A Dime A Dozen

Martial arts instructors are a dime a dozen.

There are people who will teach you kicking, punching, throwing, and choking all over the place. They’re looking to train fighters, warriors, champions, masters, and build dynasties around their name or style.  Some will develop a chain of schools to further their name.  They design logos and patches that look fearsome.  They are often 6 feet plus tall and 350lbs of badass, and propose to teach 5 foot 1, 90lb ladies, to defend themselves, just like he would, never mind the disparity in size and strength.

Hmmm, maybe I’m not a martial arts instructor?

For me the  old days are the 60’s and 70’s.  That’s when I was a child and young man in the martial arts.  The first thing you were taught then was restraint, what not to do.  Don’t wear your uniform in public, in fact, roll it up and hide it.  Don’t play around doing techniques with non students, and not in public.  Don’t brag.  Don’t make a move in class that the teacher didn’t say to.  Don’t speak unnecessarily.  Don’t have a conceited, angry, jealous, or self pitying attitude.

These days it’s not uncommon to see someone wearing their white, black trim, TKD uniform with “Master Lee Fighting Tigers” name and phone number logo in bright colors shopping in the mall.  I’ve seen a whole family like that: mom, dad, and 2 toddlers!  Obviously they weren’t told about restraint.  Teenagers horse around in the park doing unrefined beginner round kicks and trying to body slam each other to show who’s kung fu is better.

I notice there is seldom any real conversation between Instructors and students.  They come to the dojo, bow in, start doing the 1-2-3’s of whatever movements, 45 minutes later teacher and students go home.  I can remember classes where there was discussion, during class, sitting on the dojo floor.  Discussions about human nature, fear, and survival, not just abut the next tournament or belt testing.

Don’t bother asking these sorts of people about their martial art.  They know the location of their school, but no background of the art.  They don’t know anything about their particular lineage, or even the authenticity of their instructor.  They don’t even know the distinguishing characteristics of their art.  “Uh, its Chinese.”  “Master Joe is a master.”  “I’m 15 years old, got my 4th degree black belt in 2 years.”

This of course relates to the quality of most of the  martial arts students out there.  They’re throwing punches and kicks and each other around, terribly!  The lack of restraint they start with leads to lack of control.  They have no balance, in the  most basic sense of the word, like being able to stand on one foot without wobbling.  Unless you have a serious handicap, a black belt should be able to balance on one leg.  Higher skill?  Execute that round kick broken up into 4 parts holding each for 5 seconds with poise and balance.  What about precision?  Movements should be executed with optimally defined mechanics.   But if you start with an out of balance wobble, that wobble only get bigger each step of the way.

You look sloppy.

That is the instructor’s fault.  For letting you get away with it for the recurring income sake.  For not teaching restraint, humility, and perseverance. Qualities which transcend mere martial arts training.  They especially leave out love and compassion.

But those are the qualities I look for  in a student.  Those are the qualities I want to impart in a student.  The kick throw punch stuff should build on that.  As a martial artist I’m looking to help make the world a better place, not fill it with super power assholes.

A few years ago one of my instructors; a long time quality practitioner and well regarded master instructor, decided we would eschew the titles of Master, Sensei, Shihan, etc. and just be called “Coach.”  I like that.  The Asian titles lack the same significance in our culture versus theirs.  We can be respectful without being reverential.  “Coach” implies that we are working together for an improvement, potentially in each other, whereas the other titles imply a distance, a separation; “I have achieved and need do no more, you must try to be like me.”  A coach personalizes for you. A coach  cares about you as a full package; body, mind and spirit.

Me, I am a “Coach!”  I’m still working for improvement  on a lot of the same stuff.  Also, and this is not too fine a point; A coach is looking to make you better at something, even better than he  might be himself!

Want an example, look at the boxing world, the fighters who make tens and hundreds of millions of dollars per fight, who are their coaches?  Older guys with Parkinsons, arthritis, slow and stiff, overweight.  Most of them CAN’T fight well.  What makes them the guys who “coach” the young, agile, prime of their life athletes?  That they are capable and skilled at improving their prospects to excellence.

So.  I wont be one of the “dime a dozen” martial art instructors.  I’m a Martial Arts Coach.

 

 

 

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Personal keeping’ on!

High’s and low’s, we all have them.  Getting up from a down is necessary for a long and full life.

I’m looking to accelerate my fitness and conditioning and trying a new thing: a weighted fitness vest!  It’s a total of 20 lbs.  It feels heavier in the hands than on the body.  But I do martial arts with much, much younger people so, not that I’m trying to match individuals 30 and 40 years my juniors, I’m trying to be above average of my own age group.

Shees! Eight rounds is my standard workout:  shadow boxing, heavy bag, stationary bag.   I’m tired and hungry!

Mentoring

I am mentoring a young child.

This is new to me.  I have mentored four adults in my lifetime, and they have become successful as people and professionals.

A child is a different story.  It requires a degree of sensitivity not necessary with adults, and it’s more open ended.  It’s not career focused and the relationship requires a higher level of formality.  But I am psyched about it.  You see, I was mentored; I was mentored by my father at the same age as this child.

I lived with my mother and a wonderful stepfather.  They gave me everything a child needs growing up: food, shelter, clothing, nourishment, and they did it with love.  Yet, I was capable of recieving more.  I’ve already written on how I grew up in a self contained sort of community; we were expected to hold on to particular cultural constructs, in a way we were expected to be cultural property and maintian customs and perpectives, often narrow ones.

My father, who had his own issues, visited me often and took me outisde the box.  While in my community only one type of music was valued, my father exposed me to other types of music.  I hung out with folk singers in Grenwich Village.  While people around me often talked trash, traded insults, and used language in mocking and derogatory ways, I was shown how other people used language to create poetry.  With my father I learned that I didn’t need to always be “on,” either as entertainement for others or to mask my own vulnerabilities.  My father exposed me to sights and sounds I might not have experienced from within my own groups.  My concsiousness was initially expanded by my father.

What can I do for this child?  michelangelo-71282_1280  I don’t know yet, and the discovery has to be a delicate process. But my approach is to love, and to uplift.  I don’t mind admitting I am a little scared.

Like I am facing myself.  I am he, he is me at that age!  Is there  any singular thing that can transform his life for the better due to our connection right now?  Is that even possible?

At that age I was gentle, tender even, vulnerable, fearing people,  events, and circumstances all around me.  Aware of a future but uncertain about it.  It would have taken very little to steer me wrong or right, to do me harm or do me good at that stage.  Help me to be right for this child for as long as our paths are converged.

From ACIM:

“Miracles are a kind of exchange.  Like all expressions of love, which are always miraculous in the true sense, the exchange reverses the physical lawas.  They bring more love to both the giver and the receiver.”

Then let the miracles begin!