First Impressions




In a previous musing, I explored why it took so long for me to get started in martial arts training.  Just getting started took me 30 or more years, and it was the first of many milestones in the short time I have been studying the martial arts.  If the path of martial arts study can be compared to a hiking trip, the first watercourse I had to cross was a wide river.  Getting started was a major crossing, and I am glad to have finally forded what, for me, were raging waters.  When searching for a martial art's style to study, I visited a few dojos and watched the instructors and their students practice their style.  I was welcomed warmly, and treated respectfully at every dojo I visited.  I had some idea of what I didn’t want, and only vaguely knew what I did want.  If I was going to invest time, money, sweat and self, I wanted something in return.  I wanted more than aerobic fitness; I already had that.  I wanted more than choreography.  I wanted function.  I wanted to improve my balance, flexibility, and coordination, and why not learn self-defense also?  Being able to kick butt was not, at the age of 53, the driving motivation behind this endeavor.  But, this would be a pleasing result of all the time, sweat and diligence.  I would realize later when coordination and balance were no longer my greatest challenges, that the confidence in my improving defensive ability became a motivating factor in continuing my effort.

So I shopped around for the right martial art's style.  I visited dojos and watched classes that were great aerobic workouts with fast paced repetitive movements.  I visited one where testosterone ran high and the action seemed full contact with little instruction.  I visited another where the instruction was clear and concise but the style seemed a little unrealistic for an average type man like myself.  I visited a couple dojos where finances and contracts seemed unrealistic for a creaky old beginner.  How did I know if I was going to survive the first 12-18 months?  I’ve done long-term contracts before, and the contract is usually written for the protection of the one who wrote it.

I continued searching on and off for about six months before I came across a style taught by a thin wiry man a couple years my senior.  This man was fast, ambidextrous, and serious.  He taught an upright style that stressed defense first, followed by an automatic offense.  The first class I observed began with warm-up and stretching, followed by a fast-paced series of movements called “squat exercises” (various punches, strikes, and blocks) and katas (prearranged defensive and offensive movements).  I liked what I had observed so far.  There were many movements stressing upper body, lower body and coordination of upper and lower body movements.  The class moved on to kicking skills, and there were many types of kicks and kick combinations, most of which seemed effective and doable to this untrained eye.  Then the class moved on to ground work which consisted of rolls, falls and flips.  These are learned to protect one’s self in the event of a throw, trip, or fall during a fight.  Now that looked like fun.  I could do that!  Falling has always come naturally to me.  The instructor kept a good pace and had a knack for coaxing and helping the students improve their techniques.

The class then transitioned to students breaking off into various groups to practice self-defense techniques.  These techniques appeared simple, yet when broken down were intricate in their body placement.  The instructor gave each student full attention and when the individual student was given personalized attention, the group also learned.

I had observed a style which stressed defense, fought from an upright position designed for close-in combat, and yet had offensive moves like punch and kick combinations, followed by throws and submission holds.  I had observed more than a stylistic martial art; I had observed a philosophy, a strategy, and a means to pull them all together.  I had witnessed Lotus Self-Defense.

Bill Landry began his study of martial arts at the age of 53 with LOTUS Self-Defense under Mack Petry.  Three years later he has added the study of Jui Jitsu to his training.  Visit a LOTUS Self Defense class and keep your eye on the gray-haired student in the second row.  He pops and creaks, but he can do it.  And so can you.  If you wish to comment on this article, please feel free through the website's email address.