One of the great rewards of being a teacher is the simple
fact of working with fresh minds that walk continuously through the doors of
Northeast Kenpo Karate. Their enthusiastic approach and sheer innocence
encourages me to try and better myself each day. They are always forcing me to
explore outside the box and have always challenged me mentally by asking
questions that at times I do not have the answer for. This pushes me to find
the answer and sometimes I already know the answer, but never knew I did. By
explaining the answers they seek, it in turn teaches me more on the subject
allowing me to understand the concept clearer; in a way I teach myself through
their ignorance. Now please understand, ignorance is not stupidity by any means,
itís simply means that they do not understand and through their questions, I at
times, am forced to enlighten my personal ignorance which in turn heightens my
I am a firm believer that knowledge is power and that the
more you know and are able to apply that knowledge, a better person you will
become. I believe a good teacher is one that doesnít hide behind his own
personal pride; believing that they have all the answers or that their system
is the best or even that their ranking depicts their knowledge or skill level.† †
Whenever I come across these people I always laugh inside as
they tell the tales of high adventure theyíve experienced and how lucky we all
are to just know them. I personally always try and treat them, as I do for
anyone, with the highest respect and always try to enforce this respect in my
students. I guess this has been instilled in me since the early days as a young
boy in Tae Kwon Do, if thereís anything that I hope to always carry with me from
that system is the discipline and respect that was emphasized.
I think we all as martial artist get turned off from time to
time from a person who brags about themselves. I canít help but think who are
they trying to sell themselves to? I would think themselves.
I have always been drawn to the humble artist in the corner who constantly
works for perfection and after countless hours they are rewarded when people
come to them to tell them how good they appear. Never asked, but something
propels the stranger to approach them so they can share their praise. What a
feeling this is to be recognized for your hard work and dedication as opposed
to telling other people how good you are.†
This is the true meaning of being a teacher isnít it? Your
personal dedication to bettering yourself and in turn your spirit ends up bettering
the people around you. Your cup overflows so others can fill up off your
knowledge to learn to better themselves and to take it to the next level even
past your own knowledge in hopeís to one day have their cup overflow for others
to fill up on too.
Is reaching a Black Belt the end of your journey? Some
believe that once theyíve achieved their Black Belt theyíve made it! They put their
time in and now itís time to sit back and enjoy the rewards. To me achieving a
Black Belt is like graduating from high school sure you made it and you have
some knowledge and some basic skills, but you are far from knowing all the
answers and are still naive in how the world works. High school like your Black
belt has given you the basic necessary tools to carry on further and it up to
you to take that basic knowledge to the next level. Some do just that while
other get lost in the void; the trap of ďIím a black belt and Iíve done it all.Ē
Not to offend anybody, but letís face it a Black Belt is
nothing more than a white belt. Once one receives their Black Belt, to me itís
just a new fresh start for them to open their eyes to truly understand the
system that their Black Belt in; they have now been given the tools to really
comprehend and now apply what they have learned. It is truly just the beginning
and not by any means the end.
Here I stand carrying many various Black Belts and high
ranking belts and levels in multiple arts. Ranging from Tae Kwon Do, I.K.K.A
Kenpo, the Traceyís system, Kali, Ninjutsu, The NKK system, Jiujutsu, Chinína
and so forth and even though some would say Iíve accomplished a lot thereís
still so much more to seek out and explore and so much more to still learn in
all of these existing systems.
Whenever I learn a new style, I have no shame of taking off my
Black Belt, like Miagi said in the ďKarate KidĒ movie ďbelt is to hold up
pants!Ē Although the symbol and meaning of the Black Belt holds a special place
with us, it is still what Miagi referred it as being. When I go out in public
and Iím away from my dojo, which is the majority of my day, Am I still a Black
Belt? How are people going to recognize me being a Black Belt if Iím not
wearing one? Maybe I should be wearing a t-shirt or hat that says that Iím a
black belt so others know who I am?††† ††††††
When I go to seminars and they ask for me to be present in
full Gi, although I wear my rank and I wear it proud, I still wonder out of
respect if I should be wearing it. Why do I think this? Because even though I
hold Black ranks in the styles mentioned above I still maybe am a white belt in
their system. I again have no shame in taking off my belt out of respect for
the teacher. I donít believe I need to show my rank to prove my time or skill.
Just like the orange belt next to me, we are both there to learn and if Iím
good, than my skills will shine and be displayed not through my words or
through symbols, but through action and personal presentation. That to me is
the gift of Black Belt Ė Respect and Honor.
Understanding your place in the martial arts will help you
to get the most out of your style. Trust me when I say that your style,
whatever it is, has a lot to offer and if youíre serious about your style or
just the martial arts in general then believe me that you can learn a lot more
about your own style than by just learning from one of your teachers.
Now by no means Iím I encouraging you to disrespect your
teacher or telling you to stray from your school, but a lot of teachings,
theories and history in each style, especially the traditional styles, have
been lost through translation over the years. If you seek more knowledge on
your style or other styles to enhance your own abilities then take advantage of
whatís out there. The world is yours and the knowledge available is endless.
Donít fear offending your teacher because if he is confident in himself and is
wise in his own wayís than he should be encouraging you to continue your quest
for knowledge. If he is a good teacher and you love his style then his school
will always be home to you and he should know this.
With the ever growing popularity of instructional videos,
countless books and the freedom of the internet, we now have the ability to
seek out styles that we never even knew existed until a couple of years ago.
Everything is at our fingertips so absorb and practice, but never forget what
teacher, a coach or a mentor can and does for you. A video cannot give you
feedback or answer a question on the spot. A book cannot give you feeling of
accomplishment when you finally get it like personal interaction gives. The
internet is vast but you canít always believe what you see or read, there is
still a lot of garbage sites falsifying information and letís mention the sites
to become home Black Belts, some are legimate with the real goal of helping people
to reach their style at long distances, while others are only concerned in
filling their pocketbooks with your money and in return filling your brain with
trash. So youíre a part of their organizationÖ Honestly what has their
organization done for you? Be part of a local or your schoolís organization and
reap the benefits.
How well do you know your teacher? Do you know of his past
and how he became interested in the martial arts? Do you know how he trained
with and the stories of how he trained? Finding the answers to all these
questions could be possibly quit inspiring to you. You may even build a more
personal friendship with your instructor which could lead to more insights into
Do you know the people and connections your teacher knows? Not
capitalizing on the people you meet and not recognizing what they do may make
you miss out on a lot of good things by holding you back from seeing the big
picture. Think about this one.
Do you have friends from other styles and if you do have you
trained with them and explored or absorbed what they have to offer. Do you know
the people and connections they know? If you have not done this than get to it!
What do you have to lose?
We all make mistakes after all we are all human. I believe
we have to make mistakes to learn. It is ok to not have all the answers, but to
not seek these answers out is a waste. As we grow we learn and as we breath we live; we need to explore new things that can
contribute to the bettering of our own life and the people around us. Do not be
struck with tunnel vision and feel free to see outside of the box. The world is
yours so take it.
All of these factors expressed above can contribute to the
knowledge that you seek, but understand that all the information that you
attain through outside sources like other martial artists, books, videos and
the internet will never replace a good teacher and the physical knowledge that
is created on the mat through your blood, sweat and tears. Hereís to our
training. Respect and Honor.