Are Martial Arts Instructors Role Models?
I believe it is our first and foremost responsibility.
In the Oct/Nov 2010 – VOL 35 issue of Healthy Times Newspaper I wrote an article titled “Martial Arts for Weight Loss & Conditioning”. The article focused on healthy dieting tips and some basic nutritional facts that promised to produce a healthier lifestyle and weight loss. After writing the article I decided, not wanting to be a hypocrite, to put my diet tips to the test and personally follow and apply my very own advice. After ten weeks of following my own diet I have lost 33 pounds and counting, without increasing my exercise regimen. My waist size was reduced from 38 inches down to 31 inches. My doctor took me off all of my blood pressure medicines, my knee pains disappeared and my energy doubled. The only downside is my need for an entirely new wardrobe.
I constantly lecture and warn my students, particularly children and young adults on the dangers of Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking and the necessity of eating healthy. How can I be taken seriously and my lectures be effective if my students see me smoke, drink, do drugs get fat or lie to them? The best example for others is to live your live as a constant example. A very large portion of legitimate instructors positively effect and alter the lives of their students particularly the youth.
Nearly 30 years ago I was asked a direct and very difficult question during an interview while working on a film project. The question was. “Can Martial Arts Instructors be positive and influential role models while living their personal lives like demons”? After careful consideration my answer was categorically yes!
If parents smoke pot or cigarettes, over eat, drink excessively and lie to their children but adamantly teach and train their children to abstain from those vices the children have a chance to grow up avoiding those addictive habits. However the chances are far greater their children will avoid those pitfalls if the parents realize the importance of living their lives as wholesome positive role models.
Studies show children of alcoholics are prone to alcoholism. Abused children are prone to abusing their own children. Victims of molestation frequently molest etc. The old adage “actions speak louder than words” still holds true.
I am deeply sympathetic to Martial Arts instructors worldwide who strive to be healthy role models for their students. Often it goes very much unappreciated. Students sign up with dreams of success but quickly abandon that hope after discovering the hard work and discipline that is required, or their personal lives becomes too complicated and demanding. However if the student perseveres and remains focuse they will discover the rewards just as I did in following my own dieting tips. What’s of primary importance to most of us in order to succeed is a need for purpose.
Martial Arts programs provide a purpose. The quest for self-defense, weight loss, learning art form or just adding something new and exciting in their life provides perspective students with a purpose.
If you are interested in getting into shape and losing weight - which obviously you are or you wouldn’t be reading this article - start by setting realistic goals for yourself. Each time you accomplish a short term goal your confidence will soar and you will become more encouraged and determined to push forward. Success begets success and failure begets failure. So don’t set yourself up for failure from the start.
The significance and purpose of the belts or sashes in Martial Arts ranking systems are designed specifically for just that very reason. They shift the focus from long term seemingly impossible goals to short term achievable goals, which build confidence, self-esteem and provide the encouragement necessary for long term successes.
The beginning testing’s for the lower belts and sashes are easily obtained by virtually every student including the developmentally delayed and are nearly impossible for new students to fail which encourages and motivates them to attempt new and more exciting and challenging techniques in the future. The testing becomes increasingly more and more difficult as students progress through the system. However with the newly acquired levels of confidence and self esteem the students are ready to accept more difficult challenges.
Any diet in order to work long term must include not only very achievable goals but must be simple to maintain or failure will be imminent and cause the yo-yo effect syndrome.
A safe and realistic weight loss, depending on your weight of course, is approximately 2 to 3 pounds per week so as not to lose extensive muscle mass. As your weight loss occurs you will find it more and more difficult to lose the same pounds as you did in the beginning simply because you now have less fat on your body so the percentages will reduce accordingly.
There is considerable controversy regarding how often you should weigh yourself which needs to be on the same scale of course. I like weighing myself every morning and each afternoon. Occasionally I will gain a pound or so but then two or three days later will just as suddenly drop 2 or 3 pounds.
One thing you will begin to notice is that sometimes, even though your scale may not have indicated any weight loss, you will detect a small marked difference of your over all body appearance.
Edgar Rohas went from 215 Lbs. to 146 Lbs.
Abraham Avalos lost 40 Lbs.
