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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

How Not To Visit A Martial Arts School

This video is making the rounds in the martial arts world, and you ought to go take a look. It is a textbook - TEXTBOOK - example of how not to visit a martial arts school, at least in North America. Rules - written and unwritten - might be different in other places, granted.

It's a long one, so buckle up and settle in. We'll have some fun, promise.

This is a case study in martial arts school etiquette, in which many of the fundamental rules of martial arts etiquette are broken, and thus, one is made to look like a complete asshat.

Be warned, there's some rough, not-safe-for-work language in here that some might find offensive. You won't lose too much if you watch this on mute, but I think listening to what's said is helpful in evaluating what's happening here.

There's a lot of things to say about this video, but as I said, I am just looking at the martial arts etiquette of it all.

Before we begin, there's actually another video that shows the lead-up to the video above. Here it is, for context, and I think this important to know. So watch this one first, then the one above second.

I'm going to identify the two main players here as "Sifu Herkul" (the instructor and the owner of this video, and I thank him for posting it) and "JKD Guy" (the white guy in the striped shirt).

As an aside, I think it's ridiculous to slime an entire style based on one person's asshattery, which some people are absolutely doing in JKD Guy's case. One doofus acting poorly does not represent all of JKD.

Ok, so JKD Guy is obviously a visitor to this martial arts school in Southern California. Perhaps he's just looking to cross train in Wing Chun, maybe he wants to explore some of the influences on JKD... who knows? As someone who's visited a ton of martial arts schools in my time, I've been in JKD Guy's shoes plenty of times myself.

I'm going to assume an innocent intention here on JKD Guy's part. I am NOT going to assume he went to class specifically looking to disrupt it or call out the teacher, although that's certainly possible. There are jerks - and those of you who do this ARE JERKS - who absolutely will do stuff like this, to feed their own egos or to prove some point to people who aren't even there, or for YouTube views, or whatever.

Anyway, Sifu Herkul is obviously teaching a drill and working on some principles, and JKD Guy interrupts to ask a question.

Well, not ask a question, really.

Rather, JKD Guy makes an assumption about the drill and makes a statement that suggests the Sifu doesn't know what he's doing (with the later implication that JKD is superior to what Sifu Herkul is showing). And he does it by shouting out from the sidelines as a statement in a pretty argumentative manner, not by politely asking if Sifu could clarify a point.

That's the very first mistake JKD guy makes that we see.

If you want to look like a rude, ignorant jerk, do what JKD Guy does here. Interrupt the teaching with a comment, and then basically tell the teacher he doesn't know what he's doing and you - you, a visiting student that nobody knows - knows better than the teacher does.

JKD Guys starts off with massive, and I mean MASSIVE disrespect to the Sifu and his students.

I have to wonder if JKD Guy had piped up before this video started in class earlier (the way Sifu Herkul reacts, I suspect he has) because after some back and forth in which JKD Guy isn't explaining himself well at all, Sifu Herkul, obviously annoyed but showing the patience of an experienced instructor, invites JKD Guy up to show him what he means.

This was a chance for JKD Guy to realize he's made a HUGE mistake and looks like an asshat, apologize to Sifu, shut his damn mouth and let the Sifu get back to work with the class. He could ask the question - as a question - to Sifu after class.

Sadly for him, he did not take that chance.

So, the rest of the first video is JKD Guy stepping up, and towards the end of the preview video (literally like 57 seconds in to the 60 second video), JKD Guy steps up and does a side kick to the hanging bag.

Mistake #2, JKD Guy.

When visiting another martial arts school, you do not - YOU DO NOT - mess with any equipment of any kind without being invited to do so. Do not kick bags, don't pick up gloves or pads, and do not EVER touch any weapon that doesn't belong to you.


I think JKD Guy was trying to display that he has some skills and therefore, has the right to interrupt the teacher's class to show him a little something. So he kicks that bag.

So not only is he being an asshat, he's being a showy, aggressive asshat.

And that's the end of the lead-up video.

Now we move on to the main video that's being passed around martial arts circles that's at the top of this post.

So JKD Guy starts coaching Sifu on how to spar the JKD way.

I am not going to comment on the value or understanding of JKD Guy and sparring and whether or not what he's saying is right or not.

It's not really my bailiwick, and not really the point I want to make here, anyway. I know a lot of other people are discussing the value of what the dude says out there, so feel free to go talk about it in those places, not here.

