Reasons for Blow Ups and Finding Your Strength

explosion-16973_640Another week and another flare up in the world of martial arts. It is not just Systema that has been dogged by such issues, virtually every art has its share of problems. Where people are involved, problems are involved.

So are solutions.

I sometimes pull back and ponder why blow-ups occur in martial arts. Of course, they occur in every facet of life but since this is a Systema blog, we will solve one world problem at a time.


McDojos. The proliferation of the “Get your black belt in 6 months” schools, typically tae kwon do, has led to the lessening of respect for martial artists and martial arts in general. When I started some 32 years ago, you interviewed with the Sensei and he decided if you were a suitable candidate for training or not. T

Testing was an honor earned, not a right bought and paid for. If you did what was expected, you passed. If not, tough. You sucked it up, trained harder and smarter and re-took the test when the teacher thought you were ready. Now, as long as the check does not bounce, you are “ready” every 3 months. Testings and rank have become trivialized. It has become difficult for the neophyte to determine which is a “real” school and which is a McDojo.

Students are taught kicks and punch defense. They are rarely taught the deeper meaning of their art. Respect and honor are words given lip-service. It is not surprising that disrespect in various forms is the end result.

Poor Communication. If you were going to miss a class, you would let your teacher know. (Part 2 – you never missed unless you died. Even then. . . . . .). Once you made a commitment, you kept your word. No exceptions.

When I started in karate, I told my teacher upfront that I would be here for 4 years (I was going to College at the time) and once graduation came about, I probably would not be training due to relocation. I respected him enough to be truthful from Day One. He understood and agreed.

Today, with emails and text and a slew of other means of (mis-)communicating, disrespect has replaced honor. For example, a student emails that they are quitting instead of having the guts to tell his teacher in person. A real martial artist would never even consider this. Only a coward would.

Say what you have to say, and say it in person. The students that have done that with me – to this day, I have and always will respect them. Jon W comes to mind. He (and wife) started a family and Jon was respectful enough to let me know he would no longer be training. 30 seconds of face to face communication resulted in a lifetime of respect.

Say what you have to say, and say it in person.

Social Media. My wife is one of the most insightful people I have ever come across. I asked her why she thought there were so many blow ups in martial arts and her immediate answer was “social media.”

People hide behind a keyboard and “communicate” (if I can even use this word) in ways that they never would face-to-face. They are often weak, harsh, ignorant or mean and make comments that never would be spoken in person. Social media has brought out the worst in many people. This is now a part of our society and as such, has become a habit with people or total generations. Not surprisingly, it bleeds over into martial arts.



I make mistakes. You make mistakes. It is a part of the human experience. It is unavoidable. When we do err, seek the person and make amends. It is as much a part of being a genuine martial artist as defending against a knife attack.

Some will find the guts to do so. The skills learned from training transfer into other aspects of their life and they take ownership of and exercise their power.

Others will live from their smallness. Fear, the great conqueror, takes over their behavior and they choose to be lesser.

Either way, do not let others behavior influence our growth as martial artists.

I read a very short story today. It goes like this:

I had to forgive a person who wasn’t even sorry.

That is strength.

Yes, that is strength.

That is Systema.