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.