I would point out that JKD Guy looks to be in his early 20's or so. Maybe he's one of those savant martial artists who've trained since they're four years old and he's the big-time JKD authority of his generation.

Buuuuuuttt... for some reason I just don't think so. I could be wrong on that...

So Sifu Herkul patiently - so very patiently, I'm actually impressed - listens to JKD Guy pontificate about what "JKD does" for a while. I mean, he lets JKD Guy go on for several minutes relatively politely. It's really quite amazing, because I don't think I would have lasted all of 30 seconds in his shoes, as an instructor.

Kudos, Sifu Herkul, you are a bigger person than I am, by a mile.

So anyway, as JKD Guy digs himself deeper and deeper, with Sifu Herkul being patient and Sifu's students being more and more visibly and audibly amused by all this. It reaches a point where it's time for JKD Guy to prove what he's saying.

Sifu offers to spar, going easy. He does so very nicely, and he does so in a way that JKD Guy could learn. Sifu Herkul is actually still trying to teach this guy.

JKD Guy immediately declines, saying "We're not going to be going without sparring gear, because I'm going to really kick you... <<unintelligible and a curse word>>".

Yup, it's that good ol' martial arts chestnut, "I can't show you because it's (I'm) too dangerous and I don't want to hurt you."

Because JKD Guy doesn't know how to go slow or light...? He has that little control, he's all or nothing? They don't ever do light sparring in JKD? I'm sure my JKD friends will be surprised to learn all of this.

That's Mistake #3 - chickening out when asked to prove his words. He just stood there, and lectured, and wasted everybody's time, and now won't prove it? Please.

By this point, Sifu has had enough of this stuff and you can see, he's getting angry, but he's still keeping pretty good control of it. He tries to talk to JKD Guy, to get him to understand the situation he's in, to rein him in so he can continue class. Sifu is the instructor, and deserves respect in his own house, after all - you, me, everyone knows this except JKD Guy.

JKD Guy, after being afforded the indulgence of pontificating for several minutes uninterrupted, and chickening out of proving it, talks over Sifu, utterly and completely dismissing him as if they're at a minimum equals in this place and time, argues about sparring equipment and gets more and more angry himself, escalating the argument.

Mistake #4 is a BIG ONE, y'all.

Talking over Sifu and acting like he's just some guy crossed the rubicon of disrespect in a martial arts school. Now JKD Guy is on dangerous, dangerous ground, even if he doesn't realize it.

Note, this is not a situation of self defense, and I'm not going to talk about it as if it were. It's obviously a fight, but I don't want to cover the ins and outs of fighting here, and who was "right" or "wrong" in this.

This is a martial art school etiquette question I'm examining. Polite behavior is almost always required in places where people LEARN TO DO VIOLENCE TO OTHER PEOPLE. There are almost always written and unwritten rules of safety, hierarchy, and respect for each other and especially instructors. This is true in boxing gyms, on wrestling mats, and in every dojo and dojang and martial arts training hall (and the military too, where it makes even more sense).

By the rules of martial arts etiquette, JKD Guy is dead, dead wrong.

You respect the teacher as they're teaching, even if you privately think that teacher is an idiot and teaching bullshit. Especially if it's just you and you're in a room full of that teacher's students. It's literally "how to not get beaten or killed 101" - you're betting you can engage in outrageous behavior and that the rules of society that says they won't seriously injure you or kill you will apply, and that bet doesn't always pay off.

Note that the Sifu's students try to help out JKD Guy here, and tell him to be quiet and listen to the teacher. They don't at any point gang up on him physically, when they totally could have. Those are some good folks there.

This is the place where I became utterly convinced JKD Guy has never formally trained anywhere for a long period of time in his life, because you do not make this mistake, if you have. I just can't believe that anybody would do this if they've trained in a real martial arts school of any kind - western, eastern, no matter the style.

Well, outside of idiots who think they're funny or are on some weird mission to save people from martial arts they don't like, people looking to get stabbed, and people who think it's still 1972 and dojos are full of Vietnam Vets looking to scrap and have watched one too many 70's action movies.

Back to the video.

JKD Guy and Sifu Herkul get in real close to one another, which is absolutely a classic wind-up to violence happening, and soon. All of the warning bells are going off by now.

JKD Guy then claims Sifu has disrespected HIM the whole time.

