21st August 2011, 08:05 AM
Scott Halls' Heijoshin Dojo, Walsall, England
A dojo opening anywhere is a happy occasion. It means a place for more people to grow, to learn, to get stronger. There is much more to a dojo than the interior space and amenities, which are near the bottom of the list. A marvelous space to train without proper guidance is useless. A dojo reflects the character of the people who open it, run it, and teach in it, and will attract and provide for the growth of a good character of students who attend.
It is quite an ambitious enterprise to open a dojo. It takes years of experience training, teaching, and a good business head to make it work. What you get in the end is a place that students can come to in good faith and trust that they will receive quality training and a deep knowledge of the art by qualified practitioners. I'm not sure this is the case in the imminent opening of Heijoshin Dojo by Scott Halls in Walsall, West Midlands, England. As a yondan, he is basically still a beginning student himself, despite years of involvement in martial arts. The amount of time, how many days and hours you spend learning from Soke directly, is important. To live in England and invite Soke from Japan for a few weeks out of the year is nonsense. There are big differences in the type and intensity of training a practitioner may have the opportunity to take, and the levels of knowledge he will be exposed to. An uchideshi student will have much deeper knowledge and understanding of the art and beyond, will be a much more complete martial artist, exposed to the art in a much purer form than will someone who has attended classes weekly for some time. At the bottom of the ladder is the student who has attended some seminars and taken some classes and practiced for years on his own. His knowledge is the most superficial. If he is sharp, he may have picked up some good techniques. However, his understanding of the techniques, and his mental and character development will be very weak. This also reflects on his connection to the line of the ryuha. The closer the connection to the highest available ranking sensei, the closer the connection to the line, and vice versa.
What can a beginning student at a dojo operated by a yondan or godan with years of experience, but none of it close to the line hope to learn? At best, he can hope to have an introduction to the art, some basic techniques, and perhaps eventually to get into better shape. At worst, there is always the risk of injury due to improper training and supervision, and a limited amount of knowledge to be gained. Forget about mental training or character development in either case. More likely than not, a beginning student in this environment will not be exposed to real training, but will basically be supporting Halls' dream training space for himself.
Intermediate and advanced students will largely be left to their own devices, as there is little in the way of real guidance and training the big-headed, egotistical, and arrogant Scott Halls has to offer them, even with his 4th degree. And students from other ryuha looking to expand their training and branch out may come and find they have a deeper level of training and understanding that what can be offered.
If the plan is to bring in other teachers from other schools on occasion, or even on a weekly basis, students will have better training from time to time, but will end up with the same kind of sporadic growth that Halls has had. This tends to produce martial artists who may be good at a couple of things, may or may not have some good technique, but are lacking in the areas of politeness, discipline, focus, and character.
On the welcome page for the Heijoshin dojo website, www.heijoshin.co.uk he also says that students have the "opportunity to practice the kenjutsu as given to us by Musashi Sensei." Halls is totally misleading his students. This statement is absurd, and full of wrong thinking. First of all, to call Miyamoto Musashi, a historical figure and one of the iconic swordsmen in the history of the weapon "sensei," "teacher," is to demote him and downgrade his stature, disrespecting his line, and bringing him down to the level of Halls himself, or any other sensei. Only a person either oblivious to or who just doesn't care about the line could think that way. This shows a lack of training on the part of the student, or that the student's teacher didn't deem him worthy of imparting a deeper understanding and appreciation that would encompass the historical lineage of the art and the character to respect and cherish it. Then, there is the part about Musashi having given kenjutsu to the students of Halls' dojo. This statement is as absurd as it gets. To suggest, even in a light-minded way, that Musashi gave his art to some dojo in England, centuries into the future, is truly delusional. At best, it is a childlike fantasy, inspired by watching too much manga; at worst, it is a highly misleading tagline designed to give prospective students the idea that there is a deep connection to Musashi's line, and that they will be training in a place where they will be able to learn and experience that line up close, and grow close to it themselves.
A dojo should be a sanctuary of seriousness, respect, and hard work. I have never heard of such light-minded banter as follows being tolerated within, or respect to a dojo. If I were a prospective student interested in finding a place to study and develop as a martial artist, there have been posted in this forum a number of things that are great cause for alarm with respect to Halls. In response to the question of how the dojo construction project is being funded, which itself is rather a private matter, Halls's response goes, "Mostly drugs, some gun smuggling. Give me a call if you want to talk about it. I have a crate of AKs going cheap." (http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/sho...330#post433330) Whether or not one finds this humorous, the fact remains that he makes light of terroristic activities in association with the dojo. This is to say that the origins of this new dojo are no different from some hack Yakuza outfit, which anyone close to Musashi's actual line would find horrific and perceive as an insult to his legacy and traditions, whether said in jest or not. He also jokes that he is "...building a Fight Club style army." On the surface, that may be funny, but this shows a truly debased mind with no deep understanding of what has come before, and no heart, nor appreciation for the art. Basically, Halls sees nothing wrong with calling his students a bunch of thugs who fight for entertainment, and pay the bills at the dojo with the activities of organized crime. I would be deeply insulted by these remarks if I were a student there. It's foolish to consider training in a place whose owner thinks like this.
But whether or not you find Halls' sense of humor offensive or not, I would ask if anyone has heard, overheard, or read anything from one of their teachers or dojo owners like this:
"I'm going to go rob a bank tomorrow.
I plan on dressing up in a clown wig and make up and only wearing a thong and nipple tassels.
I'll carry a goat and a can of fluorescent paint in one arm and, while in the bank, I'm going to have sex with the goat and throw the paint over the walls, all the time ripping up pages of a phonebook and swearing my head off. After getting the money, I'll take a crap on the floor and urinate everywhere. I then will escape in a van shaped like a giant pink c*ck.
Let's see Crimewatch f*cking stage a reconstruction of that." (http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/sho...791#post440791)
21st August 2011, 08:29 AM