In my previous post, I commented on Bobby Joe Blythe and what a disgraceful show he put on in his dojo. There were a bunch of comments on that post and I also received a fair bit of email. So let me put things clearly:
- What happened there was pretty sad for all involved and looks criminal in nature.
- The part of my post mentioning the importance of “context” is in no way an apology for Mr. Blythe’s actions. I thought that was clear but apparently not. So here it is one more time: Mr. Blythe and his black belt can rot in jail for all I care. You don’t act that way with students, visitors or anybody else who steps into your dojo.
Now that this is cleared up, here’s something else: Dennis mentioned something on my Facebook page, how Mr Blythe reminded him of another video. Here it is:
This clip has been on Youtube for a few years now so it’s nothing new. It looks pretty brutal and harsh but I don’t think it’s the same as what happened at Mr. Blythe’s dojo. First some background:
The teacher punishing his students is Satoru Sayama. He started with WWF type wrestling in Japan and later formed his own MMA system, Shooto. This was back in 1985, before the UFC even existed. If you Google a bit, you’ll find a bunch of training clips of Sayama. Let’s just say the guy can fight…
The biggest difference with Mr. Blythe is that Sayama is training fighters. He’s not beating up some delusional guy off the street. He’s roughing up his own students. If you look at the clip again, you’ll notice there are lots of them. I doubt Sayama only punished them that one time, just for the camera, so they probably know what’s likely to happen in class. Yet they still show up. That in and of itself should make you wonder.
When I first saw this clip, I asked a Shooto student friend of mine about it and he told me Sayama is known to be brutal in his training methods. But he’s just as well known to produce technical and tough as nails fighters. His guys literally get hit harder in training than in the ring, so mentally speaking, they’re more than ready for their opponents. In that regard, his brutality gives the fighters what they need.
Now I’m not saying this kind of treatment is for everybody, nor am I blind to the potential for injury. It’s clear enough it can go horribly wrong, which is what it has in common with the incident at Mr. Blythe’s dojo. But it’s not the same thing.
Different trainers have different methods but they all have the same goal for their fighters: as much as they can, prepare them for whatever might happen in the ring. That means prepare for getting hit, because it will happen once the referee says “Fight!” How you go about that preparation is what differs from one teacher to another. My teacher used to:
- Hit us and punch us all over our body.
- Make us hit a wooden pole or a concrete pillar with all body parts.
- Hit us with a stick, just like Sayama but not as hard. Though he came pretty close sometimes.
- have us spar and try to knock each other’s block off.
- Lots more.
The combination of all that made receiving impacts not that big a surprise to your system when it happened. Basically, you got used to it. Sayama seems to be doing the same thing.And for the record, my teacher wasn’t nearly as rough as some of the training I did elsewhere or from what is done in certain military branches. Not by a long shot.
The downside is not only the immediate injuries but the cumulative damage you get if you don’t take the time to heal your body and recuperate. But the training does work. It’s painful, not fun unless you have a masochistic streak, but it delivers the goods.
There’s also the mental side of things:
- Some students just need to be roughed up before they “get it”.
- Some are scared of taking a hit so you desensitize them by gradually increasing the impacts.
- Other guys are great as long as they do the hitting but they crumble when you return fire.
- And still others need to be pushed to their limits before they start giving 100%.
In that regard, hitting your students can be a useful tool. But as with all tools, you need to know how and when to use it, along with knowing how much is enough. Sayama pushes the envelope real hard and goes a bit too far for my tastes. But that doesn’t make the concept of desensitization and affinity with pain useless.
UPDATE: Here’s part 3 of the dojo brutality series.