Johnny Tiatano went fro 257 Lbs to 180 Lbs.
Written by Grand Master Bob Chaney
Reality or Fantasy
What is the reason for the phenomenal success of the traditional Martial Arts and today’s incredible popularity of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts schools) opening on every corner?
The traditional Martial Arts are often misunderstood by the laymen as well as even the most experienced practitioners and instructors. One of the strongest human needs next to survival is recognition. Recognition provides self-worth, confidence, and self respect. Traditional martial sarts like Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, etc. are popular for their character building attributes associated with traditional training. It provides students with status, leadership skills, builds athleticism, develops confidence and leads to academic achievement by enhancing concentration and the ability to focus. Athleticism is forged thru repetitive drills and strenuous exercise. The discovery of “I can,” takes over as students achieve rank and status while learning accountability and taking responsibility for leading and setting good examples for their peer-group.
Does two years of strenuous training make deadly fighting machines out of the average student capable of single handedly wiping out a gang of Hells Angels? Hardly! It takes the average student 2 to 3 years to achieve minimal success and any realistic ability to defend them selves.
Next we have The MMA schools opening on every corner that focus on totally functional combat. Choking out your opponent or pounding him into submission inside of a cage. But the good MMA schools also teach discipline, instill confidence and conditioning and enhance coordination and teaches focus which helps one to achieve academically. Like traditional Martial arts schools MMA schools are good for weight control and develop confidence and athleticism. But MMA schools tend to be more adult orientated with less of a focus on the character building attributes.
I don’t think Tiger Woods is any less of an athlete then John Elway or an Evander Holyfield. Gymnasts are not better athletes then Ballerinas. Base Ball players are comparable to Football players. But they are different. The popularity of the Martial Arts and the key to their success is in understanding why people study the various arts.
Written by Grand Master Bob Chaney
Bob Chaney is world renowned for turning out national, international and world Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Muay Thai, and Kickboxing champions. Grand Master Bob Chaney’s esteemed international reputation brings the credibility which attracts students from every walk of life to Bob Chaney’s Family Martial Arts Studio in Murrieta, Ca. Although fighters have come from all over the world to train with Bob Chaney what remains more important is his unique ability to provide quality training for the novice as well as the most seasoned professional fighter. His ability to recognize each student’s individual needs and talents provides the personalized training which allows each student the opportunity to achieve their goals, be it a better level of fitness, becoming more disciplined and self-confident, learning functional self-defense techniques or launching a professional fight career. It’s all accomplished in a safe, clean, ultra modern state of the art facility.
Although the training can be very intense Bob Chaney always remembers it’s important that the training remain fun for the newest novice’s or the most experienced professional fighter. Maintaining a healthy family atmosphere and enforcing family values has become Bob Chaney’s Family Martial Arts trade mark.
Men, woman and children of all ages train at Bob Chaney’s Family Martial Arts Studio in a family environment focusing on traditional values and respect.
The importance of self-confidence in your child’s life?
Self-confidence is belief in one’s self.
Some people just seem to be born with it while others spend their lives searching for it. It is one of the most important virtues in a child’s life. Let us compare self-confidence to credit score. Credit is the lending institutions belief in your integrity and ability to pay your debts on time. If your payment record is clean the lending institutions continue to increase your credit lines. If you are delinquent it affects and lowers your credit score. If you establish a history of delinquencies the lending agencies will lose confidence in you altogether and totally eliminate your credit lines.
Who wants to start life out burdened with bad credit? Neither would you want your child to start out life saddled with low self-esteem or lacking self-confidence? Parents must realize that they are the most influential person in their child’s life and need to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children until their children are old enough and responsible enough to make important decisions on their own.
Children’s self-confidence for the most part, just as credit scores, is determined by their accomplishments and record of successes. Parent’s must set examples themselves and train their children to complete selected goals. Parents must generously utilize positive reinforcement while teaching and disciplining their children. From infancy children need constant praise and acknowledgments for any and all accomplishments large or small and be encouraged and taught the importance of following through with activities they get involved in and the old school importance of keeping ones word.
