by Phillip Starr

When I ran my full-time martial arts school many years ago, I debated about hanging a sign outside the entrance to the training hall; “Leave Excess Baggage Here.” I frequently had prospective students come in to inquire about classes and I was surprised that they were even able to walk under the weight of the extra baggage they carried…

The nature of the baggage varied but I think I can safely place them into two broad categories; physical and mental/emotional. Under the category of physical limitations you’ll find an enormous number of alleged ailments, from trick knees to bad backs. I often found it surprising that these people knew their ailment(s) and the various techniques of my art so well; they’d tell me what they could and couldn’t do. For them, enrolling in the school was akin to ordering a hamburger. Some professed to having physical limitations that were so severe that I told them that they really couldn’t practice a martial art or that their limitation would prevent them from participating in group classes; I’d have to teach them privately and that would be very expensive. Surprisingly, some of them apparently recovered enough from their ailment on the spot that they suddenly COULD participate in class!

Some had what seemed to be very severe limitations. I recall one young lady who had lost an arm and a young man who has lost a leg (below the knee) in Vietnam. Their spirits were strong and they regularly trained in group classes! They refused to limit themselves. They weren’t really handicapped at all! I am still very proud of them…

Many of the physical limitations that they carried were the result of the applicant’s imagination, desire for attention, or disinclination to participate in some training activities (usually those that worked up a good sweat).

Mental baggage varied quite a bit. There were those who considered themselves to be knowledgeable enough to know what kinds of techniques wouldn’t work for them (“I’m too short”, “I’m a woman, so that won’t work for me”, and so on). For some, it was a question of their particular religious faith…“I can’t bow to a shrine or a person…”. I suggested that they seek instruction elsewhere. I explained that the bowing and so forth has nothing to do with religion, but many would not be dissuaded. I hope they found whatever it was that they thought they were looking for.

Then of course, there were those who would tell me, “I don’t want to learn those fancy dances (forms) and junk like that. I just want to learn what really works on the street” or “I just can’t do anything violent like sparring.” I told then that they weren’t allowed to pick and choose what they would or wouldn’t learn. Most of them decided to move on to the next school. Wise choice.

Those who asked how long it would take to get a black belt. I’d tell them that it takes about a week and $6.95. However, to acquire the skill takes a bit longer…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s