Prodigal Son – Rejected

A muay thai fighter "working his hands&qu...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s a sad day when you realise you’ve outgrown your once respected seniors. I began my martial arts training in earnest at age 14 in an eclectic system called Sakiado (way of the body and mind). The system was taken from UKTA (ITF) Taekwondo and American Kickboxing. The style was fairly basic and limited, using a western boxing stance and punching combinations with Taekwondo’s other techniques.

Sakiado was certainly a business (no harm in that), but not fast food martial arts, although it swiftly got dogged down with politics. Nevertheless its gradings were respectable, it had a sufficient syllabus and it offered full contact kickboxing matches in addition to semi-contact tournaments. During my first eighteen months I had some dedicated and enthusiastic instructors; the first being John, who made it to 2nd Dan, and my favourites being the “L” family. This was a family of black belts: a father, a mother and two boys (the eldest was my age). They also taught full contact, training a few successful fighters, and let me join in with some of their fighters for a treat. My best times in the art were undoubtedly with them and I won just about all my trophies, and often against far heavier opponents, under their tutelage.

As time went on Sakiado became more involved with its full contact side as these events were evidently bringing in more money. Some fighters did very well; one was Stuart Green who went on to fight professionally against Delexio (Van Damme’s “brother” in “Kickboxer”). The fights gradually got closer to home, which, initially, I thought was a good thing as it would mean less travelling, but little did I realise other clubs were beginning to drop off.

Looking back, as exciting as those full contact days were they were the final episode for our Sakiado and those who fought seemed to be going for one last chance at glory. After the matches finished most returned to normality, living off the memories when we would all scream and shout their support as they fought. Students with the same competitive instinct as me usually can’t wait for the day when they outshine their instructor. I was shocked and saddened by the episode.
When the “L” family left for Spain, Sakiado began to take a nosedive. My teacher in my local town was more interested in training with his buddies for the full contact matches than to pursue with my Sakiado education. The club secretary taught me my patterns and eventually he put my best friend and me up for our 1st Dan gradings.

Those last sessions of training were the worst. The club was dying and our instructor was clearly getting fed up. Apathy had well and truly set in for him. I remember turning up on two occasions when I was the only student. He simply shrugged his shoulders and said there was no point in him teaching. Years later, when I was teaching kickboxing, a similar incident occurred. Recalling my disappointment, I had to teach out of principle.

With two weeks to go before my best friend and I were about to take our first ever black belt gradings (a pretty big event for sixteen year olds!) our club closed. I passed my first Dan, but my best friend failed by a hair’s width. With no more clubs in the area we trained elsewhere in other styles, leaving Sakiado behind.

Years later I was teaching a club in Stratford and I happened upon my old Sakiado friends again. John, my first instructor, attended the session and made the whole experience feel very strange indeed. He was still young – this was only four years on – but his flexibility had gone to pot, as had his fitness and timing. He hadn’t progressed with his learning and had since fallen out with Sakiado’s founder. I remembered when he had done very well in a black belt-only tournament and in spite of showing no visible signs of illness was a shadow of his former self. It was as if he had peaked four years ago and since then his spirit had deteriorated rapidly. Tracing back my thoughts I recalled him losing in dramatic fashion in his first full contact fight to a heavier more experienced opponent. Later I heard the Sakiado secretary saying that romance had reared its testosterone-sapping head and John was neglecting his training.

Ten years after I was handed my 1st Dan Sakiado certificate and black belt at a smoky workingman’s club as an interval piece between kickboxing belts in Rugby, I came across Sakiado again. I put the name into an Internet search engine and to my delight a few links turned up. The style, unlike its contemporary Taekwondo break away, Choi Kwan Do, had made little progress through England, but it was still present and an active number of clubs. I decided to attempt a re-visit of my original style.

I sent an email, detailing my background in Sakiado and how happy I was to re-discover the art. The email I was sent back was friendly enough, although the now secretary of the association said he was having difficulty confirming my 1st Dan status. I telephoned him and, again, he was cheerful enough, but inquired about my Sakiado background. I gave him a list of instructors and venues I’d trained at. It turned out that he trained under my former chief instructor’s brother. This brother ran his own association.

I promptly called the brother and got a very cagey response. He explained that his system was very different from his brother’s, who no longer ran an association. The latter news saddened me. I said I didn’t care, even if he did teach the same style I hadn’t practiced the patterns for ages and only wanted to see the martial art again after a decade. He told me that he would have to check my story out with his brother when he next saw him and would call me back. I was almost cut off by him before I could offer a telephone number, but did in the end. I asked him where we could go from here. I knew he was running a class not too far away and I intended to visit it the very next day. He said this wasn’t possible. He’d have to do some research and would contact me in two weeks time. I never got the call and decided not to pursue the matter. Thus ended my experiences with my now extinct beginning style.

Postscript: On the other side of the coin I have also met up other senior students who have kept up their martial studies to a relatively high degree. One of the “L” family’s prize kickboxing students now regularly trains in Muay Thai, which he excels at. He is still a respectful and friendly individual that represented everything that was right about my training with my initial martial arts training.