not SKA affiliated. I did a drop in class at that other dojo, and one of the black belts I spoke too was shocked when I told him what the ST was like.

    People of MAP > Karate: what do you think?
  2. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    I should probably also add the following few details:
    • I told my old Aikido teachers about the Special Training and they were surprised about the excommunication penalty as well as the rule about no water being allowed. One of them did a gasshuku and he said they were told to get water quickly at regular intervals
    • All of my friends are telling me to run from this organization, including people who do sports and karate
    • In the section pertaining to Special Training in Ohshima Sensei's Notes on Training, aside from recommending that students who have been practising for at least three months should attend the ST, he also says that since kendo masters from 400 years ago were able to practice continuously for 50 days, and that Yamaoka Tesshu was able to practice continuously for ten days; Yamaoka Tesshu died at 52 albeit from stomach cancer, but could one argue that these people didn't know about the consequences of what they were doing to themselves? Or is this kind of training something to strive towards?
  3. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Most of us do not need martial arts training for our jobs. We do this for fun and because it improves us and the quality of our lives.

    I stopped reading and just skipped around. especially at the denying water part. That is just stupid and unhealthy.

    It sounds like a lot of drama. Walk away and go somewhere where the focus is on training and not drama. If all this stuff is running through your head, it isn't a good place for you to train, regardless of whether it is a cult or not.

    Something about being excommunicated? For a martial arts school? :eek::rolleyes: It isn't a career, it isn't a religion, it isn't the military. Sounds like they take themselves way too seriously. Don't get caught up in ridiculous drama, fake role playing nonsense.

    Go find a regular school. Sign up go to classes, practice in the school and at home. Spar safely. Make friends. Go home and live your life. HAVE FUN! Life is too short and there are too many real horrible terrible things going on in the world to get caught up in stuff you can just walk away from. Stop wasting time and energy on this.

    Tell us about the new school when you find it.:)
  4. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    Given how much you wrote about this experience, you already know what the answer is. You don’t ever need to justify to anyone, when you make the right decision. Get the hell away from these people. What they are doing is sick and twisted and you do not need to have any connections to them.
    Mitch, Alansmurf, Nachi and 2 others like this.
  5. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Thank you both for taking the time to read and to write your input (as well as anyone else who later comments).

    I'll report on any new dojos I attend.
    Alansmurf likes this.
  6. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    I'm guessing this was supposed to be reassuring, but it is the polar opposite; it is very worrying.

    Why would anyone want to be associated with an organisation where toxic instructors are a normal occurrence?

    Good luck on your search for a new class, and good riddance to these guys. Sadism in training is often compensating for a lack of ability in actual fighting. Training should be hard, but hard training in a supportive and encouraging environment gets much better results than abusive environments.
    Mitch, Nachi and YoshiroShin like this.
  7. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    There are so many red flags in what you've written you could go to Moscow and start a parade!
    Sounds a very unhealthy environment.
    I'd be out of there in a heart beat.
    I'm all for getting out of your comfort zone, pushing yourself, challenging training and all that but it must be done with consent, collaboration and encouragement and not dictated from on high.
    Good self defence training should be about setting and enforcing boundaries and limits and that includes in training. Allowing other people to dictate what happens to you is not a good thing to get into.
    Alansmurf and YoshiroShin like this.
  8. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    This made me laugh out loud xD

    To be honest, I am conflicted due to my investment of more than two years with this group, and because there's at least one person who piped in on Reddit insisting that SKA is a high-quality organization and that the purpose of the Special Training is to push you to the limit in order to experience how far you can go. I also have an aversion to running away instead of persisting past the jerks, and if even water breaks were allowed during Special Trainings, I might think differently. Additionally, I could try to serve as an example or help the white belts myself by staying.

    However, I do understand that the behaviour of some of the black belts seem to go unaddressed and is even rewarded, with some toxic elitism going up as far as the godans, which does indict the organization as a whole, and I think about the ethics of continuing with the org in the face of this while a couple of my friends warn me of cultism which I don't want to be sucked into.

