Real Life Lessons From The Dojang

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Practice what you learn

on APR. / 19 / 2011 | 1 comments

by Jeremy M. Talbott

The other day I had one of our senior instructor stop by the school to visit.  On his way in there were a couple of the students waiting for their class to start outside messing around with their bo (staff weapon) in an inappropriate way.  When he witnessed the kids goofing around he explained to them that the weapons were not meant to be used like that and they should respect them.  Both of the kids gave him a look as if to say, “pssst...What do you know?”  Now he could have revealed who he was and scolded their actions, but instead he came in and mentioned the incident to me.  He told me that they probably do not know who he is which is why they copped a little bit of an attitude when he talked to them.

Instead of scolding them as well, I figured that this would be a great opportunity to teach a good lesson to all the kids about respect.  At the end of the class, I asked the two boys to point out all the black belts present in the school.  They naturally pointed to three others, two who were in uniforms and one who was not but was at the school all the time, and me.  Neither of them picked out the senior, which is what expected.  I then asked a couple more of the students to do the same thing, which landed the same result.  I then asked all the black belts to come up to the head of the class.  All of them stepped up including our senior, which no one but the other black belts knew.  I introduced him and let them know that he was one of the higher-ranking black belts in our system.  I then spoke to the students about the incident that took place, without mentioning any names, and how I was disappointed that any student would not give someone who is older than them the type of respect that they would show a known black belt in our club.   I reminded them that they are to practice what they learn in the school at all times, not just class time.

I gave them an example of an incident I experienced at work where a man, who I did not know at the time, came up to me and asked for some help on a project he was working on.  I knew he was not in my department and I could have easily just blown him off with the “It’s not my job” type attitude.  Instead, I chose to do what I could to help.  Once it was over, and he left my desk, my boss came by and asked what the President of our company wanted from me.    Needless to say I was shocked at not knowing who I was dealing with, but I felt very much relieved that I chose to execute the mindset that I learned in martial arts to handle the situation.  
Integrity, respect, perseverance, courtesy and indomitable spirit do not stop once you bow out of the class.  These traits should be honed inside the dojang and then practiced daily in our everyday life to help us become good role models and successful members of our society.

Nothing Personal

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

March 1, 2011

I believe that one of the toughest things to do as an instructor is to deny a student the opportunity to promote to the next level, or to deny them to learn something new.  I personally have been on both the giving and receiving end of that scenario.  As an instructor it is disheartening because you are essentially telling the student they are not ready to take that next step, which inevitably leads to their disappointment.  As a student it is disheartening because even though the instructor is just trying to say you need more practice, many times the student only hears, “You’re not good enough,” which is far from the truth.
These tough decisions are never to be taken lightly, but should be taken if needed.  Needless to say if you have to deny the student, you should be prepared to explain in detail as to why.  You should not be afraid as disappointments are a part of life and a character builder.  What happens when the student is told “no”?  Do they quit, do they pout, do get angry?  Or do they understand and go back on the mat to perfect what they know so that they can hear “yes” the next time around?  Lastly if such a decision is made then, as the instructor, you need to do an honest self evaluation on yourself as to why the student is not ready.  Did you properly teach what they needed to know? Did you cover everything in depth or did you glaze over the material in hopes that they would catch on?  Is your teaching method one which all can comprehend?  In general it is good to cover material again as a group because if one student does not seem to catch on, chances are there may be a few others in the same situation.  Never be afraid to change up your teaching style.  While it may be awkward at first you will learn how adapt to individual needs which will benefit everyone in the end.

Now as a student who hears the denial, what do you do?  Well hopefully you are strong enough to understand the reasoning and will make the corrections needed.  Plus you will take the mistakes that you made this time around and use them as learning lessons for the next time around.  There are always reasons behind their decisions, which may or may not make sense to you, but you should rest assure that they have your best interest at heart.  Never be afraid to ask a teacher to explain again or even in a different matter if you do not understand.    You learning structure may be different than others and so different approaches may be needed to comprehend what you are learning.  Above all, never give up.  Instructors are not out to get you or deny you reaching your martial art goals.

In the outside world this type of scenario is unavoidable and will happen, be it in school or work.  However, if or when you reach this type of obstacle do not be afraid to approach from a different direction.  Never take it personal and never stop trying.  Determination and hard work is the key in achieving your goals.

Finish What You’ve Started

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

By Jeremy M. Talbott

Every time the ball drops in Times Square and fireworks light up the sky ushering in the New Year we plan out our new goals and lifestyle changes. It is always exciting to think how we can improve our lives or achieve something new. We sit and contemplate for a while what it would be like to be a few pounds lighter or be a bit better at a hobby. We dream of what to do with the extra money we will save when we kick a bad habit like drinking or smoking. Yet, on the other hand, what about those old goals not yet achieved? You know, the ones you were very gung-ho to accomplish, but then something happened and well, they just became a distant memory.

