Not a martial arts post this, but an interesting bit of news about our Chief Instructor, Master Richard Olpin.
Yesterday he was tested for the IAM Roadsmart ‘Masters’ level driving test. This is recognised as the highest level of civilian driving in the world and is compared to ‘a Police advanced driver, without a blue light..’
Master Olpin was tested by a Police examiner on very challenging roads for nearly two hours, and just to make things interesting he also had the examiner’s boss in the back seat – who is head of driving standards for the whole of the UK. No pressure then!
After the test, which not only included driving at the very highest level but also a comprehensive examination of theory, Roadcraft and legal knowledge he was informed he’d not just passed the test, but had been awarded the highest level distinction, which is held by only about 380 drivers in the UK.
For a bit of perspective, there are around 36 million qualified drivers in the UK, so that means it’s that only about one in every 100,000 drivers have achieved this standard.
That’s an example of Black Belt Excellence. Never accept anything less than your very best. Whatever you do, aim for greatness!
On Tuesday night I had a chance to catch up with a few of the parents after their holidays etc. and as is quite typical this time of year I heard a few tales of the dreaded ‘back to school blues’
Parents often dread those first few days back to school, and teachers are faced by a sea of grumpy faces in class wondering what on earth happened to those smiley energetic kids from a few weeks ago. I’m sure when it came to monday morning, or resuming their regular activities after a holiday break many of you heard those words: “I don’t wanna go”.
There’s almost certainly no rational reason for that other than a knee-jerk reaction to the challenge of getting back into a routine. The back-to-school season is a difficult time for kids. Giving up the relative freedom of summer to go back into a regulated environment is a tough transition for them.
Think about it – At the school we’ve only had a couple of weeks off, but when we also factor in your family holidays etc. too, many of the students have actually not been in class for three or four weeks, perhaps even longer. That’s quite a long time for a youngster.
During their holidays they’ve had less boundaries, probably lots of late nights, lie-ins, and more opportunity to indulge themselves. Now they’re back to school, all of a sudden they feel like ‘we’ have taken all their freedom away. Suddenly the grown-ups are making them do stuff. Shock horror! They aren’t allowed to play all day, they have to go to bed early, get up early, go to boring school all day, do their homework etc.
They don’t see the bigger picture, to them, they feel they’ve lost all their freedom, and somehow it’s our fault. Adults always make us do boring stuff eh! As they have limited ways to feel in control, so they tend to resort to the only tactic they know to exert their will – those dreaded words “I don’t want to” – which roughly translates as I’m not going to do anything you want me to.
Kids live in the moment. They don’t think about next week, next month or next year. All they see is that “I am having fun here and now on my xbox, or hanging out with my friends doing nothing. Why should I get up and do something else?”
As adults, while we can understand this feeling, we also know it is not what is best for them. Especially, if they are facing a new challenge. It is our job to think for the long term and see past the next 5 minutes, hours, days or years. I know it is hard at times, but it’s important to remember the benefits they are gaining which we can understand as adults, even if they don’t see them (yet) as children.
Why did you sign your child up for martial arts training in the first place? Was it just because their best friend was training, or because he saw the Power Rangers on TV? Maybe that’s why they started, but I’d bet there were other more substantial reasons too. You probably thought that the type of discipline provided by the training, the respect for self and others, along with the physical activity, not to mention the very useful skill of self defence would enhance your child as she encountered a world which is not as kind, not as safe, and not as well-mannered as it once was, right?
This cannot be overstated – you made a decision to provide your son or daughter with an set of life skills that cannot be easily attained elsewhere.
Let’s consider another perspective:
What if your child said, “I don’t want to go to school anymore!” You wouldn’t dismiss that easily or bow down to their request. You might investigate if there was a reason or a problem to address, but most likely, you’d explain that school is an essential part of life, and they’ll really appreciate it later, so yes, tomorrow morning they do have to go and take that maths test!
Have you ever tried to learn a musical instrument? It takes a long time to develop the skills necessary to understand, appreciate, and play an instrument, but we persevere. Martial arts are no different in this regard. If we left the decision up to our children, we would never have another musician. Ever. No child would ever voluntarily practice the piano with the necessary dedication it takes to build proficiency. No child would ever attend a music lesson if she thought for one moment missing practice was an option!
You are the parent, and you have to be the stable force in your child’s life.