As an aside, what has JKD Guy done to earn respect? His behavior is the exact opposite of deserving respect in a martial arts setting, much less in every other situation in life. We don't offer respect to people just because they're breathing in a martial arts school, JKD Guy. It's earned, and you don't get it by being a loudmouthed, disrespectful asshat.

So by now, things at this point in the video are a powderkeg, and all it takes is one spark...

... and JKD Guy provides that spark.

He (poorly) head butts Sifu Herkul.

Mistake #6.

He initiated the conflict, he escalated the conflict, and then he introduced physical force by imitating those little head butts that you'll sometimes see fighters do to each other when they're posing face-to-face at professional fights.

Oh, JKD Guy. One wonders what you were thinking in that moment. I do not think you expected what came next.

Anyway, what follows is a pretty standard fight where one combatant doesn't know how to fight at all, outside of backyard scuffles with his pals after school. Sifu absolutely beats JKD Guy, but I note he's not hitting him as hard and in places that will seriously injure the guy as he could have.

This is what I've seen Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung and others refer to as an "educational beatdown". Sifu was not out to seriously injure JKD Guy, but a beating to hopefully make him think.

After the short fight, in which JKD Guy got in maybe two licks out of dozens in, Sifu Herkul lets him go, breaks off the fight, pushes him off, tells him to leave.

That should have been the end of it.

But oh, no, JKD Guy has one more big mistake to make, and he's very lucky it didn't kill him.

Mistake #7.

After Sifu let him go, after getting very much the best of JKD Guy, Sifu bends down to pick up a stick on the ground.

JKD Guy chooses that very moment to try another one of those awesome kicks of his. He throws up a half-hearted little right leg roundhouse, that if it'd been good, would have kicked Sifu in the head as he bent over. While there's no such thing as a fair fight, I think we'd all agree this was as cheap a shot as you'll see, and if it'd landed, could have been very bad indeed.

This point is where he is so very lucky the entire group didn't jump him. The fight was over, and he started it back up again.

By that point, I think Sifu realized there was nothing left to do here. The group is converging on him, but nobody actually physically accosts JKD Guy. JKD Guy apparently needs more beatings than Sifu and his students were willing to deliver for JKD Guy to receive the education necessary, and they realized this.

JKD Guy leaves in a huff of curses, and the video ends. I presume JKD Guy went home to nurse his hurt feelings, ice his bruises, and complain on TikTok or YouTube about how JKD is too bad-ass for Wing Chun or something.

I don't think I have ever seen another video that perfectly illustrates exactly how one should not visit a martial arts school, especially if you do have some training of some sort.

Let me summarize the asshattery here.

JKD Guy:

  • Interrupted the instructor.

  • Made a statement challenging the instruction (didn't ask a question).

  • Used equipment that he didn't have permission to use.

  • Actually got up and wasted several minutes of class time.

  • "In my style we do this" (they aren't here to learn your style, they're here to learn theirs).

  • When invited to prove what he was saying, chickened out with tough guy talk.

  • Repeatedly talked over and disrespectfully to the instructor.

  • Demanded unearned respect.

  • Initiated violence when vastly outnumbered on someone else's ground.

  • When he lost the initial physical conflict, started it back up again, even though he was vastly outnumbered.

Perhaps folks in the Los Angeles area need to post this sign to keep JKD Guy from jacking around in THEIR martial arts classes:


And for those of you contemplating "dojo storming" some martials instructor who teaches a style you don't like, just know, you look exactly like JKD Guy, not like some martial arts savior protecting that guy's students from bullshit like you think you do.

YOU'RE the asshat, ok?

I hope these example will help more people understand how to not be a complete jackass when you visit other martial arts schools. Y'all all know I want you to visit - cross training is a core principle for ol' Chickie here!

All of us have probably made one or two of the same mistakes JKD Guy did at one point in our lives, but hopefully, none of you as bad as we see here.

What other rules of martial arts etiquette were broken here that I didn't mention? How would you have handled JKD Guy at your school? Let us know in the comments!

Big thank you to Sifu Rahsun Herkul for sharing these videos. If I'm ever in the area, I'd be thrilled to visit and train. And I promise I will not talk about protecting the groin in sparring. ;)

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Jun 10, 2021

Excellent post! I agree with everything 100%. Will be sharing it out! :-)

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