This blog is all about accepting ourselves and others for who we are. It seems like everywhere we look there are advertisements telling us we NEED something, as if something is wrong with us if we don’t wear the right clothes or listen to the right music. I’m certainly guilty of this as a martial arts instructor. For a long time I thought it was my job to help shy children become more extroverted, to help make loud kids be quiet, etc. in other words, to change people.
These days I’ve adopted a new approach. Our martial arts program is not about changing who a person is; it is about working with who they are.
In my early days, as I mentioned, I thought the goal was to change people. Of course the martial arts should help a person learn and grow to lead happy, fulfilling lives. However, there are many aspects of our personalities that I believe are difficult, if not impossible to change. My earlier attempts to change people, and myself, showed a lack of appreciation and understanding for the different things that can contribute to who we are: genetics, early childhood experiences, etc. It also ignores the fact that behaviors that may seem undesirable can actually represent an underlying trait that can be a blessing if guided properly.
Think of each one of us as a sailboat. The wind is all of the things that contribute to who we are fundamentally. It is out of our control. We can use the rudder to steer the boat, but if we try to paddle in the opposite direction, we will be fighting the wind, and we are unlikely to make much progress.
Children who we consider to be shy are often times very thoughtful, capable of making a few very close friends. Those who seem “negative,” can also be very successful, as they may be very realistic, wisely cautious, and detect problems earlier on. I might coach such a person to start each day by listing all of the things they are thankful for, but I would not try to change them, as there is nothing wrong with them.
Early on in my teaching career, while I may never have come out and told a student, “Stop being so shy/hyper/negative/etc!” I believe they detected the underlying message: That something was wrong with them and needed to be fixed. I did the same thing to myself. I would beat myself up wondering, “Why can’t I be more outgoing? Why am I this way?” Now, when observing behaviors in myself and others, I ask myself, “How is this a good thing?” and even if the behavior is undesirable, I can ask myself, “Does this represent an underlying trait that is actually positive?” Some behaviors, such as lying, may be regarded as immoral and undesirable, but perhaps a child who is having trouble telling the truth can find a positive outlet to their creativity, such as art or writing, while at the same time learning the importance of honesty.
I think of it as helping or guiding children, rather than changing them; respecting them as individuals. I would like to leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Thanks for reading.
WOW! Our first ever in-school tournament yesterday was amazing! I hope that it was as fun to participate in as it was to watch. The effort levels we saw were nothing short of stupendous, and I think it is safe to say that everyone earned their trophy several times over.
First of all, the heat made things even more challenging, and I can only imagine how much hotter it must have seemed to the competitors, who were working so hard, often while wearing their sparring gear. Despite being packed in like sardines in the smoldering heat, I didn’t hear anyone complain (other than me), as the audience was very enthusiastic and the competitors were too focused on giving their all to worry about anything else.
We had a very large turnout, filling the dojo to its capacity, so competitors had to wait while others were competing. Again, there was no complaining, only cheers and support for their fellow students who were competing.
Our adult students began with their sparring, as there were only four of them, but they provided enough effort for 20 people. With very little rest in between rounds, these four champions got things going with some very exciting and skillful sparring.
Next our youngest competitors, our Little Ninja students (4-6 year olds), demonstrated their katas and training tools. Everyone was very impressed, as it was obvious that they had worked hard in preparation for this day, and they didn’t seem to be phased by the fact that so many eyes were on them. What confidence!
Our youth students (ages 6 and up) demonstrated their katas, training tools, and sparring skills next. The skill levels of these students made me, and all in attendance, very proud, as all of the hard work that these students have put in was plain to see. It was non-stop action for over an hour as student after student got up, and wowed the audience with their techniques, as well as their courage to perform in front of a large audience.
The final event of the afternoon was the advanced sparring. This sparring division was for Black Belts and any student that had earned the Sparring Patch. This event showcased our most experienced students and they did not disappoint.
Time and time again I saw one student gain the upper hand on another. However, just when I thought the match was over, the student on the bottom, sometimes through expert technique, sometimes through a near-superhuman effort (and usually some combination of the two), would find a way to use what energy they had left to escape or reverse the position. Bear in mind that this was at the end of the day. I was exhausted by the end of the tournament, and I wasn’t even competing! The fact that these champions were able to compete at such a high level in such challenging conditions amazes me!
If there was one thing that moved me as much as the efforts of the students, it was the support and compassion of the families in attendance, and the respect of the students for one another. All day I heard shouts of encouragement from all sides, for every student, and despite the heat everyone seemed happy to be there. It was an incredible atmosphere and made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to work with such a wonderful group of people.
As tiring as the event was, I didn’t even notice how tired I was until it was over. In fact, it wasn’t until I was on the way home late in the afternoon that I realized I hadn’t eaten lunch for the day, I was having too much fun to notice! I hope everyone had a great time, and we look forward to holding another tournament later this year!