With so many martial arts schools in the Towson, Timonium, Cockeysville, Hunt Valley, and Sparks area, offering a variety of styles, we might wonder, “Which style is best?”
First of all, I want to explain a little bit about my background and experience, which has led me to my current perspective on this question. I have formally studied Ninjutsu, Kung Fu, San Shou, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I have studied several other styles through books and videos, which is not the same as training at an actual school with a real life teacher, but I am at least familiar with the basics of those arts.
As I learn more and more about different styles, I can’t help but notice the similarities between them at their essences. I find that each style has much to offer, and I guess I sort of love ‘em all!
One question that may be good for students (especially adults) to ask is, “Will I be able to practice this style for a long period of time?” I’ve seen some styles that seem to emphasize cool, flashy, acrobatic techniques, but I don’t think my body could handle such techniques now, let alone in 10 years.
One of the things that I really like about Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is that I feel like I should be able to practice it for years to come. My instructor never asks me to do anything that would produce a great degree of wear and tear on my body, or to rely on skills that are likely to greatly diminish with age.
Choosing a martial arts school can be daunting, but the good news is that there is a plethora of information available on the internet. Most of the martial arts schools that I’ve seen, at least in the Baltimore / Towson / Timonium / Cockeysville / Hunt Valley / Sparks / etc. areas, seem to include some sort of “selecting a school guide” on their websites. These include a lot of great information that is sure to be helpful to you. However, I want to share with you two new criterion you should use in you decision making process, that may seem rather unconventional.
1. Is the instructor still learning?
In my opinion, this question is even more important than the question “How much does the instructor know?” If the instructor is very knowledgeable, that’s great, but it can be nearly impossible to precisely quantify how much knowledge the instructor actually possesses.
If the instructor is constantly striving to expand his/her knowledge, by continued training and studying (in other words, they are still a student), then it hardly even matters how much they know right now, because they are learning and growing all the time. Each day they will have something new and exciting to share with the students.
Such an instructor is likely to be passionate about all aspects of the martial arts, and give his or her best when working with you. Since the instructor is still a student, he or she will have a helpful perspective and insight into your experience as a student, and can help you manage common pitfalls and challenges along the way.
Finally, I believe that instructors should always strive to continue learning because the martial arts are constantly evolving. New material, and new ways of teaching old material, are constantly being developed.
2. The other students in the class
The other students in the class might be even more important than the instructor, with regard to your progress. You and the other students will be interdependent upon each other for your growth and learning. If the other students are focused, hard working, and dedicated to their training, it is very likely that you will be able to make tremendous progress. The instructor can provide direction and knowledge, but only students, working together, can execute that knowledge and put it to use.
Our students and parents do us a huge honor each week by making our martial arts classes a part of their busy schedules. We are very grateful to get to work with such an amazing group of people. You clearly believe that the martial arts can have a profound impact on one’s life and growth. We agree, and we take this responsibility very seriously.
Here is a list of tenets that will guide our school and instructors through 2014 and beyond:
1. Our instructors must always be learning
We will constantly strive to learn new material, and to learn improved ways of teaching old material. We must consistently train with OUR instructors to ensure that we are bringing the best martial arts that we can to Timonium, Towson, Cockeysville, etc. Each class will be better than the last, because each day our instructors know more than they did the day before.
2. New equipment
You may have already noticed some of the new equipment around the dojo (padded training tools, grappling buddies, new bags, etc.), but that is merely the tip of the iceberg, my friends. We will always provide our students with the most effective, innovative, and safest equipment available. This will further revolutionize our training and help our students to have fun, while staying safe.
3. Keep class sizes manageable
Class quality will always be more important to us than size. A nice sized class is a lot of fun due to the energy and excitement levels, but we do not want our students packed in like sardines. Some of the earlier classes were getting to be quite crammed, and adding a new youth class on Fridays seems to have helped spread things out a great deal. We've also added a new Teen class on Tuesdays. Additionally, several of our talented teen students are approaching the rank of Black Belt, and look to be making fine instructors. We plan on bringing more instructors onto our staff in the near future, which will further help to maintain a low student-teacher ratio. Each student deserves the individual attention that will take him or her to the next level!
In summary, you can always expect each class to be better than the last, because our class is fully committed to Kaizen (a term I first heard when attending Towson University), or “constant and never-ending improvement!”
The other day I was listening to an interview with author Wayne Dyer. One of the main topics discussed was how we react and interact with others. At one point, Dr. Dyer said something that really caught my attention, “No one ever died of a snake bite.” “What does he mean?” I wondered, “People die of snakes’ bites all the time!” He went on to explain that while people may die after being bitten by snakes, it wasn’t the bite itself that killed them, but the venom.
I thought about this, and found that it was a great analogy for viewing our interactions with others, especially when we are talking about the difficult situations related to bullying. Imagine that someone comes up to me and calls me a name. The name-calling itself isn’t what is really going to bother me, but how I interpret what happened.
If I dwell on this incident, believing that what they said is true, and taking it as proof that I am unpopular, or if I harbor a deep-seated anger towards this person for a long period afterwards, it is akin to being bitten by a poisonous snake. Scientifically speaking, the “bite” itself probably had little effect on my physical and mental state, but my interpretation of the event, and the after effects, can be devastating.
However, maybe I am able to shrug it off, look at the big picture and think, “Maybe this person is having a rotten day, deep down they are probably a kind person, I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, I don’t need everyone to like me, etc.” Then, the name-calling would be akin to getting bitten by a non-venomous snake. Sure, I would prefer that it didn’t happen at all (I am petrified of snakes), but it is not the end of the world.
Obviously, one big difference is that with bullying, we actually are in control over whether or not the “snake bite” is “venomous.” It may not seem that way at times, but I believe that with the right training and proper mindset, we can avoid letting bullying “poison” our minds.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Here are some examples of thoughts that might go through a person’s mind after being bullied. I have labeled them as to whether or not they seem venomous to me.
1. I am sad, that hurt my feelings. (Non- venomous)
2. This is an absolutely horrible day; no one likes me. (Venomous)
3. That was rather unpleasant. (Non-venomous)
4. I really hope something bad happens to that guy/girl! (Venomous)
5. Maybe he/she is having a bad day. (Non- venomous)
6. He/she is an absolute rascal/scum/etc.! (Venomous)