Beware the Fat Man
Updated: Jun 24
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'm very physically active and I don't eat junk food, but I take medications that cause me to struggle with weight loss. I also have a full-time job and a family on top of it - and this weird blog hobby, too.
I find this attitude 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 recent Super Bowl winning head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs (American) Football team, Andy Reid:
There's a reason we call him "Big Red", y'all. Coach Reid enjoys Kansas City BBQ and Five Guys burgers, well... A LOT. He obviously can't line up at any position on an NFL team and play it himself, especially against top young athletes in their prime.
Nobody in their right mind would say that Andy Reid can't coach those top young athletes in prime condition to play a very physically and mentally demanding game. But he does, quite successfully. He is a well-respected, championship winning 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 work out and thus, get all the exercise one needs. Or maybe they have a thyroid problem or are like me, taking medications that make it very, very difficult to lose weight.
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.
Do you think that a fat person can't be a good martial arts instructor? Why or why not? I'd love to know what you think!