Let me start this blog by reminding you of the mission of Martial Arts Unlimited Victoria:
“The mission of Martial Arts Unlimited Victoria is to support people in exploring their human potential. We offer an environment of support from our staff and members who share the desire to create opportunities for personal growth. We recognize the benefits of martial arts for practitioners and aim to provide those benefits for our customers and staff. Our culture will centre on respect for others and a never ending reach for a better self. Mastery over martial arts is a mirror for mastery of our selves. We envision our community working together to achieve excellence in martial arts and in our lives.”
This may sound like an idealistic and overly philosophical mission for a martial arts facility but let me unequivocally tell you that it is exactly what we are trying to achieve. That means that every member has a responsibility to protect the well-being of others both in and out of the dojo. A person’s well-being has physical, mental and emotional components and finding the right balance of how to treat each individual regarding each of those components in an effort to maximize their development is no easy task. That said, if you are a member of our dojo, it is a balance you are required to work on and constantly improve for the good of yourself and every other member you train with.
Why am I writing about this at all?
I believe we have done a great job of creating a great vibe at our school. We have a growing stable of members who show up ready to work hard and leave feeling as though they accomplished something good in the time they spent in class. Everybody does their best to make sure that the people they train with are made to feel good during class. Everybody seems to understand that nobody should leave the dojo feeling frustrated with their progress. Unfortunately, sometimes our best effort to support others isn’t enough. Sometimes I’ve seen members fail in their job and I’ve watched people leave the dojo feeling down on themselves. That’s when it’s time to write a blog letting everybody know ways in which they can improve. If the behaviour continues after the blog has been put out there, personal conversations will be had. If it still continues after that, a tougher conversation will be had.
I’m sure by now that I have made clear how important it is to me to protect the positive energy in our school. I’ve been clear that there have been some scenarios that didn’t play out the way I would have liked to see them play out. I’m going to give some examples of what I mean and it is important now that you look in the mirror during the rest of this blog and ask yourself “Have I ever done this?” I have often gone home after training with regrets about the way I have made somebody feel. Countless times I have had to face the brutal fact that I am not perfect. I hate it when that happens! My delusions are wonderful but they don’t help in achieving the mission I set out for my school so I have to make adjustments. Please do the same after reading this.
Let’s start with an obvious scenario. Two people partner up for a drill and one of them is bigger and/or more experienced than the other. The smaller/less experienced person is holding pads when suddenly, BOOM, the bigger one hits the pad with all out thunderous power. Not cool, man! We all started out new and did not know how to hold pads properly and it is simply unacceptable to hurt people because, “you want to train hard.” At the end of the day, you all get an equal amount of training with experienced vs inexperienced partners. Help your inexperienced partners by taking them to the threshold of their comfort zone but be careful not to cross it. This is a hard one to follow perfectly and it will inevitably happen sometimes that you will hit too hard and realize after that your partner didn’t enjoy the experience. I can forgive that. At that point, it is time to apologize and start working with the person to make them comfortable again. Take the lesson home and make your best effort to not do it again.
The next scenario is not physical but is just as dangerous to a person’s growth in martial arts. It is insidious and creates a negative energy that can suck the life out of a person’s training experience. It happens when one person is frustrated with either themself or with their partner. There are situations where a person you are partnered with may justifiably be getting on your nerves. Examples of this are if they are not listening to instructions and then slowing down the drill as a result or if they are hitting too hard and hurting you like in the last paragraph. What I am referring to is if a partner is trying their hardest and they are having a hard time to hold pads or get the timing of the drill or something along those lines. You simply must be patient with a person that is giving their best effort… even if it doesn’t hold up to your standards of what a partner should be able to do. You also need to watch your frustration level with yourself so you do not affect the training experience of the people around you.
Let’s first address the issue of being frustrated with a partner who is doing their best. It is unlikely that you will be stuck with a person way below your level in class for the entirety of the class unless you have specifically indicated that you are happy to spend an entire class helping them out. That said, it is your duty as a senior student to help them along and make sure they do not feel guilty about their lack of skill. You may correct their mistakes but you need to be careful to do it with an encouraging smile. There are people that are full of confidence and if you correct the way they hold a pad, they hear that you want them to correct the way they hold a pad. There are others who when you correct the way they hold a pad hear that you are annoyed with their lack of skill, you wish you were partnered with somebody better and maybe they should just give up and go back to being a couch potato. These people have such an opportunity for growth and they need an environment where they feel safe to make mistakes. Every small win is a huge deal for them that can raise their self-concept. Be a part of that instead of stifling their growth with a misplaced scowl or even simply a lack of encouragement.
Now let’s address the issue of poor body language when you feel frustrated with yourself. To be blunt, get over yourself. Nobody is perfect and nobody told you that martial arts was going to be easy. Training can be intense and drills can be confusing. Guess what? You aren’t going to nail every drill on your first try and expecting to points to an ego issue that you may be wearing like a straightjacket. I have seen students repeatedly become frustrated when they struggle with concepts and I always chuckle and wonder if they thought they were going to come in and do everything perfect on their first attempt. It is very helpful to your progress when you just let go of your expectations of how you should be performing and stick to simply trying to improve little by little over the long haul. As Margaret Thatcher once said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” Wipe that scowl off your face and learn to laugh at yourself. If you can’t do that, you are actually being quite greedy. You are making your partners uncomfortable and may even be causing them to wonder what they are doing wrong.
Finally is the issue of brining your personal life to the dojo. We are all friends and we all understand that on occasion people have off days or situations in their lives that negatively affect their moods. The issue is when people decide to wallow in self-pity and mope around the gym in low energy. You don’t have to fake a positive demeanor and it’s a great idea to work out when feeling down but watch how deeply you are engaging in that energy so that you do not affect the energy of others. If you are feeling so down that you may weep at any moment or you are liable to snap at somebody before you can catch yourself, you need to consider whether training is a good idea that day. Perhaps you should go for a run or do another activity that you can do alone. It is acceptable to be a little quieter than usual but if everybody who sees you is asking if you are okay the second they see you then you shouldn’t be at the gym. Either that or you need to suck it up! The mats have healing powers to those to want to soak them up. If you aren’t into letting go of your problems for the period that you will be in class, please stay home.
Attitude management will literally decide your success in not only martial arts but also in Life in general. It pays to be kind to others and it especially pays when you need to stretch yourself a little to do it. Remember what the dojo stands for. Read the mission and get to work helping to create “an environment of support from our staff and members who share the desire to create opportunities for personal growth”. Pay attention to the faces of others and do your best to monitor whether you can help them leave with a smile on their face instead of feeling like they somehow failed you as a training partner. Pay attention to your body language and exude positivity when possible. Not only will the people you work with feel better as a result, you will as well.
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” ~George Washington Carver
The purpose of this blog
This blog is intended as a place to discuss ideas relevant to both both martial arts and life in general. Our school doesn't exist with the sole purpose of making great fighters but also of helping its members develop themselves into great people. The entries are about sharing ideas. I will not spend much time editing grammatical errors so please try not to let it drive you crazy when you come across them!