The whims of your children will come and go as easily as daydreams. If you are likely to allow their flighty thoughts of fancy to sway your decisions relative to their safety, self-esteem, and discipline, then what next? “Mum, I don’t like wearing a bike helmet.” “Dad, why do I need to learn geography, I’ll never use this stuff.” The list of “I don’t see the point” topics is never ending and you’re going to have to draw the line somewhere. Safety, self-esteem, and self-discipline seem to be a pretty good place to start.
Thanks for sticking with the long post, but it’s a topic that we all come up against this time of year, and often in the new year/post-christmas blues too so I thought it was worth getting something down to think about.
In the long run we all know that the kids love it once they get to class. Much like when we as adults get ourselves off the sofa and go to the gym, or tackle that bit of DIY that needed doing in the garden. It doesn’t matter what their mood is when they come through the door to start the class. What matters is how they feel when they’ve just finished!
As always, if we can help, don’t hesitate to ask. That’s what we’re here for!
You’re going to face natural flat spots and challenges along the way, they’re a part of life and a part of the martial arts. Always remember though, nobody ever got good at something by *not* doing it.
Everyone who’s achieved something worthwhile went through hardships along the way, but they pushed through to the next level and onwards to greatness!
Final grading preparations today, another read over the Black Belt submissions etc.
Best of luck to everyone testing tomorrow, especially the Black Belt candidates. This is a very special day for them, representing the final stage of their ‘apprenticeship’ and the beginning of the journey to mastery!
Whatever the results tomorrow, remember in the martial arts you’re automatically a ‘winner’ every time you show up to train. The only way you can ever ‘fail’ at martial arts is to give up.
Perseverance is the key, remember “A Black Belt is a white belt that never quit”
I’d bet you’d be hard pressed to find a black belt who would trade all of their knowledge, experience and friendships they made along the way for million dollars. It’s certainly a worthy endeavor that is highly rewarding.
If you’ve been thinking about starting yourself, here are 101 reasons for you to consider…
- Because it will help you feel confident in yourself
- Because you want to know what to do “when it hits the fan”
- Because you feel nervous walking to your car at night
- Because you’ll feel proud of yourself
- Because it helps you lose some weight
- Because it helps to relieve stress
- Because it gives you “you time”
- Because it’s cheaper than a personal trainer
- Because it increases your productivity at work
- Because it is a great investment in yourself
- Because it will make you walk taller
- Because you may need to protect your loved ones someday
- Because you want to be able to take care of yourself
- Because it improves your balance
- Because it improves your coordination
- Because it improves your flexibility
- Because it can help you sleep better at night
- Because it makes you sweat
- Because it sharpens your mind
- Because it increases your awareness
- Because it builds character
- Because you are worth it
- Because you deserve a better life
- Because you want to meet new people
- Because you’ve always wanted to earn a black belt
- Because it elevates your spirit
- Because you want a workout with a purpose
- Because it is an adventure worth taking
- Because it will boost your energy
- Because it will help you remain calm in difficult situations
- Because it is empowering
- Because it will help you feel safer
- Because it helps increase your longevity
- Because it helps you learn to never give up
- Because it helps become more patient
- Because it is exhilarating
- Because punching something feels so good
- Because kicking something feels even better
- Because it gives you inner peace
- Because your friends will see a change in you
- Because it sets you apart from your friends
- Because it helps you to overcome challenges
- Because it forces you to become disciplined
- Because it is based on philosophy
- Because it emphasizes self-restraint
- Because it connects you to a rich history and tradition
- Because you lose your ego and become more humble in the process
- Because it feeds your need to be creative
- Because it fulfills your need to compete
- Because it will help you develop your leadership skills
- Because it teaches you to overcome self doubt
- Because you will learn something new
- Because earning a black belt is an accomplishment few have earned
- Because it helps you fulfill your curiosity about the martial arts
- Because it helps you to remain focused in your everyday life
- Because it pushes you to break through your own limits
- Because it can help you overcome your anxiety of being attacked
- Because you’re seeking balance in your life
- Because you want you want to belong to something
- Because you have always felt uncoordinated
- Because it emphasizes respect of others
- Because it connects you to a rich and fascinating history
- Because you’re tired of sitting on the couch
- Because you’re tired of hearing about how awesome it is from your friend
- Because you’re seeking something physically challenging
- Because you want to participate in something mentally stimulating
- Because you need a break from your kids
- Because you’re never to old to get started
- Because you want motivation to keep active
- Because you need a break from your usual routine
- Because you need something to do besides just work
- Because you think going to the gym is boring
- Because you don’t know what to do if you were ever confronted
- Because you like being around honest people
- Because you like being around courteous people
- Because you know that without perseverance nothing meaningful can be achieved
- Because being honorable in your all your dealings in important to you
- Because its something you won’t regret
- Because it keeps you mentally sharp
- Because it makes you feel good about yourself
- Because you want to get into better shape
- Because it can help you overcome your fears
- Because it can help you lower your blood pressure
- Because it can help you get conditioned
- Because you will learn to hit the right targets that get results
- Because it will help you stop being a procrastinator
- Because running isn’t your thing
- Because you’re tired of feeling fatigued
- Because you’re looking for a different way to exercise
- Because it’s not all about just getting into better physical shape
- Because you can inspire others
- Because it brings about a gentleness within you
- Because it can help you lower your heart rate
- Because you feel like something is missing in your life
- Because you want to learn self-defense
- Because you don’t want to be bullied ever again
- Because you don’t feel you can stick up for yourself
- Because something bad happened in your life (and you never want it to happen again)
- Because your body is meant to move
- Because it will make you feel better
- Because its fun!
