The Toughest Martial Arts class I Ever Taught
Martial Arts classes tend to be for families. Gentle, polite, respectful. With this in mind, I decided to teach the toughest Martial Arts class in the world. The reason for this decision was that my oldest son (Aaron) was 16 and decided he wanted to learn Karate.
So, was I going to teach him the polite techniques and manners that go into a modern class?
I believe in a hands on transmission of the Real Art. I believe in ‘Rock ’em sock ’em throw ’em on the ground kick ’em when they’re down’ Martial Arts Classes.
This was my son, after all.
“Find a friend,” I replied, “You’re going to need a partner.”
He brought in Josh, the drummer in his band.
I started teaching the martial arts classes and, within a week, Mike and Tracy, father and son, showed up on my doorstep. Mike was really MAD. “I told you to call me when you teach again! Why didn’t you call me?”
“Uh, I forgot,” and the class was four.
Then Charles showed up, just happened to come by while we were training. “Oh, you’re teaching karate again, mind if I stay?” But it really wasn’t a question.
Then the phone rang, it was Bill. “I know you don’t know me, but I want to take martial arts classes, and a friend suggested I call and…
The class was six.
The rules were simple.
- DON’T EVER BE LATE.
- PAY ON TIME.
- STUDENTS MUST SHOW UP, EVEN IF THEY HAVE BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT AND HAVE BROKEN BONES.
- DEATH BEFORE INCOMPETENCE.
And there were a couple of other rules, like ‘Be polite,’ ‘Don’t get in fights,’ and that sort of thing. But these were the important ones.
First question. “What are you teaching us, Al?”
“Outlaw Karate,” I said. “Not because we’re outlaws, but because we are going beyond the bounds of what is accepted Karate.”
The format was six forms picked by me, and altered to bring out the hardest, most vicious techniques.
Within the first month I was evicted from my house because of the martial arts classes.
Neighbors started complaining about the noise, the landlady came by and saw how we were slamming each other and was afraid that her old house couldn’t take it.
We moved into a house across the street, hung curtains to keep the long noses of the neighbors out, and changed from Kiai’s to something we called ‘Grunt ups.’
And we intensified our training.
First confrontational incident. Tracy was 14 years old, the youngest member of the class.
Somebody hit him and he started crying. But the problem wasn’t Tracy, it was his father. I stepped in front of Mike and said, “Get back to training.”
“But he’s hurt and…” he started.
I raised my voice and shouted into his soul. “You aren’t a father here! And he isn’t a son!
You are students! Now get back to practice!”
It was a very long ten seconds while his face went through several shades of red. Finally he gulped it all down and went back to his partner.
I turned to Tracy. “Back to work.”
“Okay,” he sniffled.
“And next time why don’t you try blocking.”
He didn’t even look at me.
“I hurt, dad.”
I pulled Aaron’s gi apart and looked at his chest.
Sure enough, there was an indentation in his breastplate.
“Why didn’t you block?” I asked.
He didn’t say anything.
“Find a corner and practice Forms the rest of the hour.”
Grumbling, muttering, he did.
I turned to his partner, “Nice punch.”
The next day I took Aaron to the doctor. The doctor held up the x-ray and said, “Nice break. It’s not really broken so much as just sort of punched out. See how that section of bone is actually removed?”
I slapped Aaron on the back. “Nice break.”
He winced and grabbed his chest.
“No exercise for 4 weeks,” said the doctor.
“Not even Martial Arts classes?” My son’s eyes were wide.
“Especially not Martial Arts classes!”
The next night Aaron suited up for class.
“No,” I said.
He tried to push past me and I shifted in front of him. Usually I talk gruff and tough, this time I was gentle.
It took me half the class of standing in his path, but finally he slumped his shoulders and turned away.
Two weeks of this and he managed to get past me.
“What time does class end?” Asked somebody.
“When I say so,” I snapped, as rude as possible.
The nerve of them. I’m giving them the Best Martial Art in the world, and they ask what time it is. Pearls before swine.
“Hey, Al, we got a problem.”
I walked in to where Bill stood. He was pale, gasping, and sweating like the proverbial pig.
I could tell that Bill had been mortally struck, I didn’t bother asking why he didn’t block.
He just hadn’t, and he was going to die.
“How’d you hit him?” I asked.
Charles showed me.
I don’t teach pressure points, but after 25 years in the Art I had a fair knowledge of them.
The problem was I didn’t know how to undo them.
Bill sagged to his knees.
“What’s it feel like?” I asked.
“Like somebody turned out the lights in that side of my body. It’s just empty, man.” He was ready to fall all the way over.
“Stand him up,” I said. The others grabbed him, hoisted him to his feet. Bill’s eyes were faint and he was almost past pain.
“Okay, Charles, here’s what I want you to do,” and I explained.
Charles proceeded to do as he was instructed.
