Friday, 22 July 2011

The Karate Kid Chronicles Vol. 2

John Kreese. Everybody hated this dude, without exception. When I was a kid I thought he was the embodiment of pure evil, not only because he encouraged the Cobra Kai students to be absolute pricks at any and every given opportunity, but because as a very young man he scared the shit out of me. As Mr Miyagi said himself - "No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do." Sounds like my first driving instructor, although that’s a different story entirely. I still hate both of them, but probably Kreese just a little bit more.

Anyway, from day dot it became plainly obvious to me that there was nothing worse in this world than a bad Karate teacher. Luckily, my Karate teacher was not an inherently evil, psychologically imbalanced sociopath, so I was safe , but it is a shame to say that not all of us were so fortunate. An unjust, hilarious shame.

Take my boy Birdseye for example. He recently got married and this particular story formed part of my best man's speech at the wedding reception. At the tender age of 14 he began his Karate schooling under the watchful eye of one 'Sensei' Richard Millen at the Millen Kai Dojo, spurred on by a fascination with 'the way of the open hand' and, as is usually the case, the urge to become a super badass chop socky dude, contrary to all of the rules and policies involved in taking Karate seriously. However, after a period of two years intensive study, it must have been quite obvious that Birdseye was more than dedicated to the art, attending the dojo 3 or 4 times a week and sometimes more in an effort to become an unstoppable killing machine/master of mind, body and spirit.

Having amassed a number of impressive accolades over the years, including both regional and national Karate championship competition wins to help solidify his position and standing as a black belt master of the art, it is somewhat bizarre that some of Sensei Millen's dubious teaching techniques did not warrant a number of raised eyebrows from both the students and, in many cases, the parents of the students who attended the dojo on a weekly basis.

One of these methods, as I have been told, involved Sensei Millen picking a student at random who was subsequently blindfolded and then made to stand in the centre of a ring of other students. Once in place, the circle of students were then instructed to attack the blindfolded student at random and without warning, with Sifu instructing the blindfoldee to use their natural instinct and chi energy to deflect the attacks without using their sight. Imagine Luke in Star Wars Episode IV trying to deflect the laser blasts from the remote droid on the Millennium Falcon with the blast shield on his helmet down, then multiply the remote droid by 7 or 8 and you begin to get the picture. You then multiply this technique by X amount of days, adding in any other amount of bizarre 'training techniques' and then spread the entire experience over 2 years. Sounds pretty fucking bizarre, doesn't it?

Fast forward to age 16 and in a conscientious effort to ace his GCSE's, young padawan Birdseye decides to take a break from his gruelling schedule at the dojo to focus on his studies. Then, fast forward again another 2 months or so to imagine a young, fresh-out-of-exams Birdseye rocking up to the dojo to continue his studies and emphatically "finish what he started." THEN, imagine his surprise when he finds the dojo to have been shut down. Permanently.

Funnily enough, it would later transpire that 'Sensei' Richard Millen had not, in fact, achieved any of the accolades that he had boasted of, not only including his competition wins but more critically his grading of black belt and therefore his legal and moral position to in fact teach Karate at all. Basically, Millen knew about as much about Karate as your grandmother (assuming your grandmother is not a master of Karate, of course) and had fabricated his entire back story to make money through the exploitation of unassuming and eager students. I mean, defending yourself, blindfolded, in a ring of random attackers? Maybe a lifelong Shaolin monk could do that, but even then maybe not. I'd like to know what the fuck was going through his mind and if, at any point, he felt any remorse or guilt for what he was doing.

Despite the fact that Birdseye was able laugh this whole situation off, others were not so lucky, having studied under Millen for many years before being led to believe that they really were black belts. I can't imagine how absolutely soul-crushingly devastating that realisation must have been. Needless to say, Sensei Millen was very quickly tried and subsequently convicted of committing fraud on a major (yet very unusual scale) and was consequently sent to jail, never to be heard of again. It was then his turn to experience the words 'attack' and 'ring' on a daily basis, although in a far more intrusive way.

So, its back to the wisdom of Mr Miyagi. "No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher." At least Kreese actually knew Karate.

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