Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why do so many arts end in Do?

Just why do so many martial arts end in “-do”?

Do, Dao, Tao - They all translate to mean “the path” or “the way”. Many martial arts reference this concept in the name of their style; Tang Soo Do, Karate-Do, Aikido, etc. The list goes on and on. The theme comes up constantly, so it must be a very important concept, right?
Any true martial art contains within it this concept of “Do”; if it doesn’t, it’s just a method of mindless fighting. A martial arts teacher isn’t simply teaching their students to beat people up. They are modeling individuals to be righteous and have outstanding character. Tang Soo Do, the martial art that I am involved with, contains within it 14 attitude requirements for proper training, five codes  and seven tenets to live by. These concepts are not only to be used in the dojang but applied to everyday life. I’m sure that many other martial arts have similar doctrines that they teach their students. The fact of the matter is, your martial art is expected to be your “way of life"  your “-do”, if you will.
So now you have to ask yourself. Do you live your martial art? Your response might be, “Sure, I practice every day, wherever I am.” But how do you practice? Do you practice with intent or do you simply go through the motions? Are you making the effort to reach deeper understanding or are you waiting for your instructor to spoon feed you everything? Do you live the principles laid out for you by your instructor or do you forget about things like respect to others and service to the community once your uniform is off and you are out the door? It all comes down to you asking yourself what type of student you want to be. Do you want to be a martial artist or simply someone who does karate? To be a martial artist is to let the training change and mold you. It is to become completely immersed in the pursuit of improving mind and body. As you advance in training, your goals also encompass the enhancement of others as well. The very nature of your training can inspire others to accomplish what you have. Teaching others the skills you have learned can help you to take them to the next level. In a way, you’re not training someone to fight, you’re training them to live a certain way. You lead them down a certain path...a “-do”.
Success in a martial art takes time and dedication. Doing the bare minimum to move along will result in a bare minimum change in yourself. Everyone is capable of greatness, they just have to be willing to immerse themselves in that in which they wish to become great. It has to become part of who you are not something you just do. The greatest martial artists eat, sleep, and breathe their art. It’s more than the physical training. It’s about the traditions and philosophies passed down through the generations from instructor to student. The “-do” is most important; you have to be willing to travel it, pay attention, and let it change you.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The first step

            I've been pondering the idea of starting a blog for some time now. Plenty of instructors have let on that keeping a journal is a very good way to expand upon your martial arts training and I intend this blog to be at least a part of that journal. I feel it necessary to thank Master Mark Jorgensen and Master Scott Homschek for the inspiration as I follow their blogs religiously and am inspired by every entry.

            I do have to offer this disclaimer: I am not a writer. In fact, my brain leans more toward the maths  and sciences of the world. I have always found it very difficult to express myself in general. I can probably be best described as an introvert. When you go out to a public place and you see someone sitting quietly just watching and listening by themselves or within a very small group, that person might be me or someone like me. Interaction with other people quite honestly drains me under most circumstances. Notice I said 'most'...When I have my dobahk on, it's a whole different story. Everyone should have a 'thing' and Tang Soo Do is mine. I will never claim to be an expert as I am quite positive that I have much to learn.

            My martial arts training started like many. I was nervous and unsure, but willing to learn and follow the instructions of the master instructor and his black belts. The studio and members were all very welcoming. Everyone has a reason for starting the martial arts which is personal to them. Mine was a general interest due to movies and a disgust with being bullied. I trusted the instructor and his students, which is why I continued to be a pupil there. The first step to really learning martial arts, or anything for that mater, is to trust your instructor(s). A student that doubts the lesson will never truly grasp the lesson. When I was a beginner, I took this concept for granted. I just trusted, listened, watched, and practiced. Looking back, I realize that some of the students that were having difficultly while I excelled quite simply didn't trust as much as they should. Now that I have my own students I am beginning to understand the importance of that student/instructor trust relationship. Some that come through my doors trust immediately and are willing to follow instructions without question. Others are cautious at first but eventually come around. There are a few that never learn to trust and those are the ones that eventually quit. It may take days, weeks, months or even years, but once their lack of trust gets in the way of them continuing to learn, the frustration keeps them  from continuing.
            I take my role as an instructor very seriously. I do my best to make every student feel welcome from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave. I do that because my instructor did that for me and because it's the proper thing to do. One of the many roles as instructor is to help people realize that they are capable of great things. If a student doesn't trust me, they will never walk through the doors I open for them. The first step a student takes along the path of 'The Way' will determine whether they continue or not. That first step will determine how they follow the path you are leading them down. We all stumble, but how fast will we get up, if we do at all?

            I will end this entry with some advice.
            Perspective students: enter the studio with an open mind and a willing heart. If you are the type of person that is very cautious, just remember that this is the age of technology. Do your research and ask plenty of questions. Any good instructor will have nothing to hide. He/she should know their lineage  as a martial artist and be able to explain the types of things you will be learning. You, as a potential student, need to be able to trust your new potential instructor.
            Instructors: You've made it to the point of having your own students for a reason. It started when your instructor trusted you with their students. Always remember what it feels like to walk into the dojang for the first time. I may not be comfortable in most social situations but Tang Soo Do continues to help me with that. When I wear my dobahk around other people that are also wearing dobahks, I am comfortable because we instantly have something in common. Once people find something in common, it's easier to have discussions when differences arise. We all need to take a first step, and that first step gets a lot easier when you are around someone you trust.

            There are many lessons to learn as we travel down the path of 'The Way'.