I might not know how to cure pressure points, but I knew that a basic Scientology Process, called a ‘Contact Assist,’ would work. I use it for all injuries, and I recommend that all instructors take classes in how to apply Contact Assists.
Within a half hour Bill started breathing again.
Back to practice, and this time try blocking!
“Al, I’m worried.”
It was a few minutes before class and Mike had called me aside.
“Tracy keeps crying. He starts crying during class, and he cries all the way home.”
“So what?” I asked.
Mike stared at me like the heartless creature I was.
“Remember your asthma?”
Mike had come to me a couple of years before. He had asthma and wanted to improve his breathing. The first time he said he had to stop exercising and get his Inhaler I wouldn’t let him.
“But I can’t breath!” He gasped.
“You can do Forms,” I said.
He wiggled his limbs feebly, tottered, gasped, and carried on.
I counted him through the moves.
I moved in and grabbed his leg and moved it to the next position in the Form. I moved his arm into a punch.
He tried to fall and I slid a horse stance under him and kept him upright.
And, step by step, we moved him through the Form.
By the time I stopped teaching him his medicine was down to 20% and he was thinking of ways to give it up all together.
Now, a couple of years later, standing in my living room, he protested my inhumanity to his son.
“You were going to die, he’s only crying about it.”
“Why don’t you get the Hell out of his way and let him be a man?”
He sputtered. And stopped. And looked at me.
Rite of passage.
Tracy had chosen his path and Mike was trying to stop him.
“Okay,” said Mike.
Mike wasn’t alone in worrying about members of the class. Whenever I started teaching my wife would immediately leave the area. “I can’t stand watching you hurt our son like that,” she said, reproachfully.
I intensified Aaron’s training.
Harder. Faster. Why didn’t you block?
Bodies on the floor.
Mike kept breaking his fingers. He trained with his fingers all splinted up. He’d run those broken fingers into something and start jumping up and down in pain. We all laughed, and kept going.
And if the blocks appeared to be working I would step in and make sure. There is nothing quite so pleasing as looking at somebody sitting on their fanny as they say, “I guess I better block a little harder.”
And I constantly stepped in to help with the blocking exercises. I would strike their arms until I could feel their bones actually vibrate.
And, by the end of a year, the tenor of the class started changing.
Tracy stopped crying, his punches and kicks became the hardest and fastest of all of us.
He had cried for a solid year, but he had made it.
Josh found himself in a the middle of a riot. Achieving a state of total readiness he extracted himself from the situation without striking a blow.
Everybody was changing.
One day my wife came running into the house, her eyes were wide and she related to us what the grungy old man on the street corner had said to her.
All seven of us charged out the door and ran down the street. We reached the corner and somebody pointed the bum out.
We ran across the street and picked the fool up and began carrying him. We didn’t really know where we were carrying him, but we had arrested him and that was that.
“Hey!” He struggled.
And a cop car, as if on cue, drove up.
They drove the fellow off, but before they did the cop gave me a word of advice. “Say, there’s not much we can do, so if this happens again…”
“Yes?” I said.
“When you’re carrying him, why don’t you just sort of walk his head a little too close to a street pole or something.”
He was a ranking black belt who had owned his own Karate school for some years.
We all waved ‘By by’ to the bad man and went back to class.
Changes. Changes. Changes.
Josh reached 2nd Black. Aaron reached 2nd Black. Tracy reached 3rd Black. Mike and I opened a school in Tujunga. Mike reached 4th Black. Bill had reached Brown Belt by the time class was ended. He followed us to Tujunga and eventually achieved 1st Black Belt.
Five of the six made it.
I can tell you about grown men weeping and broken bones and how the spirit of man is greater than mere death. I can tell you a lot of things.
But I think I’d like to sum up by telling you about my son. Aaron, a year after the class had ended, was walking down the street. It was eight in the morning, he was on his way to work, wore a nice suit, and two fellows jumped him.
They were both unconscious in under five seconds.
And they were severely broken in body.
And the reason was because Aaron had spent a couple of years of pain getting ready for those five seconds.
And I, by teaching one, last, no nonsense class, the Toughest Karate Class in the World, had saved his life.
In closing let me say that I don’t recommend this type of training. The True Art can be transmitted through gentler methods, though it does take a short while longer.
The potential for injuries is not just great, it is assumed with 100% certainty.
The potential for being sued is great.
And, beyond the silliness of legal lawsuits, do you know how to undo pressure points Do you know when pain becomes injury? Do you know the thousand and one things, beyond what the normal commercial instructor knows, to be able to handle a class this intense?
I know, only by hindsight, that I knew enough only after twenty years of training. If I had tried it after only 15 or 18 years I would have met disaster and tragedy. And maybe death.
But if you have over twenty years of training, and kindred spirits suddenly start showing up on your doorstep, then maybe it’s time to start teaching those tough martial arts classes…
Check out the Outlaw Karate class.