TL;DR: I think I'm viciously / discreetly getting bullied at judo by my sensei and higher ranked (sensei is Japanese so I'm pretty shocked about it). Also, I was hit, he discreetly asked other students to throw me hard on the mat (so that I "wake up"). So I'm thinking of quitting. Though I like the sport, I really suck at it.

Do all beginners go though such an experience? I think last training really broke me mentally so I'm thinking of quitting. How would you deal with that?

For starters, let's be clear: I'm a white belt in judo (started 3 months ago). I have a feeling the sensei (he's Japanese by the way) is trying to break me (psychologically speaking).

For instance, he's always screaming my name when I do something wrong. "You did this. You did that. Move here. Move there." Worst he talks about me to other high ranked belts like in "dumb and dumber" movie (lol), with a retarded talk, caveman talk like "can you duhhhh show move to him duuuhhh he (i.e me) not duhhh gets it duhhhh".

Also he sometimes asked others to throw me harder on the tatami so that I "wake up" (I don't know in which sense. I wake up and realize I should quit or should train better? Only he knows that.) So now it has, I think, broken me. Like I don't find mental strength to do the moves and all.

Of course, beside the vicious bullying, I know I suck at judo pretty bad. But I did not think I'd get such an attitude from people there. Some students are grumble-gasping when we do randori, some not even trying, some show openly they are exasperated, some have the mocking smirk on their face. Do all beginners go through this?

Is that a way for them to kicking me out of the dojo? Hoping I'll understand I'm not welcomed?

I really suck at judo but I kept going till now because I like it. Now I'm thinking about quitting really soon.

Did you guys go through such an experience during your learning? I won't change dojo because lets face it, people are what they are so since I really suck at it, I bet I will encounter the same bullying somewhere else...so..

  • I assume you don't have a background in martial arts. Have you considered learning another type of martial art? Build up your confidence in that before returning to judo Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 8:08
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    @KristinaLex Why do you think it's related to confidence ? For what I understand, my lack of movement coordination or sometimes (NOT ALL THE TIME) strength/vivacity during rendori or practice trigger him to act in such a way... Yelling the white belt name all the time, screeming at him at every mistake you notice, asking higher rank (not all the time though) to go hard on him .... Do you think (I'm not being sarcastic or mean here....) lack of confidence can/should trigger such a behavior from a sensei (lol this is not the army nor a job) Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 8:45
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    @KristinaLex - Why should any martial art need to learn another martial art in order to start training? If the teacher is bad, or has a different cultural reference that is not the fault of the poster. Maybe you could help find a solution rather than "go do something else".
    – JohnP
    Commented Jan 14, 2019 at 17:56
  • @JohnP Thank you John. At some point I felt like a "hot pain" in the brain; like a 2 second headache and during those two second, a strong feeling of disappointment and willingness to quit rigth away and go home.... But I manage to finish the session and decided later at home it was not work continuing in such an environment. It s sad because I really liked Judo but now I dont have the motivation to go back to any other school. Maybe it will come back in time Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 5:52
  • @JohnP because it is his own statement. "I know I suck at judo pretty bad"and you say it has broken you. From what I read, it sounds like the sensei (which means all the senpais, by extension) just does not like you. And that is not your fault or your problem (unless you go to another dojo and same thing happens) Why force yourself or force them to endure your presence? Remove yourself from negative situations. Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 9:12

5 Answers 5


Toxic people

Yes, there are toxic people in the martial arts world. Martial artists are human, and although martial training can improve character, martial artists are just as capable at being terrible people as any other person.

Feeling like you suck

It's perfectly normal to feel like you suck. This is after all, why you go to class; you are trying to get better at something you don't already know. Even after getting your black belt, you may continue having this feeling: why are there so many people who are still better than I am? Why has it taken me so long?, etc.


As with many interpersonal problems, communication is key. You cannot expect people to mind read; you don't know what your sensei is thinking, and we don't know what your sensei is thinking. You can find out what your sensei is thinking by asking. If you are considering quitting, you don't have anything to lose by asking, though you should speak up anyway if you feel significantly about anything. If you don't like your sensei's answer, that sounds like your cue to leave and look elsewhere.

Switching schools

I wont change dojo because lets face...people are what they are so since I really suck at it, I bet I will encounter the same bullying somewhere else...so..

I disagree strongly with this sentiment. If you date one person and it doesn't work out, does that mean you shouldn't date anyone?


You are not meant to be there. Sometimes, the instructor wants only a certain kind of student. It sounds like yours is a kind of Cobra Kai dojo. You are not the kind of person they want. Perhaps they wanted someone with more experience, a different personality, or something altogether different. Maybe the instructor is racist. Maybe he wants only men. Maybe only Christian. Maybe he's an egomaniac, or has an emotional difficulty connecting with people. Maybe it's not about you, but rather, about the instructor. It's hard to tell without knowing more about the instructor. Nevertheless, finding out why is probably not going to help you here; I'd move on.

As an aside, I have a personal trainer. He makes me do things beyond what I think I can do: one more repetition, 10 more seconds, etc. But that is not because of some masochistic tendency he has; it's for my benefit. In your case, there is masochism, hatred, racism, or some underlying abnormal emotional, mental, or social issue going on. You cannot fix that, it is something the instructor must fix, or he must accept others refuse to be bullied and will leave.

I will say there are instructors who are jerks - and they know it, and they thrive on it. Some are very good at what they do, and they only want those who can tolerate what they deliver. There is one notable Aikido instructor known for testy comments, giving the students the middle finger, and outright abusive handling. He's good at what he does, and people know him for this behavior, and they pay to go to his seminars nevertheless. He will not change. Others will not change him. Either you accept it or you take your business elsewhere.