I was a Physical Education teacher in the mid 1970’s and early 80’s. The problem with our Physical Education programs is (I very quickly learned) the children needing it the most are the first ones to escape with notes from mommy for a bruise, a tiny cut, or a stomach ache. They are mostly the children that are un-coordinated, overweight or just plain lazy. Isn’t that the reason physical education classes were incorporated into the school curriculum in the first place? Athletes are always exuberantly lined up and waiting for class.
Students with 4.0 averages rarely drop out of school. It’s the D and C average students that drop out. The children that need and benefit the most from martial Arts training are the ones that drop out because the lack of self-discipline, athleticism, or they are just plain lazy and it’s hard for them. They generally don’t feel very good about themselves. So the parents let them out because they get tired of fighting with them about attending class. But again I reiterate; that’s the parents’ responsibility to make decisions that are in their best interest. When is the last time you heard someone complain about graduating from college or earning a Black Belt? But you do hear the regrets from the ones who didn’t.
My wife teaches a program at a nearby pre-school. Last week a four year old refused to do his punching techniques because it was too hard so he wanted to quit because he didn’t like TKD. She took him aside and talked him into trying again. This time he was successful. He became very excited with his new accomplishment, and then proudly exclaimed he liked TKD now that he was doing so well.
The Martial Arts utilize belt ranking systems that rewards and allows for the measuring of success. The beginning belts are easy to achieve but then become increasingly more difficult and require harder work and more dedication as the student advances, which brings rewards of recognition and status. You can see confidence soar with each new belt promotion. We have children who achieve advanced belt rankings with many forms of developmental delays and disabilities. Parents need to realize that we as Martial Arts instructors don’t carry around magic wands that pops out little Chuck Norris’s and Jackie Chan’s at each wave of our wands.
The Martial Arts is only one of many cures for low self esteem or lack of self confidence. The home environment is where it all starts. We only have children three or four hours per week. When we and the parents are pulling the cart in the same direction we get phenomenal results, so home environments are very important.
I often hear parents complain that they can’t control things their children experience outside of the home. Parents can however minimize those experiences. Spend quality one on one time and scrutinize and maintain control over who their children hang out and socialize with. Get to know your children’s close friends and create lines of communications with and become friends with their friends’ parents. The home environments of their friends also significantly contribute to children’s outlook on life.
I received full custody of my daughter Erica when she was 14 years old. She suffered low self esteem and had no self-confidence resulting from a verbally abusive relationship with her mom. Getting full custody of her changed my entire life and turned it upside down from that moment on. I was suddenly transformed into a single father raising a teenage daughter.
I immediately made her friends my friends and they became an important part of my life. I was in constant communications with the parents of my daughter’s friends. I made friends with her friends parents and became a major part of their inner circle as well. I talked to her friends parents on a day to day basis. We communicated with respect to when my daughter was staying over at her girl friends house or her girl friends parents always conferred with me when they were staying overnight at my house we cross checked and communicated regularly. One of us always accompanied them to the movie theaters of skating rinks or out to the lake on the weekend and reported back to the rest of us.
Keep your children in activities that provide a circle of friends and role models which will be a good influence and create a healthy and positive atmosphere. Every time a child is allowed to quit something because it’s hard, it’s boring, or because they don’t like it or it’s not what they expected they wound their confidence. If they are allowed to establish a history of quitting early or dropping out of activities they seriously sabotage their confidence and crush their self-esteem. Eventually they no longer believe in themselves. They began to select friends who also suffer low self esteem because they feel comfortable with them. I battled for 4 years to get my daughter thru high school. It was more draining then winning world titles. She finally graduated and she and I are very proud and neither of us ever regretted it.
I deal with parents, virtually every day that decided to pull their child out of my classes because the child simply doesn’t want to come any longer. Or there not paying enough attention or their not keeping up with the other kids. So they want to escape their contractual obligation because Johnny or Suzy discovered the reality that their Tae Kwon Do dreams required work, dedication and self-discipline. So they decided to try something new, that won’t require hard work and discipline?
I golfed with my father for over thirty years. Every time we arrived at the course my father produced a shiny new club that would drive the ball farther, provide more lift, putt straighter, prevent his slice or control his hook. And every time I would remind him “That’s great Dad, but some day you are going to have to learn to hit the ball properly”. Changing activities is not the answer unless they achieve a level of excellence first.
