Ochoa Recap 2: White Belt Rabble

A person walks for the first time onto the dojo floor, does a split, contort themselves into living pretzels and other yoga impossibilities, and half way through the torture exercise routine seems as fresh as a daisy. The person fully grasps everything that is taught immediately and is well into the the third kata of the syllabus within a month's time. In short, a sensei's dream come true. Does this person exist? Yes, I've seen a few, but just a few, kids mainly. But this is not your typical whitebelt. Yet these stereotypes of perfection pervade the psyche of martial artist the world over. They pine for the simpler times of the past when the dark secrets of the Orient were shared only with the carefully chosen few, of which, of course, they are a part. They load up their sparse martial art family tree with pride, and the more oriental sounding names there are the better. They muse on this as they open their dojo somewhere downtown after clipping publicity flyers for their classes on all the lampposts enroute. But alas, the bills must be paid and some left over for R&R. So, please God (or hovering presence) send me some students, of any sort, and let the white belt rabble come stampeding to my dojo door.

The Ochoa Dojo in the 1970's was brimming with students, every inch of the floor was taken by the white belt rabble of the time, the coffers were full, life was good, but oh those white belts, they sure are a sorry lot. I trained during this time and it worked, with all its ups and downs. We came in all sizes, shapes, and attitudes; old, young, pretty and ugly, short, tall, graceful and clumsy. Now they don't come in any size, shape or form, they simply don't come. As they say, be careful what you wish for, it might come true: empty dojo, the chosen few, gray-haired and musky...and bitter. The modern dojo is not your clannish hamlet, all of one mind. It is much more complex. The Ochoa Dojo did not comprehend this complexity and applied the slash and burn of traditional karate, but just one problem, the people were free to go, and they did. Those like me who braved it out did so out of a personal commitment, not because a sensei motivated us, and plus, we paid our monthly dues, they could not kick us out. As plain as that. There were not many distractions in 19th century Okinawa. In the 1970's there were a bit more, and now they are tenfold. What's to keep a boy down in the dojo once he's seen MMA.
The elitist approach to martial arts nowadays is, at best, a well documented rationale of sour grapes. A failed attempt, at first, to keep the hordes outside the castle, and then to keep them in. Karate, like any human endeavour, is vulnerable to the push and pull of the marketplace, it must compete in the real world and not the construct of wet dreams.

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