    Either way, it'll be a decision that I'll have to make, but whatever decision I do make, I will keep studying karate. For me it's more than just a hobby or a past-time - it's an art and a way of life, even if I'm not planning on teaching or turning it into some sort of job and making it more than a part-time study of mine in relation to other things in my life.

    Indeed, it looks like my decision to stay or go may very well hinge on whether or not I believe in SKA Special Training.

    This is a good question as one of the things I've been considering is whether or not arrogant or toxic people are uncommon in other organizations, especially ones that are larger, such as the JKA for example, as that is the next alternative for me but I really don't have any real experience in any organization other than SKA.
  9. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Why would you want to spend your free time when you can relax (mentally) with toxic people in a toxic environment? If you really don't feel motivating to attend classes and STs, why would you?

    Well, I can see how the water and leaving the dojo rule would have come from the traditional etiquette. It is by taking it to the uhealthy extreme, though.

    As our dojo is a part of a large organization, I got to train with several high-grade senseis (7th-10th dan) at various seminars. And of course, many more high grade people were attanding. We can't tell what dan one has by the belt (everyone has simple black), but my partner and I noticed that the kinder and more humble a person is, the higher grade they are likely to hold. These traits are very obvious in the senior senseis I have met. And on so many occassions, too! I have yet to see an arrogant person with 5th dan up, while I, though rarely, feel like punching some lower dan grades... a little.

    You aren't at school anymore, not are you in the army. You don't need to learn from people you don't like. It would be more enjoyable to find a school you enjoy going to and where teachers and black belts respect the junior students and you want to strive to train as hard as them, not being told to suck it up. :rolleyes:
  10. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    Any time water is forbidden during hard training in a hot/humid environment, it is time to leave. That comment about people being able to survive for three days without water, so water breaks are not allowed, wow, that qualifies as one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in about thirty years. I mean, that is right up there with the worst of them. That is simply dangerous and should never be tolerated. I would have walked out at that point, assuming I hadn’t already walked out because of some other stupid and asinine thing they did. Like the threat of being “excommunicated” was it? Being permanently banned if you stop or leave early. And trying to make you feel special for qualifying to put yourself through that kind of abuse, like you ought to be grateful for it. If your description is accurate, then These people are simply stupid and downright dangerous to be working with. This is not quality training. Someone will get injured, and you don’t need to let it be you.
  11. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Thank you for mentioning this - it's actually very helpful. Half of me was wondering if the other half was being hyper-moralistic or unrealistic, but it's very reassuring to hear this account of yours, especially from a large organization.

    I should clarify something I said earlier: I have no experience in any karate organization other than SKA, but for six years I studied Yoseikan Budo under Patrick Augé Sensei's organization, and all of those people are some of the most wonderful people I've ever met, all around, no matter what dojo across the continent they were from, and they were sincerely working to develop themselves inside and out as they studied not only the techniques but also the philosophy of Budo and how what we learn in the dojo could be applied to daily life. I still maintain close contact with them - I left when I did because I graduated university and I needed to explore for a bit. For years before that as well, I knew that I always had a strong draw more towards Karate-do, while the Yoseikan, despite being an eclectic system with elements of Judo and Karate included (Mochizuki Sensei even passed down Happoken and Heian kata, among others to us), it is primarily an Aikido dojo. Those people have my respect and admiration though.

    Thank you for saying this. I'm wondering how long they can keep doing this as the summers get hotter and hotter.

    The person from Reddit I mentioned previously identified themselves as the person who uploaded the video of Kazumi Tabata's Special Training that I linked in the post and looked down on. He told me that he had "never met a person in [his] organization who regretted having been through it (whether they were still training or not). Such opportunities are very few and far between in this modern 'safety culture' age," that if he were me he'd "just be grateful for having gone through it," and that "whether [ I ] stay with karate or not, [I'll] have that experience forever and you never know when the lessons you learned about yourself and your limits will come in handy."

