Inside Looking Outside at Me Looking In

Karate and espe­cial­ly Wado is easy. What I mean by that is that at the most basic lev­el, karate is a very per­son­al, indi­vid­ual and self-sat­is­fy­ing (or frus­trat­ing) study. The curi­ous title of this par­tic­u­lar writ­ing is a ref­er­ence to the way I see peo­ple in train­ing (remem­ber The Three Faces of Eve — oh come on, I know some of you have to).

First, I now watch a class as a Black Belt with a con­sid­er­able amount of time put into improv­ing my tech­nique, my phys­i­cal fit­ness, and my phys­i­cal and men­tal sta­mi­na. My train­ing suf­fered from a lack of any kind of nat­ur­al abil­i­ty, very lit­tle coor­di­na­tion, no rhythm and a deficit in the flex­i­bil­i­ty depart­ment. How­ev­er, I did have a strong desire to emu­late the exam­ples that I had before me, and I had some very fine exam­ples in the seniors above me. I also prac­ticed con­stant­ly. When I couldn’t prac­tice phys­i­cal­ly, I was prac­tic­ing in my head; I would think through kata, I would envi­sion Tyler Sen­sei per­form­ing the moves of kata and com­bi­na­tions. I lis­tened to every word he said (he might argue that point because I know what he saw me do wasn’t always the pic­ture he was try­ing to draw with his expla­na­tions) and mem­o­rized his anec­dotes and com­par­isons, to the point of hear­ing them, in my head, about a word ahead of him actu­al­ly say­ing them in class. I could see rel­e­van­cy in the strangest of exam­ples and relate karate to the most un-karate like activ­i­ties you can imag­ine (if you were in my class­es, remem­ber the puz­zled feel­ing as I gave many of my expla­na­tions). But, I made it and I pro­gressed. I bore you with all of this dri­v­el to let you know that if I can do it, you can do it, your child can do it, any­one can do it.

Sec­ond, I watch the class as an instruc­tor. From the sum­mer of ’82, until May 31, 2005, I taught in one capac­i­ty or anoth­er, almost non-stop. In that time, I have taught lit­er­al­ly thou­sands of stu­dents of all types. I have taught very impres­sive peo­ple with all kinds of tal­ent, some rec­og­nized their poten­tial and still study, some of those, shar­ing their gifts and teach­ing today. Some rec­og­nized that tal­ent, pro­fess­ing to be stu­dents for life, work­ing hard for a time, maybe even years before dis­ap­pear­ing with­out warn­ing. These peo­ple prob­a­bly ben­e­fit­ed and may still put the things they worked and learned to use in their life, and may for life. Then some of those just lose focus, life gets in the way, and they move on to what­ev­er is next. Some of the tal­ent­ed didn’t pick up the com­plete pack­age, they left the heart behind, they just can’t put enough of them­selves, into them, to reap the rewards, some are just lazy. On the oth­er end of the spec­trum you have the less than gift­ed stu­dent. They come in the same vari­eties as the nat­u­ral­ly tal­ent­ed; it’s just not as pret­ty. They have to work hard­er, some­times that is to their ben­e­fit, they are not used to the easy road, they are will­ing to work hard­er and appre­ci­ate the accom­plish­ments that come with that work. As an instruc­tor, I don’t care what kind of abil­i­ty you have; I want to teach some­one that is giv­ing it their all, some­one that is tak­ing advan­tage of the gains that come from the hard, hot, sweaty parts of train­ing, and rejoic­ing in the per­son­al tri­umphs and joy of accom­plish­ment. Being a mar­tial artist is very grat­i­fy­ing, teach­ing mar­tial arts is even more grat­i­fy­ing. Being a Black Belt is a small mile mark­er on the mar­tial arts road, but it is one that almost every­one can iden­ti­fy with in one way or the oth­er, so it is used as a goal and a ref­er­ence point. The easy way to study karate, and to aim for and receive the Black Belt, is to work hard. Too many peo­ple don’t get seri­ous enough until they are in the home-stretch run for the Black Belt, and then you can get over­whelmed try­ing to get up to speed. I can sum up my frus­tra­tions and phi­los­o­phy on teach­ing and prepar­ing stu­dents for the Black Belt with a line I used to use with those that were giv­ing it far less than their all, “I can’t want this for you more than you want it for your­self,” it just don’t work like that. An individual’s suc­cess in karate should be mea­sured from where they are in rela­tion to where they start­ed, with a strong empha­sis on poten­tial.

Third, I watch the class as Pop-Pop, and this is the dif­fi­cult one. I am very close to my grand-daugh­ter, and want noth­ing but the best for her. I know her well, I know her poten­tial, and I know her strengths, her weak­ness­es and her faults. She’s fast, loves to run, is com­pet­i­tive, and much more care-free than her Pop-Pop. She is stub­born, and much more care-free than her Pop-Pop. She loves karate, she also loves soc­cer, and play­ing, for which she doesn’t have near enough time. She is smart, she does what she needs to do to get good grades but, she doesn’t get wrapped up in con­sum­ing knowl­edge. She is a pret­ty well round­ed lit­tle girl and, it is hard for Pop-Pop to find the right bal­ance that will keep her moti­vat­ed, pro­gress­ing, and a suc­cess­ful karate­ka, in order to allow her to apply the ben­e­fits of what she is learn­ing, to oth­er aspects of her life. It’s tough for me to remem­ber that she is not me, and suc­cess in karate for her, may not be the same as suc­cess in karate for me (by def­i­n­i­tion yes, in scale no). My hope for her far sur­pass­es my own real­iza­tions. Of course she doesn’t know what is best for her yet, at this point in her life, she’s just hav­ing fun. No mat­ter what, less than her best is unac­cept­able, but what it takes to bring out her best is the tricky unknown fac­tor. I know that her instruc­tors know what they are doing and I trust them to moti­vate her and give her the instruc­tion that she needs, but I also find myself sup­ple­ment­ing. I get so pas­sion­ate with my desire for her to do well, that I have to keep myself in check, for fear of mak­ing her think that she is unable to meet my expec­ta­tions, on the dojo floor. This is extreme­ly excit­ing for me, and I’m so proud I can’t stand it. I see for the first time what you par­ents are going through. Good luck in cul­ti­vat­ing your own lit­tle karatekas, and if you see me, keep an eye on me and, you may on occa­sion offer me some blood pres­sure med­ica­tion, if handy.

David Everett

Published in View From The Dojo

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