How do you convince a child that they have value when you the parents, the most important people in their life, the ones that gave them life don’t think there important enough to find a way to spend quality time with and support them?
You should never let children out of commitments they make until they complete their goal. Driving along with my father one afternoon when I was in my mid 20’s he shockingly asked me to rate him as a father on a scale from 1 to 10. After careful thought I finally answered.
“On a scale of 1 to 10 you were a number 7”. I told Dad. “What”! My father gasped. “A number 7”. “Yes Dad.” I reminded my father. “Why”. My father asked bewildered. “Well Dad, mostly because you let me quit school when I was only sixteen”. I told him. “Bob you fought with me virtually every day about quitting school. You begged and begged me remember”? Dad reminded me. “Yea I know Dad but I was only sixteen and you were my father and you should have made me complete my schooling, instead you told me romantic stories of your cross country travels as a teenage runaway and I wanted more than anything to be just like you. So off I went just like you”. “So now you’re holding it against me”. Dad asked bewildered. “No Dad. I’m just answering your question. You were an excellent father in all other areas but you always covered for me because you loved me and you should have taught me to be more responsible and accountable at an earlier age and success would have came easier and sooner for me. Now I’m back in school again after all these years”. I complained to my father.
Your children look up too and trust that you will make wise choices for them. If not they may throw it back into your face some day.
Written by Grand Master Bob Chaney
What is a Dojang/Dojo?
Training place for Martial Artists
Dojang is a Korean term for training place. Dojo is a Japanese term for training center. Dojang’s/Dojo’s are miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves—our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short amount of time about who we are and how we will react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the Dojang/Dojo help us handle conflicts that take place outside the Dojang/Dojo. The total concentration and discipline required to study martial arts carries over in to daily life. The activity in the Dojang/Dojo calls on us to constantly attempt new things, so it is also a source of learning—in Zen terminology, a source of self-enlightenment. (Joe Hyams: Zen in the Martial Arts)
We gain firsthand experience working intellectually and physically thru staged conflicts and prearranged scenarios in an arena which provides a safety net while learning to confront, understand, and master our fears. Insight, knowledge and creativity are gained thru progressive problem solving and experimentation and sustained attempts at mastering new techniques. Self-confidence, and courage—necessary for coping with and overcoming life’s everyday problems, is fostered free from the harsh, unforgiving mistakes we make in the outside world.
We quickly learn the consequences of our actions and deeds that prompt retaliation or acceptance from the multitude of partners and opponents we face which collectively create a life time of experiences in a short period of time. We discover the power to accept our weakness and short comings or the authority to make change. The social skills, determination, discipline, confidence and structure gained thru Martial Arts training systems forge strong minds and strong bodies that are the building blocks that produce leaders. If you have trouble working thru your Martial Arts training program you will most certainly have even more difficulty working through the trials and tribulations everyday life will throw at you.
The Dojang’s/Dojo’s are not perfect worlds, neither were they ever intended to be. But neither is the real world we spend our lives in. The Dojang’s/Dojo’s are merely intended to act as a surrogate training arena that helps prepare us for the harshness life can throw at us in the outside world.
Studios are constantly bombarded with criticisms from disgruntled parents and students on a regular basis. Successful studio owners communicate daily with other studio owners and heads of World Organizations, on a global level and collectively share industry secrets and apply like solutions. If it were possible to sit down and explain the reasons and grounds for the many policies, rules and procedures that govern any successful Martial Arts studio with each student and parent personally it might free us from criticism and condemnation but that’s neither a possibility nor a practical solution. Everything is subject to cause and effect. Students frequently make requests based on their individual needs and wants without realizing the consequences of what they are asking. What we do for one we must do for everyone. Compromising any part of the system often sources grave consequences that can put students into direct danger, threaten the financial stability of the studio and completely undermine the integrity of the system.
Search out the studio that you think will provide the training you are looking for then make an appointment and prepare a list of questions that are important to you and your family. Don’t fall into selecting the studio closest to you by proximity or the cheapest price. You are putting yourself or the most important person in your life, your child, into the hands of someone that will have a tremendous influence on the way you or your child will think and conduct yourselves. Temecula has a lot of very good Martial Arts studios to select from just be sure they are going to supply you with the training you are looking for. Take your time and personally visit each studio before you make a final decision and then trust your instincts.
