Real Life Lessons From The Dojang

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RealLifeLessons

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Pause, Reflect, and Move Forward

on FEB. / 07 / 2012 | 0 comments

 

I remember a day when a student was showing humongous disinterest in participating in class. I blew it off with thinking that perhaps he had a bad day at school or had some other activity he was anxious to get to. The next day at class, I witnessed the same attitude and then again on the next day. This specific student always came in excited to learn and always seemed to have fun; he was fast becoming one of our best forms and weapons competitor, as well as climbing the ranks in fighting, so the sudden change was a bit disturbing. At the end of the class, I asked him to sit down with me to chat. I began with the usual questions: “Is everything ok at school? Are you having problems at home? Did someone beat up your favorite teddy bear?” I usually ask that last one to put a smile on their face and help them open up a bit more.

 

He finally opened up to tell me that he felt that he was stagnant in his learning and that he would never reach a black belt. I asked him why he would think such a thing and he went on to say that he just looked over the requirements for the next testing and then testing after that and it just seemed overwhelming, that he would never be able to learn all those things. I had to admit I chuckled at the explanation, but not because I was laughing at him, but because I said almost the exact same thing many years ago when I was at his rank. I told him to hold on for a second while I grabbed my laptop because I wanted him to show him something.

 

He waited while I pulled up two files that I kept of students and tournaments. The first file was a picture of him as a very young and very new white belt. “Do you remember this?” I asked.

 

Yes. It was like 2 or 3 years ago,” he replied. Without saying anything, I then showed him a clip of him doing his first form at a tournament. He rolled his eyes and moaned at it. I then told him that this was not 2 or 3 years ago, but only a little over a year ago. He looked shocked. “Really?” he asked.

 

Yes, really,” I answered. I then told him that the curriculum he has learned up until now was far more than what he would have to learn in order to reach a black belt. I reminded him on how far he had gotten and to give up now would be a waste of all the time and energy he spent on getting to where he was now. With that, he smiled and then left for the day. The next time in class the fire was relit under his eyes and still is today.

 

It is easy to become tired and frustrated in our journeys to success. There are many times we will feel overwhelmed and even feel that we may never reach our peak. It is at that time we need to take a step off the path and just be. Take the time to reflect on where we are and realize how far we have come without even knowing it. Then step back on your path with a renewed spirit and continue forward to accomplish what you have started.

Only 26 Muscles to Change Someone's Day by Jeremy M. Talbott

on NOV. / 16 / 2011 | 1 comments

Only 26 Muscles to change someone’s day by Jeremy M. Talbott

Every Labor Day weekend, for the past 8 years, I have attended Grandmaster Alex Dunlap’s Northwest Indiana/Illinois Open Martial Arts Tournament. This year was no different. As usual, I help run the black belt meeting where we explain all the rules to everyone and then pick out our center judges as well as our corner judges. After the meeting, Grandmaster Dunlap came up and asked if I could run the 6 year-old and under ring. While most people would cringe at the very thought of having to do this, and then politely make excuses as to why they cannot do it, I smiled and got right to it.

It is somewhat understandable why the vast majority of judges do not wish to take this ring. After all, who wants to see the same basic form ran 1000 different ways but only ran correctly once or twice? Of course, you run across the occasion nervous cry or the one who completely forgets their form and you end up trying to walk them through it. However, in all, I get through it and actually have some fun. At the end of what came to be a 2 hour running, we finished off the last division and handed out the last of the trophies and proceeded to move on to the rest of the tournament.

As I was walking through the crowd I had a woman stop me with this comment. “I really enjoyed how you ran the ring, but most of all thank you for actually smiling at the kids. I think it really helped them with their confidence.” I was taken a bit by the part “…actually smiling at the kids.” So I had to ask, “Don’t most of the judges smile at them?” Surprisingly she said no. She told me that most of them just try to get the ring over and done with as soon as possible so, they can go watch the older kids, or adults compete. This leads to them marching the kids in the ring, move them quickly into place, and then sit with a scowl on their face while the kids try to run a form. She went on to tell me you can even see the frustration in their body when a kid begins to cry or forgets his/her form. This inevitably leads to the kid getting more nervous and not having any fun at all. However, she said that by me and the other judges actually smiling they seemed to have more fun and did not feel so intimidated and that made it more enjoyable for everyone.

It is amazing how we can all forget how powerful a smile can be. As adults, we are stressed with the daily grind of work, paying bills, and making sure our kids are taken care of. Life does not always give us a reason to smile and so we do not. That day I relearned something that I have forgotten. A smile can bring new life to others regardless if you are just passing someone in the hall or watching a six-year-old do his form for the first time. In return, you begin to feel new energy as well. So put those 26 muscles to task today and smile. Something so simple can help change a person’s day for the better.

Let the leaders lead

on AUG. / 04 / 2011 | 3 comments

by Jeremy M. Talbott


I recall one day, when I was placed in charge of running the Intermediate/Advance class, that the class was a bit larger than usual.  In order to deal with the size of the class, I asked one of our Junior Black Belts to take some of them and work on their forms while I worked with the others on techniques.  As we were working, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the Junior Black Belt was not really paying attention to what some of the kids were doing.  He was not catching mistakes that some of students were making.  I then stopped what I was doing with my group and headed over to his group.