    His is a very different perspective that is likely shared by every yudansha of SKA but it's funny that you mentioned what you said about being expected to feel grateful for it after this guy said what he said on Reddit.
    David Harrison and Nachi like this.
  12. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Well-Known Member

    Seems there are always people ready to drink the kool-aid. I am sure there are always people who will claim it was a great experience. If that is how they feel about it, that is their choice. If you recognize it for the dangerous abuse that it is, and you are not willing to tolerate it, that is your decision. You need to make the right decision for you, and not let the opinions of others make you question that decision.

    There is a difference between tough, quality training that pushes you hard and pushes you out of your comfort zone, and outright abuse. What you describe seems to me to be abuse and downright dangerous. Perhaps others will have a different interpretation of the experience. In the end, you make decisions for yourself and don’t let others sway you into making decisions that you aren’t comfortable with.

    There sometimes does exist in martial arts the “one-upmanship” phenomenon, where a school or teacher thinks they need to be the toughest training around, and that does have an appeal to certain people. They are always looking for a way to make it harder and more demanding. In my opinion, that often crosses the line where it becomes stupid and dangerous, and at the least is simply not smart training and becomes counter-productive because it is over-training and leads to injury, burnout, and negative experiences. That kind of training cannot be maintained indefinitely. For me, I think about the long-term training and how I can still be doing this when I am in my 90s rather than drop out from injury and burnout.

    one’s mileage may vary.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2022
    aaradia and YoshiroShin like this.
  13. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Elitism is one of the worst and most dangerous elements in martial arts. Martial arts is like anything else. There are good schools and bad schools, with good instructors and bad instructors.

    The good schools center around good training methods that are safe. They rely on the quality of their martial arts teachings.

    The bad schools rely on false "I am the super special secret" martial arts. From the no touch knockout crowd, to the "I teach some super special thing no one else does" crowd. It is used to appeal to people gullibility. I mean no offense, but it is what it is.

    Two years, frankly, that isn't a very long investment. AND the good thing is, what you invested will transfer over to another school. It isn't like you will magickally lose it if you leave or "get excommunicated." If you truly built a skill, it stays with you.

    I can't fathom even considering staying at this point. You wrote a long thing about why it is a cult. That means, frankly, you know better than to stay in it.

    I am sorry if I am sounding harsh. But really, if you stay in it past this point, I have no sympathy for whatever happens after that. You are choosing -knowingly - a cult like atmosphere with unsafe practices. By your writings, you know this already. And doing so to be a part of some fake "we are super special" movement. You asked for opinions and everyone is telling you it is shady and to get away. If you ignore it, so be it. It is your choice, but I am not going to waste time convincing you further. I just don't have time for helping people who won't help themselves.

    I fully support your finding another school. And again, look forward to hearing all about it.
    Dan Bian and Flying Crane like this.
  14. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Not harsh, just unnecessary; your original point was taken. I'm taking points from multiple others in a discussion as the input of others still seems to come in. I never make a decision like this immediately - that's not my nature.

    Your sympathy was never desired, nor asked for.

    I'm interpreting your statements as you expressing deep concern for my welfare, which is appreciated; your input has been read and it is also appreciated like the others'. Thank you for your support in my external endeavours.

    I've already visited the next alternative dojo at the end of last month, and they're back at practice in September. My next visit to another dojo will occur this Thursday, at the local Goju ryu classes (the style of karate that I study doesn't really matter that much to me - and I see high value in learning from the Goju people just as I do the Shotokan).

    Apparently, though I don't think I'll need to go this far, there's another instructor who teaches Uechi ryu at his home in the city as well. I once emailed him years ago just to see if he was still active and he seemed chill.