Some studios focus on training amateur and professional fighters while others focus on developing family values and still others focus on tournament competition while the next studio may focus on art form and fitness. What are you looking for? What is important is that you choose the right studio for you.
Written by Grand Master Bob Chaney
Why is Testing Mandatory?
It’s easy to give into and allow for double standards, which temporarily provides happiness for individuals while sourcing grave consequences for others. As children, we hated many of the rules and regulations which were imposed on us by our parents. But experience and wisdom teaches us the importance of policies and procedures that create order.
Our Upland Studio was extremely successful for eleven years. Successful enough that my manager expressed an interest in buying the business that had an eleven year track record of success. He managed every aspect of the daily operations of running the business for nearly three years. He solicited investors and they came up with $500,000 in investment capital and purchased the studio. He almost immediately abandoned the system that was responsible for the businesses success and barely lasted 9 months.
The testing and ranking system is the heart and soul of the Martial Arts, yet it is the hardest over which to maintain control and order. Any student or students that see little or no value and are allowed to disrespect the testing system or order in our schools are like a form of cancer or deadly virus that, if allowed, infects the entire system and compromises the integrity of the structure. An unhealthy system needs to be reformed. When those in authority become corrupted then those who are faithful to its principles should make every attempt to restore the leaders before rising up against them. Every leader struggles with their own ego needs. It is this struggle which ultimately weakens leaders to entertain the idea of compromise.
If the system is upheld it will weed out the students who cannot conform. Of even more danger to our schools are those individuals who give the appearance of conformity while subtly undermining the system and those responsible for preserving its integrity. These students truly believe they are the reformers. They believe they know a better way. This level of arrogance reveals the motivations and intentions of their hearts and will ultimately lead to their demise if the system holds them responsible. However, it will lead to the demise of the system if those in authority compromise its integrity as is the case with my former manager. He later remarked to several students and friends that his mistake was listening too and trying to accommodate individual needs of students and parents.
To elude mandatory quarterly testing can be motivated by fear of failure, rebellion, misunderstandings, or perhaps the results of financial hardship. One of the very purposes of testing is to help students discover and measure growth in the qualities and characteristics which the martial arts system teaches. Without the test one student would presumptuously rank himself higher than his training would allow, while another student would perceive his achievements as failures. The test levels the playing field for both students. Both are validated by rank which is commensurate to their training. Both may eventually hold the rank of black belt or black sash and earn the same level of respect and honor, providing both are loyal to the system which molded them. Therefore, this presupposition being true, it is possible for the student with lesser skills and athleticism to be worthy of higher honor because the student is measured by their conformity to the system. They embody and propagate the system as long as they continue to be loyal to it and those who are responsible to preserve it.
Not showing up for classes a week or so before or after testing does not provide a student with an excuse. Whether the reason is fear of failure, rebellion or financial hardship, the chief instructor is the only one that can excuse a student from mandatory testing. Fulfilling the terms of your contract is an expression of the character qualities that we try to cultivate in each student. Our job is to help the student overcome either situation. Missing testing does not relieve the financial responsibility. Testing is part of the program just as learning to punch or kick is a part of the program. Testing is not determined by or left up to the discretion or individual needs of students or parents.
An exceptional freshman college student who has to take English Composition 101 must take the same final exam as the freshman who struggles to get passing grades. The test is necessary to not only document the fulfilled requirements, it validates the student’s placement, or in our case, rank.
One major reason for the high attrition rate which ultimately causes the closing of Studios is the lack of or breaking down of civil order. Students generally understand, respect and accept the ranking system which accompanies traditional Karate and Tae Kwon Do. But the new generation is unfamiliar with the purpose of testing in a Muay Thai System that, in the past, had no ranking system. Muay Thai, if it is going to survive must also provide the necessary structure with integrity that instills morals and values in a system that teaches combat techniques.
Muay Thai’s country of origin, Thailand, is fighting a battle with Tae Kwon Do. The Korean national sport is sweeping the country of Thailand because Tae Kwon Do is concentrating on teaching life-values and making the training fun. Muay Thai is taught only for fighting while life-values take a back seat to combat techniques.
