Put on that white belt…

11 Jun

It’s a cliche, but it’s still quite true. Martial arts contain within them important life lessons, if we are just willing to pay attention to them. In martial arts, as in life, people simply don’t want to leave their comfort zone. It’s completely understandable, but leaving your comfort zone is exactly what people need to do.


I’ve told the story before, a person who was a very high level striker with many fights. I’m tempted to even say they were a “natural.” People wanted to train with him, they felt priviledged to be close to him and to be able to learn stand up from him. In, that world, he was KING. But he wanted to do Mixed Martial Arts and so off to Brazilian Jiu JItsu class he went.


Needless to say, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, he was not the rock star. He was, in fact, a no one. IN striking he could dominate anyone in pretty much any gym. In Jiu Jitsu class he was tapping out right and left. He did what most people in this situation would do, he quit. He never did MMA and he never went back to any form of grappling. The reverse has also been frequently true. A masterful grappler has come home from the gym with a black eye, bruised ribs and sore legs and never returned to stand up training.


Yesterday, during an interview, I mentioned that being promoted to instructor level in a martial art and opening a school can not only be one of the most thrilling things that can happen in your life, it can also be one of the most damaging things. The martial arts community has built up a false image of instructors, as god-like figures who can do no wrong and can never be defeated. An instructor may want, may in fact NEED addditional training, but all too often is afraid to “show weakness.”


If you’ve read this blog, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I”ve sought out additional training well after I was established as an instructor under the late Chan Tai-San and well after I had my own school. I like to joke that I’ve been beaten up by some of the best. I’ve been tapped out more than my fair share of times. I’ve also been out wrestled, kicked around, and punched by people who as fighters were much better than me.

In fact, I have frequently taken my own students with me to seminars. I”ve never told them I was a super man, I’ve never claimed I am undefeated. Also, I don’t fear them seeing what others have to offer. I’ve taught them the best material I have, which I know to be pretty good stuff. Never once have I lost a student when they’ve seen another instructor’s material. In fact, most of the time my students not only felt more motivated after the training, but also said the experience gave them more confidence in what we do at our school.

So my advice to anyone is, put on that white belt….



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