Belt Tests and Loud Voices

This past weekend, our students took part in their monthly belt test. Over the month, I make a list of students who seem to be progressing with their tasks well and, over time, find myself crossing off a few names. This past month, however, I found fewer and fewer students unprepared for the daunting task before them. A staggering sixteen students progressed to the next level of training.

The chief complaint about our school, as a whole, lies within the fact that our students remained quiet even at their loudest yell.

There’s a time and place to be loud – boisterous even, but our school, filled with the meek and mild, strives to help students punctuate their lives with appropriate exclamation points, ellipses, commas, and even question marks. The highest level testers found themselves progressing well; however, without those exclamations, they went largely unnoticed. It seemed that the younger the student, the louder the yell. Perhaps they’re more vivacious and excited about life. Boy, do children work in mysterious ways!

As a whole, we all could learn a lesson from the younger students and take on their mindset.

“Don’t be afraid to get excited!”

“Don’t be afraid to get loud!”

Punctuate life fearlessly and move ever forward.


Interesting Pets and the Student Agenda

My wife, Polly, and I are long time animal lovers, having several pets of our own. Recently, she’s been working at a animal shelter, and during her time there, she’s seen an assortment of interesting critters. A snowy owl. A vulture. Flying squirrels. The possibilities are endless every time she walks in the door.

More often than not, these animals come in with some kind of injury that requires rehabilitation or even impairs them to the point where they can no longer be released. These animals mend their wounds and can either go out in the wild or find a safe haven where they can continue their lives happily.

Like the wildlife shelter, most people who seek martial arts seek refuge. But some come to me because their mom signed them up. Some come to me for better focus. Some come to me for strength. And then, some come to me for courage.

No matter the cause, though, we never turn anyone away. We watch people come and go, depending on their ability to go back into the wild alone. When I say alone, of course, I mean as individuals with a newfound or rediscovered skill set. The skills our students learn help them to cope with stresses of daily life, whether they face work, school, bullies, potential threats, or disgruntled teachers/bosses/coworkers.

Several of the younger students, I’ve noticed, come in with their heads down, gazes averted. Even as they go through adolescence, more new students come in with downcast faces. Maybe as we get older, we get more jaded, but bully-esque individuals haunt us throughout all of our lives – maybe less physical and “give me your lunch money,” though.

All of our students find something in themselves that pushes for the rigorous art. Sometimes, people come and go as their confidence grows and they learn a few new moves to show that special person who’s boss. Most other times, though, people come in and train several days a week, strengthening themselves over time.

Much like the shelter where my wife volunteers, I see great variety in need and desire in my students. All of whom, however, prove able to return into their own wild worlds.

Answering the Phone and Colorful Socks

Along the way and over time, we all find ourselves a little perplexed at new trends and the latest fads. People start doing their hair up like thirty years ago. Déjà vu? Not quite, but I still find myself back in the eighties and sincerely hope the music is the only thing that comes back in style. One thing that never changes, though, is the nervousness in new and applying employees. It seems like an ingrained nervousness from the dawn of time.

“I hope I do well.”

“I hope I get hired.”

“I hope my nervous sweat isn’t too noticeable.”

“Oh, no! I completely forgot to shake their hand!”

That’s when my current secretary secured the job, her insecurities seemed infinite. The main priority I felt necessary to assist her with was (and still is) the telephone, much to her dismay. No amount of sweaters and cleverly patterned socks could console her.

Working at the studio, I find that many remain nervous, even when the coast is clear. Notably during and after belt tests. But isn’t that part of learning a martial art? Yes, but eliminating nervousness entirely proves impossible, much to my own disappointment as a man who still undergoes belt tests and examinations from superiors.

Controlling those emotions of fear and those seeds of doubt becomes easier through the physical push. I find that the exertion and the self control of my body better helps control those fears, doubts, and negative feelings in my mind. It provides a center and a stable point in life to which I can escape.

I may be on the mat with my students, wondering if I’m a good enough instructor or not. My students may be on the mat, possibly with something causing them to be there physically more than mentally. And my assistant may be in the office, staring wistfully at the phone.

We all have doubts, but with the help of disciplines stressed in hap ki do, I find, in my students, my assistant, and even myself, that the seemingly insurmountable becomes possible.