If traditional Martial Artists are required to conform to a system that regulates and monitors its practitioners how important is it that the practitioners of Muay Thai are subject to the same rules and conditions? This will help insure that they are learning discipline, restraint, leadership skills and self-control in order to advance through the ranks. Ultimately this will provide safety measures for the protection of citizens who could be potential targets of Martial Arts techniques ending up in the hands of the wrong people. Aren’t we just as responsible for policing Muay Thai practitioners to insure they are taught to be responsible individuals who will be just as accountable with their potentially deadly techniques as the Karate and Tae Kwon Do practitioners? I firmly believe we instructors are responsible for the attitudes we instill in our students no matter which Martial Art we teach.
If a student is not excused from testing by the chief instructor they cannot return to class until they take a private make up test and pay a late private testing fee.
Testing dates are posted one year in advance. Even so there are always a very few legitimate extenuating circumstances that may require and provide a reason to schedule a makeup test with the chief instructor.
Written by Grand Master Bob Chaney
What is a Black Belt?
Warrior dreams: The martial arts & the American Imagination written by John J. Donohue. In the “Media Review” by Danial Rosenberg, Ph.D., Rosenberg quotes Donohue as pointing the finger at us when he says; “The martial arts in the United States have tended to both exaggerate and distort the mystical and magical elements.” (104).
Think back to the early films produced in Japan and Hong Kong portraying Oriental masters glowing in the dark, performing triple back flips twenty-five feet through the air, all the while kicking and punching their adversaries. China is most guilty for propagating and exaggerating the magical and mystical elements of the martial arts, laying claims from delayed death touches to defending bullets with Iron Palm techniques.
Rosenberg says; “American pressure to succeed may be responsible for the proliferation of belts signifying rank, and for the common urgency to attain them. Donohue concludes, “The obsession with rank is a problem unique to the Western martial arts here in the United States.” (105).
During the late fifties, and early sixties and seventies, martial artists came back from serving in Korea, Japan, and Okinawa with black belts attained in just a little over a year of training. Donohue says; “The most crucial [myth] suffusing the martial arts here is that of the [warrior].” Part of the antecedent ideology of Asian martial systems, it takes on new qualities in the United States.” (105).
The search for functionality in techniques is less important in Asian martial arts then it is here in the US. Japan's technical proficiency as a warrior takes a back seat to national interest and perfection of one’s characters as it relates to the benefits of the national structure.
During the sixteenth century, in his “Book of Five Rings” Musashi the great samurai warrior wrote; “The martial arts was a vocation for a select few.” He held in contempt his contemporaries. Musashi writes; “In the present day there are no warriors with certain knowledge of the way of martial arts.” (5) Musashi also criticized martial artists of his time for affecting the trappings of a warrior without understanding the substance of the warrior.
Rosenberg writes; “Beyond the lurking of warrior myths in the national culture, Donohue feels the mass media, a profitable enterprise, stokes the fire of distortion in the martial arts. The media transmit more pervasively the wrong picture than any one thinker or teacher.” (106)
Musashi addressed this problem back in the sixteenth century when he wrote, “As I see society people make the arts into commercial products. They think of themselves as commodities and also make implements as items of commerce... (Amateuristic martial arts are a source of serious wounds.)” (8)
The first martial arts films were produced in Japan and Hong Kong. They portrayed the young heroes fighting and defeating thirty or forty villains, all trained black belts, armed with swords, knife’s, and clubs. “Can you tell me there’s no distortion there”? Muhammad Ali once joked with me about wanting to do martial arts films. Ali teased about how one guy whips forty men in two minutes than takes an hour to beat the last guy. Ali laughed as he described how the hero beats thirty fellows, and then they all get up and run away together.
Anyone who has read "Musashi" written by Eiji Yoshikawa can recount the tremendous parallels between the martial arts during Musashi's time and the martial arts of today. Time, cultural contrariety, social changes and political differences haven't altered the heart of humankind. We tend to think that since the martial arts were more or less in the embryonic stages they were more pure.
