I received a telephone call from a parent of a former student at the club. I was informed that the person concerned left the club because they moved house, and of course it is more important to train at the club nearest to your home, never mind the quality check out the minimal travel time and hassle.
Anyway, the parent informed me that for their kids to continue to "keep" their grades they would need proof of grade in the form of "registration documents". It's new to me, but there again, my attitude to martial arts and life in general is distinctly non-normal.
First of all I was annoyed by the parent being so glib - "Oh yeah, we quit your club because we're too lazy to travel an extra half mile, by the way can you ......." Umm, no!
If you've read this blog in the past you'll know my attitude about belts and grades. They are irrelevant outside your own group. What another instructor decides to grade an individual to is his business, not mine. Why be obsessed with the colour of a bit of cheap cloth - what about the person wearing it? Doesn't that count any more? Trouble is, when members of the public are sold on the idea of grades and belts, they don't know any different. And when someone comes along and spoils the cozy pictures they tend to get a little uptight - and who can blame them?
I expect my thoughts will be met with derision from the small people in the karate establishment and the stuck-in-their-ways instructors that keep it going. We do things different in our club, but it works for us. We have a good time, training is challenging and varied, sometimes I sound like a complete lunatic, but the lessons get across.
I require students to give it their best shot, to observe good behaviours in class and to aspire to being good karateka. If we don't bow and "ooossssahhh" and fart about, and other instructors don't like it - tough! I've had my fill of pretentious self-serving martial arts organisations ("governing bodies" - the cheek of it!) I'm fed up with karate politicians and instructors who can't see beyond the tattered covers of their 40-year old training syllabuses. And I dislike the peaked-cap-and-clipboard brigade who pretend to wield "power" over us unsuspecting masses.
The truth is, outside our group, nobody cares one jot what we do, so why do they feel important enough to judge or attempt to lord it over us? All that matters is that students come and train, get something positive out of the experience, and maybe learn some useful skills that will serve them well in the future.
Am I suggesting we should abandon all forms of regulation in martial arts? Of course not, but that's another story. Besides, I don't think there has ever been decent governance in the martial arts before, certainly not in the UK.
If you've been put off by karate in the past (all that tedious marching about in PJ's) come and give us a try.