What’s with the personal development stuff??

It’s a part of me, my life and practice as a martial artist, where I come from, and where I want to lead others to. 

Almost everyone with a belt , certificate, or a little experience, can teach a martial art.  Traditions provide a template for what to teach, in what order, and a baseline for achievement, mostly having to do with memorization. Get a snazzy logo, set up a shingle.

Personally, I am not interested in being a regular martial arts instructor.  For me, martial arts from the beginning, were not about the awesome power, skills, and physicality obviously visible.  It was about the self control, self perfectionism, and expanding consciousness that I saw, that some of those things represent.

I remember one of my karate instructors, Sensei, now Shihan, Charles “La Pantera” Bonet.

photo by Rick Vargas

Charles “La Pantera” Bonet.  photo by Rick Vargas

He  would occasionally shout at us when we were under performing “You think that punching and kicking is what makes you a black belt?  I can teach a monkey to punch and kick, but that won’t make him a black belt!”   I understood that to mean that he was looking beyond the surface, to the consciousness which animates the body, and to see there developing intelligence, sensitivity, the progress of evolution in relation to knowing ourselves and others, and values, not just how solid our front stance was.  Many instructors can only look at your front stance. That reduces the potential richness of martial arts training to an activity like gymnastics or boxing…

Well, it’s true.  Some instructors can only teach the physical aspects of a martial art. The other aspects require having been instructed in such things to begin with.  For example, not many instructors have much if any instruction or experience in the arts and practices of meditation, and may consider it trivial in spite of scientific evidence of it’s benefits to the brain, consciousness, and body.

Few have spent significant time in profound thought or study about the human condition, therefore, in discussion can only offer uninformed or unthoughtful opinions on matters of life in general.  Ego, elsewhere considered an obstacle, is paramount in many aspects of martial arts life and instruction.  Humility is often replaced by ritualistic, cultural acts of respect (nice bow!)

About my group under Sensei Bonet, we did learn to punch and kick, and quite well 🙂 and my classmates from 30+ years ago are renowned masters with great skills. But even the least among us, skill and credential wise, were being taught to become potential “masters” of ourselves. That’s where I’m headed, and the journey I invite others to join me on.

In my training group, your self awareness is important, and the physical actions, a tool for developing that self awareness.  I have two pet peeves: your breath, and your gaze, vital to the functioning of your body and mind, and coach you accordingly.  Helping you to manage your tensions, fears, and emotions is an ongoing goal.  The expansion of your consciousness, intellectually, academically, socially, etc. are important to me.

In the process, you might learn to punch and kick real good too!

That said, I am not a suitable instructor for everyone.  I don’t give belts or certificates.  I’m not really training anyone for a fight sport.  I don’t even follow the structured progression of a particular style.  I scrutinize character.  I prefer adults with full lives over youths with nothing better to do.  I like the freedom of greeting the group, and starting with something that feels like the right vibe at the time.

I have a degree of skills that qualify me, and though certified, I feel the terms “Master” and “Guro” are overused. I understand that in the Filipino Martial Arts it refers to a teacher, but, I have studied under people with whom the term Guru meant a “dispeller of darkness”  a rather serious metaphysical matter.  I’ll use the term with teachers I have trained under, but am not too quick too call anyone that off the cuff.  My friends call me Rick and if they want to use another appellation I suggest “Coach.”


Im giving a talk Saturday, February 23, 6:30pm at:

Half Off Books
2641 Enterprise rd.
Orange City FL 32763  Phone: 386-917-0100

Personal Protection For Everyone
The New Self Defense Paradigm

A fun and illuminating short lecture and demonstration on the matter of self defense for everyone, not just young athletes, professional responders, or martial arts experts.
Coach Rick specializes in short term self defense training for regular people, with average physical attributes, and little to no interest in “martial arts.”  If that
sounds like you at all, come enjoy this one of a kind seminar.



3 thoughts on “What’s with the personal development stuff??

  1. Pingback: Robert JR Graham » Making Sense of Self Defense

  2. Pingback: Robert JR Graham » Martial Arts – Freedom From Fear

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