    So it looks like I'm at no shortage of options. I think that by the time we get into the month of September, the people here will know where I end up.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2022
  15. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Yep, good to hear it was helpful! I am with IOGKF - the largest traditional Okinawan Goju ryu organization. In case you have a dojo near you, I recommend giving it a try!
    Other than that, it is said that karate is only one. It is good you are open to any style. Look for a good teacher and a good atmosphere in the dojo :)

    Let us know where you end up.
    YoshiroShin likes this.
  16. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    This is the absolute key for me. Professional fighters don't get better by not drinking water, they train hard, eat well, sleep well, keep hydrated, come back again the next day and get better.

    There's a difference between making people suffer, which is more about the trainer's ego, and making people stronger through pushing themselves, which is all about developing your student's mental strength.

    Good Instructors get their students to work hard, not stupid.
  17. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I don't know about "cult," but there are two absolutely unacceptable things in your description.

    (1) If you fail the first time, you're ejected from the organization. Isn't one of the main points of martial arts training to learn to pick up and try again after failing? To literally get your butt kicked and get up and try again the next time? "Fall down seven times, get up eight"? The permanent excommunication for being unable to complete it on your first attempt seems utterly antithetical to these concepts.

    (2) No water during an extended training session. I've been at clubs (one specific JKA Shotokan club, one specific ITF Taekwondo club) where they said water during training was "disrespectful" or something of the sort. It's medically dumb but you could live with it when you have a 60-minute or 90-minute intermediate-intensity class, but even then I wasn't happy with the rule. For multiple hours, it's extremely dangerous as well as counterproductive to performance.
    Mitch and Dead_pool like this.
  18. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member

    Indeed, I may have went a little far in my evaluation; I was certainly in some turmoil apparently.

    Exactly - I'm not sure I understand why they're still enforcing that policy. It's one of the things that raised my suspicions of mal-intent. From their website:

    From a charitable point of view, they want to engender the spirit of not giving up. In my own experience though, what's more important is being unstoppable - as you said, getting back up no matter how many times you fall. It may just be another feature of training from the 50s.

    This reminds me of that myth about how you're not supposed to wash your belt (which is gross).

    I feel as though I should clarify in case there's a misunderstanding - during the Special Training, all practices were 90 minutes and water was not allowed during those practices (one of the other students also said "I wouldn't do that if I were you" when I asked if I should bring water into the dojo to have after practice, which was... notable).

    As for the intensity level, it may be subjective but for an idea, a example is 1000 kicks with a 5 or 10 second break in between each 200 as they tell us the next kick to do.

    There were two practices a day for white belts and three practices a day for the brown and black belts. 8th to 4th kyu are white belt, 3rd to 1st kyu is brown belt.
  19. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    -if you leave the campus even temporarily or if you give up during a practice, you are permanently banned from the SKA and from ever practising in any SKA or SKA-affiliated dojo again

    "In line with the martial arts tradition of 'what you begin you must finish,' one may not leave Special Training until it is officially over without the permission of the chief instructor. Any student who breaks this rule automatically loses his membership in SKA, and will never again be allowed to practice with any SKA dojo. There is absolutely no exception to this rule."

    These are two rather different things. Am I conflating two separate rules? One is, "you can't leave campus for any reason, or show weakness at any point, or you will never train with us again," one is, "you need to speak to the Chief Instructor before you bug out, or you'll never train with us again."

    The former is weird, the latter is just common courtesy, especially for an event that must take a lot of time and effort to organise.

    To give a concrete example;
    I attend, a few days in I get a call to say my child is ill and I'm needed at home. I quickly go to see the CI, explain the situation, and he/she says, "you're going nowhere, this is more important than the health of your children." At this point I'm out the door already, and will follow up for the full and frank exchange of views required once the health of my child is assured.

    I attend, a few days in I get a call to say my child is ill and I'm needed at home. I quickly go to see the CI, explain the situation, and he/she says, "no worries Mitch, get yourself home where you're needed, best wishes to your kid, and I hope to see you next time!" That's cool and follows the second definition.