It is up to you if you see value in being bullied and want to stay. I don't find value in it, and I won't tolerate that; as a result, I'd go somewhere else.

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    Cobra Kai dojo : youtube.com/watch?v=mt33OaWaaAo .... Let's not exagerate. It made me laugth though... But in essence, there is a lot of truth in that image. Yelling at people and bullying are uncalled for, especially during an activity that's suppose to be healthy (for both ,ind and body).... I don't see vlue in accepting being bullied (thanks God I understood was happened to me) maybe a little be late but better than never...I already quit. I'm sad because I really like the sport. I' going to let my mind heal from the bullying and find another club hopefuly Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 22:11

I just saw someone I knew lamenting that he had a white belt in his BJJ school who was causing trouble. The white belt was rolling too hard with others. People were getting injured. People were feeling bullied and intimidated by him. Apparently he was a pretty muscular dude and had a very competitive and aggressive nature.

So the instructor secretly asked his blue belts to go hard on him. Really hard. And they did. They humbled him. And apparently the white belt hasn't returned, yet. Now the instructor is wondering if he did the right thing by asking his blue belts to go hard on him, since this white belt may never return to BJJ ever again.

Now I'm not saying you were like that white belt. But I am saying that this does happen whereby an instructor asks his students to essentially pound some humility into a troublesome student.

Quick question: Do you recall ever being told not to hurt someone or not to use as much muscle? Do you recall ever one of your partners getting frustrated by you or telling you to go easy on them? Have you felt like your partners in class have dreaded being paired up with you for some reason?

If the answer is yes to those questions, you might be the troublemaker in class that they're trying to deal with. You can ask your instructor if that's the case, or ask some of the higher ranked students.

Because, a lot of times when this happens, it's because the troublemaker has no idea that he's doing this. He needs to be told.

If the answer is no, then you just have an asshole for a teacher. Sorry. If you're putting up with psychological and emotional abuse, then you're a victim. Don't be a victim. Get out of there and don't look back. Trust me, you'll be a better person by getting out of there. If you stay, your self-esteem will take a nosedive, and over time you'll probably find yourself becoming just as mean to others in your school as your instructor is to you.

A good instructor should be overjoyed mostly by the fact that you're coming consistently to practice. They want to see you growing and getting better, of course, but they know that everyone is going to progress at their own rate. And someone who's taking longer to improve might merely be taking time to process everything and form the mental connections that will later cause them to surpass all others. Every good instructor knows this and is patient with all their students.

So please consider what I've said here. I think you need to take your instructor aside and ask him if you're doing something particularly wrong, or if he's like that with everyone. If you don't get a good answer from this, just don't come back. Cancel your membership and move on. Life is too short.

Hope that helps.

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    The answer is no. Compared to the rest, I'm pretty weak. I' ve been told that by them than I was not strong. So I should not put too much strength in exercices rather I should focus on technical skills... Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 22:29
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    Okay then, your answer is clear now. You're not a troublemaker. So the intimidation you've been getting is unwarranted, unusual, unfair, and unhealthy. I'd leave if I were you. A teacher that makes fun of you for asking questions about how to do stuff is no teacher. Beginners are going to ask questions. This teacher probably hates the fact that he has to teach beginners. Teaching beginners is beneath him. So take the hint. He doesn't want to teach you. You're better off finding a teacher that does. Tell him so before you leave. Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 23:03
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    I was thinking about not telling him anything before I leave... Because I feel this behavior is uncalled for. Since it's done on purpose, it'd be another way for him to find a way to make himself important... One answer above said I should speak up anyway.... Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 23:16
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    Yeah, I take it back. It's better if you don't invite an argument over it. You owe him nothing. You're fine just moving on. He's going to figure out something is wrong when he's unable to retain new students. If you want, you can anonymously leave a Yelp comment or something for his school. Don't worry about it. Just move on. If you need to give an excuse before canceling your membership, just say you decided you were no longer interested in it, and leave it at that. Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 23:23

It sounds like you are being bullied.

You should not stand for it.

If you were charitable, you could bring your concern to the club welfare officer, if it has one. If not, you could try to speak to the main teacher asking if you are reading the situation wrong.

You might want to report such abuse. You could contact the club's association welfare officer and report the abuse to them. To do that, your case would be greatly enhanced by a detailed description of situations, witness account, and even by video evidence. A friend watching session could fulfil both witness and cameraman roles. Sadly, victims are rarely believed. You could bring such evidence to a lawyer who might suggest contacting the Police. Do not talk to the police on your own. Whether you take legal actions against the club is between yourself and your lawyer to decide.

Whether or not you go follow any of the above, do be assured that not all judo clubs are filled with hateful idiots. Find another club and train there. I hope it will be more accommodating and will treat you with the respect you deserve.

As a side note, in the past there was a "break them so they gain spirit" mentality in martial arts. Some of it still exists now a days where some macho idiots think that since they were abused, it is fine for them to abuse others. Your sensei might be one of those who like to "forge their students to reveal and enhance their mettle"…


Definitely leave the dojo. There are plenty of other dojos (well, depending on where you live) where they are welcoming and helpful to new people.

And yes, there are definitely toxic teachers. I briefly took karate classes from a guy who loved nothing more than making fools out of students who had previous martial arts experience. He was impressively fast and powerful and really good at karate...but he was also an extremely cocky < expletive deleted >.

As long as you are respectful and putting in effort, there's no reason for the teacher to berate you and make you feel small, especially as a beginner. Some teachers will be hard on you if they think you should know something or be better at your particular rank (for example a black belt), but not as a white belt.

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