In serious martial arts schools we train hard. We punch, kick and block with intensity and purpose. We sweat and we pant by the end of class and often leave with bruises and sore muscles. Every now and then there will be an accident resulting in a bloody nose, a very severe bruise that lingers for weeks, a torn muscle or even a broken bone, but these are things that we try to avoid. Unfortunately I have noticed that not all martial arts schools try to avoid these things, and certainly not all students in all martial arts schools. Abusive training often results in bloody noses, severe bruises, muscle tears and broken bones, and it is not at all the same as regular hard training. Sometimes abusive training stems from problems at home or work and they take out their aggression on their training partners. Sometimes it stems from psychological issues that have never been addressed. Sometimes people are just plain mean.
It can be Stopped
The worst part about abusive training is that it can be stopped but it is often ignored. Students who are the victims of this type of abuse often accept it as part of “hardcore training” and never say anything. They want to seem like they are tough enough. The problem with this is that it allows the abuse to continue and people can be injured to the point where they can no longer train, or even injured so badly that they cannot live a quality life. It may start small–an advanced student slamming their well-conditioned forearms into the soft forearms of a white belt hard enough to bruise the bone, for instance–but if left alone it can continue to escalate until people start getting struck full power in the liver (which can potentially kill you) or have knees wrenched until ligaments tear or the joint dislocates.
Instructors have an obligation to keep their students in good health–when they leave the dojo they should be sweaty, smiling and smarter for having attended the class, not bleeding and broken. Students must be watched over to prevent both accidents and intentional abuse and while accidents can be corrected with more training I feel that intentional abuse should be taken very seriously. Martial arts are capable of maiming and killing people, and must be practiced responsibly. If someone is found to be unable to restrain themselves for the safety of the other students they should not be allowed to train, at least not until they have found that restraint.
Look out for Others
Students, from white belt to black, need to remain vigilant as well. If you see another student being bullied or abused in the dojo you must talk to your instructor! If you, yourself, are being bullied or abused you must talk to your instructor! Abusive training is not “hardcore” and it doesn’t make you tougher–it can severely injure you and if you manage to get through it you will be more prone to abuse less experienced students, yourself. Martial arts training is fun, educational and useful but it also carries with it inherent dangers, so please do not put yourself at more risk than is necessary.
Remember–you train for yourself, not for everybody else.