The faithful reader will recall that I tried to find Mr Sahota's Taekwondo academy once before, but incorrect information on their website about training times and an elusive venue meant that it was a no go. Not one to give up without a fight, I found a facebook group relating to the Sahota club and got accurate training times and directions from a very helpful chap. Friday's at 6.30pm (not 6pm as the website would have), through the carpark and up the stairs.
Despite having reservations from my first attempt, and still nervous about a club that promises:
"YOU a BLACK BELT THIS TIME NEXT YEAR
YOU CAN BE BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR WITH THIS REMARKABLE TEACHING METHOD. Becoming a Blackbelt takes 3 to 6 years. What you may not realize, is that it doesn't have to take this long. You now have a unique opportunity to be taught Taekwon-do by Master B.Sahota VII Dan"
I arrived and stood waiting outside the dojang door with a group of young taekwon-doers. And we waited... Mr Sahota arrived just after 6.30 to let us in.
I introduced myself and asked if it would be alright if I attended the class to see what it was like. I have to say I have never been so discouraged from joining a club. Mr Sahota, who is a VII degree black belt and very high up in the ITF asked me if I knew any Taekwondo. I explained that I had done a few different Martial Arts before, and had studied karate "for a while". He assured me that TKD was "completely different" to Karate and advised me that I should just watch for now. I took this to mean "for the moment" and went to sit at the side of the class, removing shoes and socks for later. I watched as the class filed in, 2 yellow belts, a few orange, assorted reds and greens and 3 black belts. There were about fifteen students in total and most were under 16 years old.
My naked feet must have betrayed my eagerness to get involved because Master Sahota came over to me again to assure me that I could only watch. I was, understandably put-out, as I'd never not been allowed to join in before. I tried to negotiate; "I'm quite fit" I weedled, "and a quick learner". But Mr S was adamant, if I joined in I would have to pay to enrol so I could only watch until I decide if I want to join. Quite how anyone is meant to judge whether they want to join a class when they can only watch is beyond me. I'm also suprised because when I checked that website it said "FREE! Uniform & 1 MONTH FREE!"
but not wishing to be impolite, I sat back down and put my socks on.
To be honest I should have left then. It was such a disappointment to watch a class run by someone with such a high grade and so well thought of in a major organisation, full of some very poorly techniqued students. Lower grades aside, two of the black belts seemed unable to perform even the most basic Tul with any commitment or ki. Punches were loose, knifehands left open and execution of kicks and blocks was sloppy. Even allowing for differences in style, these two would not have risen above 4th or 5th kyu in many clubs and to award the coveted black-belt to poor quality students on length of service devalued the club, the teaching and the ITF to me. I can only hope I just saw a poor class, and that these students are capable of much, much more.
This is a very negative review, and I don't doubt that many students are very happy there and value their grades and teaching. To be fair Mr Sahota's own demonstrations were excellent and one of the black-belts had decent technique and was working hard at the back of the class. But a class that does not invite new starters unless they pay up, makes promises about how quickly anyone can become a black-belt, and seems to keep those promises regardless of the students own ability is not for me. I've been a bit disheartenened by this, and would certainly recommend any of the other TKD classes I've visited over this one. I just hope that next week I can find somewhere that lets me break a sweat.