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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Taekwondo and my first Love-Hate Relationship


Before you start reading this post it's important to know what a Mcdojo is.


Once you've gotten the general idea, moving on.

I have been taking Taekwondo for over a year and a half at an ITF school.  What belt you wonder? Doesn't really matter.  I'll get to that later as well.  I won't really say the name either. So don't wonder.  Look around.

To be honest, we had a done a whopping total of 0 hours of research!!!! That's right!  Partially because of martial arts myths, and partly because at the time, it was really a short term idea.  You don't research tennis classes, and you don't research soccer games.  As a sport, everything is cool! You don't need to learn anything really.  But, that also defeats the purpose of doing MA over running, swimming, or weight lifting. 

Getting to the love-hate part, this is really complex and I might catch myself drifting around, so bear with me.

(TL;DR warning. I've had this floating in my head for a really long time). 

(Deceptively small)Table of Contents
1. Day to Day Taekwondo
2. Bimonthly  Taekwondo
3.Year-to-year  Taekwondo
4. A Compare/Contrast between Boy Scouts and Taekwondo.

 That tag spam. :)

More after the break :)






On a day to day basis, the Taekwondo studio is awesome and fun and rigorous and challenging and engaging and positive adjectives.  We spar, learn techniques and applications, practice forms, and practice taking pain from the occasional missed kick. -.-  In addition to the sport element, the instructors also cover the defensive/streetfighting element. The classes are always challenging and educational, and it's something to look forward to.  There are some awesome people there and they also enjoy pushing their limits and learning new things.  In between classes, we hang out, practice kicks, and discuss Jackie Chan movies.  It's pretty sweet.  I would totally recommend it to all my friends except that:



On a bimonthly basis, Taekwondo drops a couple points on the list. Why?  Belt testing.  The more I think about it, the more it bothers me.  There are a few things that I don't like in order of itch-inducing
  1. The testing fee is $80
  2. Half of the kids there don't know anything.
  3. The test isn't an applicable test
  4. The tests are checkpoints AND chokepoints
1. IT'S A TRAP
The tuition fee was a pretty considerable amount, but over the course of two years with three classes a week, that's fine I suppose.
What really bugs me is that the cost of advancing IS TOO DANG HIGH. This is a super Mcdojo element: Hidden fees.  You don't mind the tuition? BAM!!!! SUPRISE!! 6 testing fees in one year! For a belt? Seriously?  The testing takes up the time of ONE CLASS. How can that possible be $80 even with a belt???

2. Smushy form and bad technique
Now, the instructors are great teachers.  They know their stuff and it is instantly clear that they have years of experience.  However, a lot of students have no idea what they are doing. They can't shift stance and they can't even make a proper fist.  The teachers notice and constantly remind them to fix their stance/raise their elbow/straighten their leg, but it goes in one ear and out the other.  Even more, at testings, they still pass the students who don't know their stuff.  As a result, skill level widely varies and has no correlation whatsoever with belt level.
In fact, belts are an indicator of how much a person was taught. And the person is an indicator of how much they remembered. :P

2.5 Little kids
The younger you get, the less muscle control and development you have.  That is a fact.  So kids younger than 10 years old should not be able to have black belts.  There's only one guy I know who is an 11 y/o black belt who actually can fight like one.   Most of the kids don't understand what they're doing other than kicking and punching. (Notice blocking is not in there).  This is bad for taekwondo in general, and attracts "soccer moms" who want daycare and pictures of their kids.

At Chinese class, this 8 y/o "black belt" kid started charging at me with a fake sword.  I sidestepped, patted him on the back, and down he went.  He stopped reminding me that he was a black belt.  Mcdojo much?  The general consensus is that 13-14 is the bare minimum age to have a full understanding of what you learned. And even then, some older kids aren't really qualified.

3.  The "tests" don't test anything.
It's true.  They test your form and your technique. (And almost no one ever fails.)
They don't measure your skills or mastery.  They're just kind of.... there.

4.  Chokepoints
The belt system prevents you from moving ahead in class.  If you easily master your rudimentary green-stripe form, too bad! You still have another month until testing.  Want to learn more?  Do it yoself!  Want to do board breaks? Wait another two months.    Want to do basic kendo and nunchuck training? Too bad. Sucks to be you.
As far as kicking technique goes, it isn't so hard to learn higher level kicks if you can manage them, so I suppose it isn't so bad.





On a year to year basis, Taekwondo is the worst thing since those pop up ads on Firedrive and Megashare.   DISCLAIMER: I am not really qualified to complain about money and these kinds of things, but it puts a sour taste on the entire program.   WARNING: ranting.

Peo'p can' join fo more thayn two yea'rs. Kids can't rec'mend it to yo frien's.  Why? You said it.

1. THE TUITION. IS TOO DANG. HIGH.
I won't specify how much, but it's a pretty good amount. (The middle of having four digits and 5 digits)  I get that we go there often and their rent is high too. Still, they have 5 instructors and their slot isn't that large.  I'm not sure if they have returning student discounts on second contracts, but it's highly unlikely. I suppose this one is a manifestation of the cost of testing and the tuition overall. Also, my brother and I both take it, and compounding tuition and testing fees is unbelievable. (I couldn't find anything about fees on their website. )


This is one of the biggest signs of being a Mcdojo, whether the MA they teach is good or not.  A Mcdojo is the martial arts equivalent of the University of Pheonix.  Or any of those for-profit schools that offer you "guaranteed" degrees.    And:  wait for it...   ... They have google advertisements and FULL PAGE magazine ads.  And a fully painted Il-Do cube car. Yea, so they have to get their name out there somehow, but seriously?

With a bit of research, a complete set of sparring gear can cost as little as $150 dollars.  The belt is around $10-$30 depending on the quality/company. 

2. The Demo Team

2.1 The demo team runs during the school year, and varies depending on who is actually in it.  The first season was pretty legit.  The students were divided into Team A and Team B, with Team A being the performance team, and Team B being cannon fodder/filler/unimportant event demo-ers.  Apparently, some parents got unhappy with their kids not performing, and BOOM!  I'm guessing the selection process isn't too strict. Team A and Team B are mushed together, with two "legions" and a now-massive sized demo team. This year's was slightly less impressive with poor sync, weak board breaks, and kids who kept missing their nunchuck switches.  Instead of having a small team, they had "DEMO TEAM (ft. the four best)" which is cool, but odd when looking at the team aspect of it all.

The joining fee is $400 for an extra class each week and an official uniform-like thing. It isn't terrible, but it isn't a great deal either.

3. The Tournament. 
Every year, they have a multi-school  tournament.  I haven't been to one yet.  The competition fee is $75 for a single event.  Yikes!

Well, if you are still reading this and have survived my ranting, you are awesome.
:-)
Overall, it boils down to high fees and some low student standards.  On a day to day basis, $30/60/even $400 isn't a killer amount.  But, dang, it adds up pretty fast.
In Boy Scouts where membership makes a member, which sounds pretty logical.  In TKD, membership gets you classes.  Nothing more.  Not even simple ranking. D:  I guess that's what really bugs me.  Having to constantly pay more for something that you already "bought".


Parkour is free if you're looking for a new sport to try!

-JRO






2 comments:

SUP