    Just going to the water question, you say one of the rules is, "no water allowed," but also mention someone saying, "I wouldn't [take any water to training] if I were you." So I'm just going to ask if these are the same thing? Did you get a sheet of rules saying, "no water?" A bit like above these are two different things.
  20. YoshiroShin

    YoshiroShin Valued Member


    It looks like I may have been unclear; what I can say is the following:

    At the registration desk I was told by the other black belts that I wasn't allowed to leave the campus once it started even to go to an atm to get cash for the laundry machine to change for coins in the laundry room. They suggested I just train in the same two uniforms for all seven practices until the roommate I was placed with showed up and happened to have a LOT of quarters in his car. Until then I was going to at least try to hand wash my uniforms anyways in a staggered fashion to allow each enough time to dry in the humid climate.

    The black belt leading the Special Training told us of how during one ST, one person was going to leave the practice and he had to talk to her to prevent her from leaving, because if she did he said that it would've been a bad result for her life rather than if she stuck it out even if she stopped practicing Karate afterwards, which he said might be bad still but it also might be good on the other hand too (i.e. the result for her life might be positive if she completes the ST whether or not she continues karate, but that it would be definitely negative if she didn't complete the ST). When I joked to him about how I almost felt like running out screaming he, in a sort of patting me on the shoulder way of speaking (so, positively like), said that he wouldn't have let me leave. It seems that it is very important to them that you stick out the whole Special Training for your own self from their point of view. As far as I know, exceptions are deaths in the family or coming down with a contagious illness like a flu.

    Looking back, I disagree with some of their methods and the lack of gradient with which they bring up their juniors, as well as the rigidity with which they follow Ohshima Sensei, but I wish I could retract the cult stuff I included in the post.

    You haven't yet heard about the last practice I did with them before finally deciding to peace out though, lol - I was going to post that in the thread I would make to announce finding a new dojo. A preview is that it involves full-speed chudan and jodan sanbon kumite for white belts practicing for only two months with no specific defence given to work on, just whatever the defender chooses.

    You are not allowed to grab a sip of water during practice in ST - you'll get chewed out. During the sanbon kumite in the sun when my throat was dry and I had difficulty breathing, the brown belt helping me suggested to the black belt that I have some water and the black belt instead told me to get back in line and keep going about a half a minute break. The brown belt (different one) who told me "I wouldn't do that if I were you" was talking about me even bringing water to the dojo (for all of the other practices that were inside) in the first place to keep in the cubby so that I could go for it as soon as practice was over. This connected later to the black belt back at the regular practice in my own dojo telling the junior students to not even bring water into the dojo lest it cut their spirit and distract them. I later countered to the dojo leader that if that was the case, learning to focus despite the nearby water calling to us could instead be part of our practice. Another black belt indicated that the dissuasion to bringing water into the dojo back during our regular practice after the ST was uncalled for when I raised it to him in private.

    As an aside that I just remembered - we weren't told in the email for the event to bring mouthguards, so when it came time for the first kumite practice at the ST and we were told to go for them, I informed one of the seniors that I didn't have one; his response was to tell me to not get hit in the face xD Well, I succeeded in protecting myself - if you empty your mind and relax, you can react quick enough unless it's against some of the black belts who can do oi tsuki incredibly fast; for those types I can only jam their arm after their punch already lands but they usually have the control to not hit you full force, or else it's probably a knockout.

    One thing I'll say about the ST is that after it was over and I visited a couple of other dojos, I noticed that everyone else seemed like they were almost moving in slow-motion. In one dojo I could tell where each attacker was going as soon as their feet twitched. In another dojo I even felt as though I could move behind one person before his oi tsuki landed but that wasn't the purpose of the exercise they had us doing - I was a guest that particular day so I didn't want to do that.

    Another thing I'll say for SKA - they convinced me that oi tsuki is indeed real and can be very effective.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2022

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