I hope this long list of reasons why you should take martial arts gives you inspiration you’ve needed to finally begin taking martial arts as an adult.
Why not try our classes FREE for 30 days and see those benefit for yourselves?
There is a wonderful book entitled Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard. In it he describes the journey he took as a 47 year old beginner in the martial art of Aikido. This is a fantastic book that every martial artist should read.
We live in a culture that stresses immediate gratification and instant perfection. Yet, the pursuit of martial arts is a long process, a journey that will wind its way slowly through one’s life. There is no immediacy. As we travel this long slow journey, we will often encounter plateaus. Yes, the dreaded “P” Word. No one likes to hear it and we enjoy them less when we experience it. This is the place; however, we will spend most of our life as a martial artist in pursuit of “mastery”. So, we have to ask as Leonard proposes in his book, “Where in our upbringing, our schooling, our career are we explicitly taught to value, to enjoy, even to love the “plateau”, the long stretch of diligent effort with no seeming progress?”
Many keys to mastery exist and Leonard explains them in detail but the first is to recognize the type of person you are; Dabbler, Obsessive, or Hacker.
The Dabbler tries many things but is never satisfied with any of them, none of them “fit” her style.
The Obsessive goes all out, 110% into the pursuit and exceeds everyone’s expectations for a short time, then comes against a wall and flails about for some time until he completely stops trying and moves on to the next obsession.
The Hacker enjoys the activity and progresses to a medium level of competency but does not get any better, he is satisfied with mediocrity. None of these profiles will give you feelings of satisfaction or accomplishment.
If you recognize yourself in any of these profiles, do not fear there is a fourth type: ∫.
In George Leonard’s book, this is what he says about mastery:
Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases the than which preceded it. The curve (below) is necessarily idealized. In the actual learning experience, progress is less regular; the upward spurts vary; the plateaus have their own dips and rises along the way. But the general progression is almost always the same. To take the masters journey, you have to practice diligently, striving to hone your skills, to attain new levels of competence. But while doing so – and this is the inexorable fact of the journey – you also have to be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau, to keep practicing even when you seem to be getting nowhere. (p14-15)
The Master realizes there will be a slow climb to the top and they will hit many plateaus along the way. You will eventually break through those plateaus with prolonged practice and determination but will also perceive a decline in abilities. Yes, it will feel like your skills have gone down for a time. If we were to graph the Master’s Journey, it would look like the picture below. This should not be discouraging as you will see that you are still progressing upward. It is slow and methodical, and yes, sometimes boring but you are making progress.
This is the journey to Mastery in anything we participate in, especially martial arts because of the intrinsic nature of the arts. The Black Belt Champion (Attitude) and a spirit of perseverance (that Indomitable Spirit) will help immensely along the way by providing focus and discipline.
David Campbell said, “Discipline is remembering what you want.”
Have the discipline to know that the Master’s Journey is rewarding and the end result will be far greater than anything you can currently perceive.
Hows this for some SERIOUS self defence skills?
This is Roy Elghanayan. He’s a former Israeli Armed Forces veteran who now runs a Krav Maga school in Los Angeles.
We can’t promise you’ll get this good overnight, but if you’re interested in learning some practical self defence then check out our next Adults Introduction to Personal Safety course, starting next week