I began to scold him lightly on what he was doing wrong.  I told him he had to pay closer attention to the way they were executing their techniques.  All this happened while his group was standing their listening to every word being said.  The Junior Black Belt agreed to what I was saying, I moved back to my group, and we started back into our drills.  When the class was finished my instructor, Sensei Sharkey, asked me to come into the office.  He asked me what I was doing earlier with the Junior Black Belt and I explained the situation.  While I felt that I was trying to help the Junior Black Belt be a better teacher, it was pointed out to me that I did more harm than good.  This puzzled me.  How can teaching someone how to teach properly be a bad thing?  
He explained that the problem was not that I corrected him.  The problem was the time I chose to do so.  Once I chose to correct him in front of his group of students, I essentially took away some of his credibility as a teacher.  This does not mean that the students were going ignore everything that he tells them, but it does tend to throw up doubts about his skills as a teacher and leader.  Sensei Sharkey made me take notice on how, instead of correcting the mistake I just made in front of the others, he asked me to meet in a more private environment. This way he was able to correct what I did wrong, without taking any credit away from my teaching abilities in front of others, or, as some would say, help me save face.


When you are someone in authority and you choose to allow others to take the reign of leadership, you must allow them their space to lead.  Mistakes will be made and lessons learned but the key is the time a place to discuss them.  When correcting someone in front of their subordinates you simply kill their motivation to be a leader while at the same time take away credibility.  It is always best to set a time after words to discuss what needs to be changed.  After all a leader who has never made a mistake is a leader who has lead only a party of one.
 

Change of Plans

on JUL. / 05 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Jeremy M. Talbott


Every morning for the past several weeks, I have been waking up at 4:45 to get to the health club for a morning swim.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go back after work and either run or lift weights.  While I was discussing this with a couple of my coworkers they asked why I get up so early.  I told them that I had a tight schedule with work and teaching and these were the only time slots available to help me meet my goal that I set forth back in January, to make the AKA fighting team.  


In the beginning of the year, I set forth one of my resolutions to make the Team AKA fighting team by next year.  To do this I had to lose weight and get my aerobic ability back up to a level that would allow me to be competitive at age 40.  I had it all mapped out.  Mondays and Wednesdays would be cardio days and Tuesdays and Thursdays would be lifting days.  During the week, I could get to class about 4 times a week to practice.  Yes, I had it all worked out in my little head.  When January hit, I was determined and unstoppable, but then life happened.  Before I knew it, I found that I could not make the gym in the evening time because of my teaching schedule.  I then found that I could not make it to classes 4 times a week because I either had to work late or had to take care of issues at home.   Yes, my goals started slipping with each new excuse I could come up with to justify why I was not making this happen.


What finally sparked a change was when I was teaching some basic self-defense to a couple of my students.  I ran a specific scenario that would allow them to execute the techniques without question.  Then the inevitable happened, “What if they don’t attack that way?”  Like any good instructor, I taught them that the foundation and principle of the techniques do not change.  What they needed to learn was to adapt to the situation and find the opening to achieve their end goal.  Sometimes it is not easy but if you learn to adapt you can still successfully execute what you started out doing.


After explaining that to them, I had to pause because, I had the Homer Simpson moment of “DOH!”  I knew right then that I had to heed my own advice.  Instead of giving up on what I was trying to achieve, I had to adapt to my situation and change my plan of execution.  I found the time needed to do a good workout as well as make it to class.  Granted it was not my ideal scenario, but it still helped me accomplish what I started out six months ago.


Martial arts teaches us to be adaptable in our environment.  While we know how to react in the perfect situation, martial arts teach us how to react in an imperfect situation.  Remember that mindset when you find yourself not reaching the goals and resolutions that you established back on January 1st.  If you are not on the right track due to unforeseen circumstances then change the plan of execution, not the goal.   
 

There is always a bigger fish

on MAY. / 18 / 2011 | 0 comments

 by Jeremy M. Talbott


At age 16, I was at the top of my game.  I was highest rank in my martial art class.   I was always put in charge of teaching in the absence of the instructor.  I was finally doing well in sport martial art tournaments bringing home first place trophies in fighting and forms.  A group of my friends from high school took martial art classes with me as well and, since I was the highest rank in the group, I was “alpha male” in our little circle.  Yes, things were good.  Unfortunately with my growing success came my growing ego.  I felt my school teachers really did not have anything to teach me.  At my part time job, I began more resistant to do some of the tasks because I felt they were beneath me.  I even began going into other martial art schools with a couple of our people to watch classes and just make negative comments amongst us about how we were better.   This eventually got back to my instructor, Sifu Gabriel.


I remember one day stepping into my class and Sifu Gabriel looked at me and just told me to get dressed and get my sparring gear on.  I went into the dressing room, put on my uniform, and then suited up with my pads.  I walked out on the floor and there he was with his pads on.  I stepped onto the mat.  Everybody was sitting on the floor to watch.  Sifu Gabriel and bowed to each other and got ready for, what I thought would be, a nice friendly sparring match.  That was far from the truth.  Sifu Gabriel proceeded to lay down an old fashion butt whopping on me.  After five minutes, that seemed like an eternity, he was done.  Told me to take off my gear and start the class.  I did just that, with my tail tucked deeply between my legs.  


When class was about over he had us all at attention and proceeded to discuss the topic of humility.  He pointed out how we need to remember that we represent our family, and our school and no just ourselves.  That when we act like, how he put it, Boo Boo the fool, it shames our family, friends, and him as a teacher.  He reminded us that just because we have a black belt around our waist, that does not mean we are unique or that we are the toughest kid on the block.  His words were, “You are just one of many fish in a giant sea and though you may be a tough just remember there is always a bigger fish out there waiting to eat you up.”  


His words, not to mention his beating, woke me up to what I was doing.  I did my best from that time forward to be more humble in my actions.  It began to reflect in all aspects in my life.  My teachers saw that I was paying more attention in class.  My job saw that I was quick to volunteer for even the most miniscule task and my friends enjoyed being around me more since I did not feel the need to prove anything to them.  
What I learned that day was that a true leader knows his worth, but never has a need to brag on it to others.  They will know simply by his actions. 

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