“People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
It took me a long time, but I have come to accept the fact that no matter how much I want it, no matter how hard I work towards it, not everyone who walks in our Dojo doors will one day be a Black Belt. No matter how fervently I try to pass on my own passion for the martial arts, not everyone will share it and live it. No matter how important it is to me, not everyone will develop the skills and the will to prevail over any threat they might encounter. I’ll keep trying, but I’ve come to accept that the world won’t necessarily bend to my will.
But if you asked me if there was one single thing that I would like everyone who walks through our doors to possess when they walk back out, it’s a willingness to fail. That, to me, is the single biggest lesson we can pass on to our children. For a child, the fear of failing means missing out at any number of chances to explore and grow. Kids that learn to pick themselves up and dust themselves off, meanwhile, become far more adept at recognizing and availing themselves of opportunity.
But this form of spiritual paralysis isn’t limited to kids. Some people make it well into adulthood without taking the chances necessary to reaching their full potential. Other grown-ups, having become successful in their communities and chosen fields, lose their willingness to step outside the sphere of comfort they’ve worked so hard to create.
So I’ll be willing to fail, but I’ll try as hard as I can not to—especially when it comes to passing on the lesson that failure isn’t final, just an important bit of pavement on the road to success.
We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth.
It represents our peace and security… our freedom… our home.
But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights,
we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties.
Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done.
Bowing to the American flag is the first thing every member of our Dojo does at the beginning of every class; the respect we give that banner comes before our acknowledgement of teachers, fellow students and even family.
To me, this gesture goes beyond just a declaration of our fealty to our country (especially in the case of our non-citizen students, who respectfully also bow). It’s an important deference to the ideals on which our nation was founde
That’s something rather unique about us as Americans: whereas other great nations throughout history have been formed purely as a result of geographic lines, common cultures or powerful conquerors and their armies, the United States was founded and rose to greatness on the strength of its ideals.
I would argue that those ideals – respect for others, devotion to fairness and justice, the belief that any person can create a better life for themselves through hard work – are no different from our own Dojo values. Our bow to the flag, then, is a daily recommitment we make to our duty to hold those values close and perpetuate them wherever we can.
It’s the little details that are vital.
Little things make big things happen.
I believe that a person who is drawn to martial arts training is the kind of person who aspires to Big Things. It is, after all, quite an aspiration—that desire to become a warrior, someone who is up to any challenge that life throws at them.
One of the first and most crucial things I try to teach my students, though, is the importance of the little things. One good kick, for instance, is the sum of a lot of small ingredients: the right stance, the correct hand position, a high knee, accurate targeting et al. Our strength is the accumulation of every time we pushed ourselves in an exercise long after are muscles started to ache. Our mastery of a technique is the total of all the times we practiced those moves long we felt like it was “pretty good.”
Big victories are wonderful things, and I encourage all my students to set big goals and dream big dreams. But it’s important to realize that for those goals to be achieved and those dreams realized, it’s the little things to which we must focus our passion and energy.