As with most graduations, we had some people who weren't as ready as they thought. I shared this with them. I'm sharing it now with you.
I remember back to a Black Belt Graduation what seems like a hundred years ago. A young high school senior named Griffin was preparing to test. He wasn't a tournament winner, his form was limited by a youth of physical inactivity. His motorskills had never been properly developed as a kid so it was hard for him to learn to align everything, pivot and balance. But he had trained hard, very hard for nearly 5 years. While training he was also working part time and was dedicated to a school program that was a high school level pre-med. He was a straight "A" student, dedicated to helping out younger kids and to being a great son for his family.
When I watched him test, I was a bit ashamed. He was doing so much and here I was, asking him to do so, so much more. I wasn't asking him to do more than anyone else, but his schedule was packed to the gills and he had only very brief moments of free time in his life which was usually filled with martial arts training. He had all those forms to do, knife defenses, grab defenses, gun defenses, self defense drills, grappling techniques and his essay. I was ashamed to ask him to do all of these things on top of what he was already doing.
Later we spoke and he told me that without his martial arts training, he's pretty sure he would never have accomplished everything he did at that time in his life. It taught him how to apply himself in a more focused and dedicated way that paved the way for his future. Today Griffin is the Cardiology Fellow at LSUHSC New Orleans and PGY-3 at LSUHSC-University Medical Center.
Martial Arts begins and ends with respect, we bow when we go on the floor, we bow when we leave. I cannot expect you to respect me, or anyone to respect this martial art if I allow you to pass doing less than you are capable of doing. Griffin did it and his schedule was a thousand times worse than yours. You can do it too.
My job is not to make your life easier. My job is to provide you with challenges to help you gain the strength to make your own life easier.
Now that you know the why it's so hard, now I'll give you some help. This message is not for all of you, but if you think it's not for you, I can almost guarantee, it is for you.
1. BE a "Martial Artist," not someone who "does martial arts." If you don't train at the dojo each day, at least go through your forms each day. If you do them every day for the rest of your life, you will maintain an active mind, healthy body and a strong spirit. They are a gift, giving you a solid workout with no gym fees for the rest of your life.
2. Don't see this as something you "have to do," but instead build a passion for doing it, especially your forms. They have so much to teach us, make yourself love doing them. It's a simple attitude switch.
3. Martial Arts should not be something you do on the off nights that you aren't playing poker or watching your sports. Martial Arts should be something that improves your poker game and your appreciation of your favorite sports.
4. Come to class AT LEAST twice per week. Red Seniors should be here more like 4 times per week, twice is just a minimum. I always see people try to cram in their required attendance towards the end of the semester. Trying to do a technique 50,000 times over the course of a few days is not going to get nearly the same results of someone who does the same technique 50,000 times over the course of years.
5. Work each technique over and over and over again, then over and over some more. Forms too. Don't do them twice and say "That's enough." The biggest room in the world is 'room for improvement,' and no matter how good you become, it can still get better. If I see you pausing to think about a technique or form, the only answer is, you haven't done it enough.
6. Push yourself to do it "Better." Don't be satisfied with doing anything in life, "Good Enough." When we utter, "That's good enough," we stop trying and stop improving. Be happy with what you are capable of, but never allow yourself to be so satisfied that you stop improving. Keep pushing yourself to do it better, faster, stronger.
7. Focus on the small details. Sometimes I will be critical of something that you think is a small detail. What you'll find though is that small detail is probably the difference between life and death. I know what I'm talking about and I know what I'm looking at. I have a trained eye to find these things, you might not have that yet, so trust me. A good example is breaking techniques. One slight degree in variance on the angle of impact can make the technique go from breaking the board to bouncing off. The strike MUST be perpendicular to break the board properly. That same variance can cost your life in a real life encounter. You may not see that variance, but I do. Fixing it isn't just a matter of adjusting the attack, it is a matter of more repetition.
8. I noticed a student doing a technique incorrectly the other day. It was something he learned 4 years ago as a Yellow Belt, he's a Red Senior now, but here he was, doing it wrong. I asked, "Do you know this is incorrect?"
He said "Yes Sir."
"Have you been taught to do it properly?" I continued.
"Yes Sir," he replied.
"In that case, I have two words for you Sir," I said softly. Leaning in, I whispered in his ear, "Stop it."
If you know it isn't right, but continue to do it wrong, you are being foolish. If you have been asked to do it differently and continue to do it incorrectly, you are just being disrespectful. Stop it. Making mistakes is a part of how we as humans learn; continuing to make the same mistake shows you aren't learning or don't care. Stop it.
For those who think I'm too hard on you, you are welcome to just order your black belt online or go to one of those schools where you get the belt if you attended enough. If you want one from Ancient Ways, step up and EARN IT. Others have done it before you, you can do it too. I'm not being hard on you, I'm doing my job, I'm doing what you said you wanted me to do for you in your life...setting challenging goals for you and helping you achieve them, but YOU still have to be the one who does the work.
Don't be discouraged if you don't pass, instead, get determined and get serious. Parents, be strong FOR them if they don't have the adult willpower to push themselves. It's ok if they get discouraged, it's NOT ok if they quit. If they quit they will lose all trust in themselves and lose trust in you.
Your Friend and Mentor,
Master Boon Brown
About Tiger-Rock Martial Arts International
Tiger-Rock Martial Arts s a National franchising company providing health, skills and fitness training through its franchisees’ Martial Arts programs for members of all ages. Our programs enrich their personal and professional lives in many ways. Tiger-Rock programs are a blend of modern sport science, the latest research, and hundreds of years of martial arts tradition to provide you with the most effective experience available.