Musashi saw the martial arts as a selective occupation (profession) and a life style demanding technical expertise with the goal of victory on the battlefield. Glory and blood was as much a part of Musashi’s heiho (way to enlightenment) as Christ is to Christianity. In Musashi’s world techniques, which did not work on the battlefield were a delusion, a dishonesty that kept serious practitioners from understanding the way to victory. If self-improvement did not equate to winning on the battlefield then it was a delusion.
If we juxtapose the historical Musashi with the idealist and populist values, the professional versus the amateur the idealized warrior represents a transcendent spiritual force in possession of moral certitude rooted in service and loyalty open to anyone willing to practice a martial discipline. The image and beliefs behind the idealized warrior proselytize that seisin and shugyo (austere training) will lead naturally to victory, even if many of the techniques practiced are not particularly effective or relevant to combat. Somehow technical deficiencies can be compensated by intuitive knowledge or flashy showmanship.
The Samurai has achieved the status of icon in American martial arts culture. The Samurai image has transcended historical truth into a mythical being representing a disciplined, morally congruent, and spiritually whole personality. The image portrayed in the mainstream media of the Samurai shows an undefeatable, loyal, implacable, spiritually enlightened warrior. Martial arts instructors often use this image for the ideal warrior. Imbued with seishen or spiritual energy generated by hard and severe training a student could experience the spiritual aspect of a warrior-even if their technical ability was lacking.
The Samurai image, i.e. a spiritually endowed warrior, was used by the Japanese militarist of the early 20th century to inspire the populace to the belief that they were superior in every way to other cultures. The late Donn F. Draeger wrote in his book “Modern Bujutsu and Bundo.” “Every fighting man came to believe that seishin would enable him to perform on the battlefield with a mind that would make possible unfaltering and unerring decisions in any emergency.” The concept of seishin helped fabricate the myth that the Japanese fighting man was invincible in battle.
Within this construct, the way of the warrior was no longer the vocation of a select few, but was open to anyone who was willing to submit to rigorous and difficult training. One of the most controversial subjects in the martial arts is and always will be the definition of rank. The mass media’s portrayal of the martial arts master is of the wise old instructor endowed with mystical, magical, powers and extraordinary fighting skills, up into his fifties, sixties, and even into the seventies, e.g., Myaggi in the “Karate Kid” movies. Rank automatically brings with it the image of phenomenal martial arts skills accompanied by comparable fighting techniques. Thus brings the temptation to exaggerate, falsify and abuse rank.
People frequently criticize and condemn schools or systems that award Jr. Black Belts to children as young as eight or ten years of age. What constitutes a Black Belt is like asking someone to describe what makes a man a man or a woman a woman. Rank has very little to do with one’s ability to perform under combat situations. A Black Belt is not a measure of one’s fighting prowess or toughness. Industry standards require approximately four years of uninterrupted training and require that you demonstrate leadership skills and have shown loyalty and humility by displaying these qualities in your daily life. You have set good examples and gained the respect of both juniors and senior students. You have conformed to and obeyed the rules of conduct established by your school, and have developed good work ethics and are a proven finisher. The industry views a first degree Black Belt as some one that has proven he or she is now ready for serious training. One that looks forward to giving back to a system that developed within you the evidence of maturity, compassion for your juniors, patience, understanding and kindness. Of course you must develop a significant level of technique. First degree Black Belt is not considered an expert by any stretch of the imagination. Mentally challenged children obtain the level of a first degree Black Belt every day. We are building confidence, self esteem and the fortitude that enable children to cope with life’s everyday problems in the real world not hard core road warriors.
This allows every child the ability to be respected not turned into an invincible fighting machine or a national or world champion. Team sports are great to develop a higher level of athleticism. Millions of kids benefit from playing Base Ball even though they don’t turn pro. And millions of kids worldwide have their lives greatly enhanced through good martial arts programs. Some of the greatest instructors are the unsung heroes, the mom and pop instructors without world titles and significant rank that enhance their student’s lives that guide with genuine love and patients.
Children that are awarded junior Black Belts automatically become senior Black Belts when they turn sixteen years of age providing they have continued their training. Can you honestly say Tiger Woods needed to start to play golf all over again when he turned sixteen?
Don’t choose your school based solely on the instructors professed rank or competition record. Go in to the schools in your area and meet with the instructors and staff and ask questions regarding philosophy and teaching techniques.
By Written by Grand Master Bob Chaney