Is it dangerous to train martial arts? Will I get hurt?
I think martial arts training is not very dangerous. Compared to football, for example, in martial arts training the risk of getting injured is much less.
We take care of ourselves and our training partners. We pay special attention to this. We train to become healthier, and to learn how to defend ourselves. Why would we destroy our bodies? That’s illogical. We try to avoid injuries and damage. But, of course it can happen, as it can happen when you’re walking on the street as well. You don’t have to be afraid. The risk of injury is very low.
What is the structure of the classes?
We always start by warming up. It is a very important part of any training. The body and the mind begins to prepare for intensive movement. A good warm-up helps you avoid injuries, forget your problems, and helps you “be there” in the present moment.
Then we practice techniques from our curriculum that fit your level of experience. We start with something simple, and then step by step we go to more complex moves. This gives you structure and you can see your potential a bit more clearly.
We also play different games which help us to build the skills we need: good reflexes, coordination, balance, an open mind, and so on.
Strength and conditioning workouts are also part of our training as we need to build our muscles, especially “clever muscles”, which means we have to regularly give the correct input to our nervous system, thus making our bodies stronger.
At the end of training we usually stretch. I think it’s very important. We will be old someday, and if we don’t take care of our body as we should, this neglect will come back to haunt us. I like the example of the sword-smith: you are simultaneously the sword and the sword-smith. You have to go into the fire (the warm-up), then you need good form / structure (practicing techniques) then you have to go into the cold water (stretching) and calm down. None of these steps can be omitted, otherwise the process won’t be complete.
How should I dress? Is there any special training equipment I need?
You just need comfortable pants or shorts and a t-shirt. You can train with or without shoes. Later you will need boxing gloves, shin protectors, a mouthguard, a groin-protector and a pair of focus mitts.
Do we spar (practice controlled fighting) in the classes? Is it obligatory to take part in these?
Yes, we spar in our training. But don’t imagine some bloody life-or-death fight, please! We take care of each other, and help each other to become better. It’s not obligatory, but at the higher level it is suggested. You can’t learn to swim without going into the water, can you? But our sparring is playful and we stay focused; we don’t want to traumatize each other.
Are there competitions? Is it compulsory to compete?
In Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, or Filipino boxing there is no competition, as these arts are made for self-defense in the street, where there are no rules. Whereas in combat sports there are always rules which limit the techniques allowed. It is a big difference, really!
On the other hand I think it is useful to compete, just to test yourself under pressure. It’s easy to believe we are superhuman and have the ability to do whatever we want. But the reality of competition usually shows us something else…
But as I see it, the only possible win is over ourselves, not over someone else. (I’m speaking now of competition, not a self-defense situation, of course.) Victory in competition may be satisfying but it’s just an illusion of sorts…
Are there belts or levels? Is it compulsory to take exams?
Yes, there are levels. I think it’s good for the students and good for the teacher as well. It gives a structure to the classes. As we go through the curriculum, sometimes we need a reference from outside to show us we’re on the right path. An exam under an authentic master really means something. It’s not about the color of the belt, but about the work that you put into earning that belt. In the exam you feel a bit more pressure, as the master’s eyes are on you… and when he says what you’re doing is right, then you know you’ve taken a step in the right direction. It’s a great feeling! But, taking exams is not compulsory and I won’t withhold my knowledge from anyone who doesn’t feel like taking the exams.
With regular training, how long does it take before I can defend myself?
It’s not easy to answer this question. Everyone is different, therefore the time required is different for everyone. Self-defense situations also vary. Is it only one aggressor, or more? Is he attacking from front, or from behind? Has he got a weapon? There are many variables. But I’d say after one year of regular, honest training you’ve got a much better chance!
Can I start to train if I’m overweight?
Of course. If someone needs special exercises, then I give him / her special exercises! We go through the points step by step, and I would encourage everyone to start to move. It will give you self-respect, and generate inner balance. You shouldn’t feel ashamed of your weight, age, or anything. I respect everyone who wants to be better.
What is the minimum training age?
You can begin training martial arts very early in life. However, at the present time I only have only adult classes, and for those you must be at least 18 years old.