If teaching Martial Arts is not something that will make most instructors rich, why do we choose to teach? Why is it so many instructors hold down multiple additional jobs, just to impart a portion of that income back to their students?
Although some may not recognize why they do such things, there is an undercurrent of reality that cannot be ignored. These good people care about the welfare of others. They realize a need within the community that promotes positive values, safety, security, and the need for providing solid role models to fill-in when parents cannot.
What about adults? There is a certain satisfaction that comes from assisting someone to overcome perceived boundaries. Watching progress become a way of life that permits people to better themselves in small ways — that make big differences.
I had a young 1st Degree Black Belt that I was watching in the community. he practiced another system. He didn’t have a lot of support from his organization. He needed to test in just a few months for 2nd Degree. I offered to assist him. At testing, he outclassed those seeking 3rd and 4th degree standing. Our association followed, lasting a number of years as I watched him progress from 1st Degree through 6th Degree. It was his choice to follow me, and the training that ultimately permitted him to expand his own studio.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t times along the way where he got discouraged, had financial hardships, or even personal relationship issues. Those are always present. Personal growth would not be possible without those hardships.
There were times I was asked to defend this man. I did so. There were times when I recognized his personal failings and gave him a hand. Providing him with jobs in the film industry — even when I could just as easily performed that work for myself. All in all, he was able to have an education, travel, and experience he could get no where else. And even when he failed, at great cost to myself, I did not abandon him. That’s not what you do. You try to teach… always… Or, until it is time to have them stand on their own. Just like kicking them out of the proverbial nest when they were younger and at home. That is when you find out whether your lessons are well learned.
The choice you make to teach is not really dependant on how you were taught early on. It is based upon who you become along the way. Building to a point when YOU take personal responsibility for the good and bad that comes to you. It really is none of my business what others think of me. As long as I maintain an honest relationship with myself.
To do that, I couldn’t simply rest on past accolades of World Championships, Gold Medals, and age old Congratulatory Salutes. I had to do as I have asked my students to do — to blaze new trails. I had to be willing to seriously look at myself – then advance. Even if physical limitations sought to preclude me from performing at the top of my game.
This is why I returned to training that led me to better shape than when I was in my 20’s. Obtaining a muscle structure that I never possessed in all the years I fought. This is partly why I removed myself from those who had taught me in the past — that I might do as I was asked — and become the leader they had prompted me to become.
It takes a lot then to look at yourself 10, 20 and even 30 years later to revitalize your thinking of how much you love to teach. How much you desire to impart that knowledge to the next generation of students. Whether it is the instructor seeking to better himself, or that small child whose first ideas of “I think I can” are realized by your own delicate promptings. It is in seeing their face light up at their first breaking of a board. Their first tournament earned medal. Or, like Jim. The first time he realized that six weeks of stretching as I had shown him permitted full-out splits. When the limitations he had placed in his mind for so many years of what could not be were easily overcome.
I still tell students; “Anything the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.” Those aren’t just words. It is a life lesson in realizing just how special every person is who seeks to learn.
Not everyone you teach will remain with you. But they will remain until it is their time to move on. Some may disregard the teachings that provided them with a prowess that they had never before possessed. In attempting to deny that which has been garnered from your tutelage, they lose integrity of standing. Becoming a fraud, waiting to be exposed.
You see, they forget why they started down this road in the first place. They forget the lessons that reinforced their decision to teach. They forget that it is not “they” who are most important. The most important people in their lives must be those to whom they dedicate themselves as educators: Their student.
The Martial Arts requires focus. It requires staying positive in the wake of great adversity. It also requires attention to detail. That those you teach remain the focus of your training. Personal accolades do not matter. Excuses for lacking fidelity to your craft, or those that got you there, will never sustain the satisfaction that comes from watching those that you have trained successfully. What matters most is something within you that reaches beyond the norm. For one in a thousand will make that Black Belt rank. One in ten thousand will advance to Mastery. And one in one-hundred thousand will figure out that success comes from assisting others — and your rewards come without asking.
Those who embraced the American Song Moo Kwan Association and the tenets I established thereunder have demonstrated a prowess not achieved by other schools when training and demonstrating here and abroad. We have the distinction of returning the pride of Song Moo Kwan training back to Korea. And, for a time, we waited for the next great evolutionary expanse.
Other organizations came to be similarly named. But the mantle was not passed on. In January, the knowledge of what comes next will be unveiled. We, who are faithful, will stand and lead.