It had been a number of years since the last time my feet had stood on that floor, no windows, the place had always felt kindof dingy and there had always been an uptight, tense atmosphere.
The Head Instructor, though a man of small stature, had a commanding presence, in fact, a demanding presence extending outward would be a more accurate description and it was obvious that he liked to be reminded of his position, both directly and indirectly.
Perhaps this was deserved, perhaps it was not, but my place was to train, so I started running through my Kata as I joined everyone else on the floor.
I went through all three Gekesai and on to Kakuha, then started to work on Saifa as one of the Yudansha walked towards me, "Sensei asks that you only practice Goju Ryu Kata in this Dojo."
Fair enough, so I widdled it down to the original twelve and began practicing as the Head Instructor watched from a corner, then came over with the Black Belt from the previous encounter in tow.
I cannot remember the Black Belt's name, but the Head Instructor had me go with him and work on their two beginner Kata, Fukyu 1 and 2, pretty intense stuff, over and over, drilling it like a Military Drill Instructor, faster, stronger, harder!
The body would move from the feet, up through the hips, and swing/whip at the top... Nothing much more to it than that, at least not at first.
For days it went like this, at one point my foot was injured, but I kept it up with the Head Instructor making jokes a few times and even calling me up in front of class at another point to give a speech about 'family' and presenting me with a Patch to put on my Gi.
Honestly, the atmosphere was more like a cult than anything else, and it was all designed around one person's fondness of their position, both directly and indirectly, of the authority it yielded such a person, maybe earned, maybe not.
It was not my first encounter with this sort of spirit, nor would it be the last.
The final decision to leave that place and never return was made as I was taken into a back dressing room where one of the Head Instructor's Senior Students presented a print out of some conversations I had had with another Student in a Forum on the Internet.
I cannot remember the details of that conversation, but it was not really that bad, I believe it consisted of some questions that Student had that I had answered, in either case there were some things brought up that struck a nerve because that Student was 'excommunicated' from that Dojo.
I was presented with a choice because at the time I had decided to Teach and I had my Teacher's permission to do so, but this person maintained that they, alone, were the authority in the area and in order to Teach I would need THEIR blessing.
After some long thought, and some observations concerning the Senior and Junior Students at that Dojo I had decided to leave and pick up back on my own.
We all have a gut for a reason and my own gut had been telling me to get out from day one, based on the feel of the place, the tension in the air, the way the Seniors behaved towards the Juniors, even the mechanics of the movements seemed off and often promoted injury... One person had a bad shoulder, two bad knees, a hip that popped, heck, my first week on that floor and I had a foot injury just from doing Kata and was expected to keep going, to keep running.
There are some awesome qualities to this sort of training when done properly, but some really nasty after effects when done improperly, and improper training only implies one thing... Carelessness for the right way to do something on the part of the guy at the top.
A lot was learned each day and the gentleman was definitely a wealth of knowledge, but definitely regarding his own way of doing things as he did not much care for other source material that spoke of other ways, of deeper mechanics, ect.
In the end all one really needs to do, before they set foot on any training floor, is to look at the behavior of the Students and the Teacher, is there mutual respect or is there some sort of militaristic worship of the guy at the front of the class while the guy at the front is cruel to everyone else?
What about after the fact? Is the Teacher a heavy drinker promoting a very bad example that the Students pick up on and, sometimes, even enable??
Is the Teacher in good health, or bad health?
In the end there are certain things that are more important that a Teacher's reputation.