“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man;
true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Plenty of things to feel great about this past several days. Family Day at Maudslay State Park was a blast–with not even a couple bursts of rain dampening spirits at the Outdoor Dojo. Shodan Joe Repczynski’s glorious Crane Bed, was there, as was our incredible Demo Team, which capped off a very busy (and hot) week with some of their best performances yet. Thanks to everyone involved.
But for me, one of the real high points was a text I got later Saturday from Sensei Ricky Comeau of 5 Dragons Martial Arts, a Salisbury dojo also at Maudslay that day. He had some really wonderful things to say about our young students who he encountered, and who stopped by the 5 Dragons booth to watch their own (very impressive) students warming up and working out. Our students, Sensei Ricky observed, were “humble, polite and confident.” These, to me, are some of the highest compliments our young warriors can ever receive.
Generally when I meet a person who is boastful or boorish, I shrug it off and just do my best to avoid them. When that person is a martial artist, though (and there are plenty of trash-talking, strutting fighters out there), it really bothers me. Just like a missionary or member of the clergy represents their faith, we as martial artists represent our Art. We can either educate people as to all the wonderful ways that our training builds stronger individuals and stronger communities, or we can turn people off and shut their minds to it. That’s why it’s always such a pleasure to run into fellow martial artists like Rick Comeau and his students, and to hear that our students are representing.
You could say I’m extremely proud of their humility.
“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way.”
A few days ago I found myself in the position of explaining the concept of “cutting corners” to a group of four, five and six-year-olds.
This group of young students was warming up with some laps around the Dojo, stopping periodically to work our hand strikes and blocks. Many of these young warriors – as kids do in their hurry to get the next spot as quickly as possible – were literally cutting the corners of the track that we had laid out for them. Show me a person who thinks getting an entire group of young children to stop doing this by telling them just once or twice, and I’ll show you a person who probably doesn’t spend much time with young children. But we as instructors persevered, the kids all started running true, honest-to-God laps, and we had an opportunity to have a little “Mat Chat” about why the easiest thing often isn’t the best thing to do.
Moving around corners instead of cutting them takes extra time and energy. It can be really tiring, making sure we’re adhering to all the tiny details we need to observe in order to truly do something that needs to be done. And for us parents and teachers, getting our little people to observe all these little rules can be downright exhausting.
But the payoff is there, even if it takes a while to fully manifest itself. The child who constantly says “please” and “thank you”—even if they do because they’re constantly being reminded by their parents – becomes a polite person. The athlete who always pushes themselves as hard as they can becomes strong and fast. The player who regularly adheres to every rule of the game, and who demands of themselves the best they know they are capable of becomes a person of true integrity.
Live in the present,
launch yourself on every wave,
find your eternity in each moment.
-Henry David Thoreau
It’s about this time of year when I start to hear people wonder aloud “where has summer gone?” Talk about time slipping away, and less carefree times looming ahead.
Among the qualities we strive for through our Dojo training is the ability to occupy no other place mentally than the present moment and the present place. For a warrior, that is a crucial life-preservation skill. But preserving life is only the beginning—the full living of life is our true goal.
So let’s take some time to remind ourselves that Summer is still very much with us, and so should we be very much with the season.