We have had the pleasure of training with Mr. Paul Ryder for the past few months at Discovery. Paul came with a rich and comprehensive background in martial arts training, and has been through the process of trying new arts a few times. For any martial artists new to an art or transitioning between them, Paul has some interesting observations about the experience. We asked him if he’d be willing to answer some questions and share his experience with us. Below are his responses!
Discovery: Please tell us about your training history before coming to Discovery? (when did you start, what did you do, etc.)
Paul:I have trained in a few arts over the years:
As a kid, I trained in Uechi-Ryu Karate (hard and soft Okinawan style)
In my 20’s, I studied Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu (A very traditional style that I trained in South of Boston). (EDITORS NOTE: You can see Sifu Loupos’ site here) I still contact Sifu Loupos upon occasion to this day, although I have not practiced that form in 25 years. That class had a big impact on me.
Wing Chun Kung Fu with Sifu Robert Anthony. . (EDITORS NOTE: You can see Sifu Robert Anthony’s site here) I started this in my 40s when I needed to make some changes to my physical and mental well-being. Having moved to Maine, my options were limited for traditional Kung Fu as I had studied prior. I considered Jiu Jitsu, but decided that was not the style to jump in to, after years of being away from any martial art. I found Wing Chun to be a style that I took to whole heartedly, the concepts of a strong base, attacking the center, trapping, and moving forward, seemed to work with my body type and mentality. As is often the case, the logistics of the school location (since moved to the Old Town area), made it difficult to continue to visit. Once again, I met a lot of similar thinking people, and continue to maintain contact with Sifu Anthony.
Hapkido. I studied for a time at a great school in the area. There were a variety of styles within the art taught at this school. Some of styles noted were Hapkido, Wing Chun, Tae Kwon do, and ground fighting. I was introduced to some excellent techniques, and learned how to be taken to the mat properly, and to throw people and be thrown. Once again, a great school that impacted me very much, I have made some good friends there, some of which I converse with frequently.
Which brings me to my school, Ninjutsu at Discovery Martial Arts.
Discovery: What are the challenges involved in starting a new martial art, and
how do you conquer those challenges?
Paul: Putting on a new white belt and starting at a new school is daunting, no matter how many times you have done it. Each school has its own traditions, class make up, and style of teaching. It’s akin to learning how to ride a bike again. Much of what you learned in other styles does not equate to your current one. Some moves will come easier than others, some will feel foreign. Not sure how many times per class I am instructed to move my lower body, or use less muscle and more subtle manipulation. Old habits and tendencies die hard, but when you see the style performed by those versed in it, it makes sense, and gives you something to strive for.
I conquer those challenges by realizing I am there for my own benefit, once class starts I am not looking at the color of my or anyone else’s belt, we are only thinking of class. Probably the only time during the week, that I am solely thinking of one thing, not what is happening in the day to day of life.
It’s not always easy as you hit your mid (now upper?) forties, rolling or being taken down by people half your age, with twice the fitness. But if it was easy, everyone would do it.
Discovery: What motivates you in your training? Why do you do it?
Paul: I train for many reasons. Stress of work. Stress of life. Stress of having four kids, two more headed to college this fall. “to keep my blades sharp”. To allow me to expend the energy in class, and not when someone tailgates me on the way home. I have always been passionate about martial arts, even when I took that long hiatus (with a pretty bad injury) after Mantis Kung Fu in my 20s, I always thought of martial arts, and planned for when I could make time in my life to get back to it.. just took longer than expected. It is a passion. I watch videos of the style I am currently learning, as well as other styles, from Wing Chun, Krav Maga, to Combat Hapkido.
Discovery: What in your previous training stuck with you on your journey here?
Paul: Stretch! Persevere! Listen, and watch. Don’t be afraid to fail, or look silly in front of the class or spectators. Remember you are doing this for you. Be a good partner with your classmates.
Discovery: What is something of value you are learning at Discovery?
Paul: The art of subtle movement. Moving people without using sheer force. Fluidity. Getting results similar to how I got them in the past, but doing them in a whole new way, like learning a new language. Again..
Discovery: What recommendations would you make to a current martial arts student looking to resume training or switch styles?
Paul: Come in, try a class or two. Talk to the current students (I am always happy to talk about the journey), see it the style fits. The school has a very comfortable vibe, with a strong sense of comradery. Every question I pose to the teachers and owners is answered quickly, and honestly.. and I ask a lot of questions…
Discovery: Is there anything you would like to add that we haven’t asked?
Paul: It’s a journey. I have been to several schools, all great, but in the end, I am a neophyte in all of them. I imagine after spending ten years in a school I will still feel the same.
I’d like to reiterate the difficulty of “starting fresh” in a new art when a student already has an extensive background. It takes a commitment to learning, a passion for the art form, and also humility. We consider it a real honor to have experienced students spending their time to learn our art. Paul has been a great example of how to remain a lifelong martial artist. We’d like to thank Paul for his time and responses. We’re looking forward to bringing you more stories about the students in our school in the weeks to come.