Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Beware the Fat Man

It's not uncommon for many of our martial arts masters to be, well, on the heavy side, to put it kindly.


As a result, some people will see a "fat" martial arts master and claim that they shouldn't be teaching, because a fat guy (or gal) isn't a proper teacher or role model for the martial arts.

I'm going to call shenanigans on this one.

I, myself, struggle with this issue.  I do martial arts three-four times a week at a minimum, I lift weights two-three times a week at the gym (for an hour or more), and I do at least one hour of hard cardio on a bike a week (typically 11 miles - trying to increase my resistance each time).  I also have a full-time job and a family on top of it - and this weird blog hobby, too.

And a few other things...
I'm not eating junk food all day long - I eat basically a lower carb diet of meat, veggies,  and a bit of dairy for the most part, and my calorie intake daily rarely exceeds 1500 kcals/day.

I should be losing weight, but I'm not - I'm gaining.  Thus, I've got a doc's appointment to see what's happening and to see what can be done next.  Something is obviously wrong.

Some of you will look at this picture of me, knowing nothing else about me, and say I'm not fit to be an assistant instructor at my school - that I'm a poor role model in the martial arts.

When I sit around the house...
I find this interesting, because generally speaking, we do not demand this of teachers and instructors of other physical hobbies and skills.

Here's an example.  This is the current coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (American) Football team, Andy Reid.

He's actually slimmed down this year.

Now, nobody in their right mind would say that Andy Reid can't coach young men in prime condition to play a very physically and mentally demanding game.  But he does, quite successfully.  He is a well-respected coach.

In my opinion, that's is what a martial arts instructor really is - more like a coach, versus a fighter in his prime.  An instructor should, of course, make as much time as he or she can to be as physically fit as they can be given their circumstances.  This is just good sense, but that applies to everybody!

Before you declare someone unfit to teach the martial arts merely based upon their physical appearance, remember -  you don't know their circumstances.

Many of us assume that they sit around on the couch, watching TV and eating Cheetos.  They don't consider that maybe working full time and running a nearly full time martial arts school doesn't leave a lot of time to work out properly and keep ahead of it (especially since most of us gain weight as we age).  Or maybe someone has a permanent injury that makes it very hard to walk and thus, get all the exercise one needs.  Or maybe they have a thyroid problem.

Or... it could be the Cheetos thing, sure.  Image found here.
But it's a huge mistake to assume a big man or woman can't fight, and can't fight well.  It's a bias that says unless you are in outstanding condition, you're worthless in the martial arts.  Many large people are incredibly skilled and can and will take out a "fitter" person.  I have trained with people like this, people I would not want to be on the wrong side of in a bad situation.

The martial arts are a continuous, progressive endeavor, and one that you can and should enjoy all of your life, regardless of your physical condition.  To insist that only those who are "fit"  (what does that mean anyway...?) are qualified to teach is silly.

It's just making cheap-shot fat jokes, and be careful - because that fat man might just clean your clock.

I'd love to know what you think - sound off in the comments below!

UPDATE: As of January 2016, I've lost 40 pounds due to a combination of factors.  But my physical activity hasn't changed from when this post was written.