I personally sat back this year and reflected on items that I always wanted to do but just never did them for one reason or another. To start, I decided to compete in the sparring division this year at our national tournament in Chicago, Illinois. The AKA Grand Nationals is a nice size tournament which fetches competitors from all over the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and occasionally from Europe as well. My goal, which I wanted to do several years ago when I first started competing again, was to finish a whole season in the black belt men’s sparring division. Unfortunately health issues, such as knee surgeries, ankle problems and one minor heart surgery, shelved any hopes of that goal being achieved. It was something forgotten or something just placed in the back of my mind and logged in as “I’ll get to it next year.” Guess what? Next year is now and now that I am relatively in decent shape, I found this would be as good of time as any to brush off that old goal and give it a shot.

I have found that the indomitable spirit that is inherently learned through the martial arts teaches us that a goal can still be achieved regardless of how much time has passed. It is indomitable spirit that drives us on to achieve regardless of the circumstances that surround us. The founding pioneers of TKD utilized this lesson in order to develop one of the most practiced martial arts in the world today. It is something that you utilize every time you go to class and push through a new drill or learn a new form. 

So as you sit down this year and reflect on all the new things you want to achieve do not forget to reflect back on those goals that you have yet to conquer. Do not let past circumstances deter you from trying again. It is time to utilize one of the best lessons in martial arts, indomitable spirit, go forth and achieve.

Learning About Defeat

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Jeremy M. Talbott

Not long ago, I was at a tournament with some students. One of our older students, who was 15, had been training tirelessly for this event. All his free time was spent at the school running his form over and over.  Throughout the season, he had been finishing in fourth or fifth place.  His goal was to finish in the top three. When it was his turn to compete, he went out there and gave it his all. It was probably the best I have ever seen him compete. When he stepped off the mat, he was pleased with his performance. However, when the judges read off his scores, it wasn’t enough to land him in the top three as he had hoped. 

I instantly saw the disappointment on his face and began to walk over to him with the goal to console him on his loss. As I began to walk over, I was stopped by our head instructor. He wanted me to leave him be. Baffled at this I asked why. He explained that the student needs to let it sink in. It was best for him to console himself first. My instructor went on to explain that the student needs to understand that we do not always win even if we try our hardest. However, a trademark of someone who will become a champion is determined by what they do on their own after they have been defeated. By consoling him, he will only feel sorry for himself longer than he should or give excuses on why he did not win. He advised me to let the student make his way to us and when he informs us of his result, simply ask him what he needs to do in order to do better next time. This is a way to take his mind off of his defeat and help him set a new goal to help him win next time. I did as my instructor asked and allowed the student to just be. Eventually he came around and told us the result and, as I was advised, I asked him what he needs to do for next time. He came up with several items right away that he needed to fix. When I saw him the next day at class he was right back at drilling and fixing his mistakes.

It is natural to comfort those close to us, especially when they did not succeed in a goal that they were working very hard for. As a coach, you want your players to keep a healthy attitude after losing a match and go back to training harder for the next event. As a teacher, you want your students to study a bit harder if they fail a test. As a parent, you want your children to just try again if they do not succeed the first time. Some would call this tough love, though it is tougher on the coach, teacher or parent than the person they are trying to help. When all is said and done, sometimes it is best to just let them be and allow them to build their character by coping with the defeat on their own. 

Paying Dues

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Jeremy M. Talbott

One of my fondest memories I have in the martial arts is my time with my hapkido teacher, Master Randy Stigall, and his farmers’ class. It was appropriately nicknamed due to being held at 6:00 a.m. It was a grueling hour to hour and a half class that started with a good workout of calisthenics. Basically, each person there would count out 10 reps for each exercise we did. Many days, I would pray for only five people to show up for class, but we usually averaged about 10 per class. Immediately following the exercises was a good 30 to 45 minutes of traditional, no-fluff Hapkido. While Master Stigall’s Hapkido was very good, what impressed me most about him was that he was right there with us, working out just as hard as we were, if not harder. This was his usual M.O. for all his classes. It was very rare that you would not see him on the mat leading class. He was a firm believer of the philosophy of never making his students do what he coudn’t do, or was not willing to do himself.
Now this was a great change from other instructors who like to stand around and bark out orders to the students and then reminisce to them about how hard they had it coming up in the ranks and how they have “paid their dues.” This, to me, is merely an excuse of why they rarely worked out on the mat. However, they were only half as bad as those who do not even bother to step on the mat at all. Those instructors, instead, leave it up to other black belts or high ranking belts to do all of the teaching for them with the excuse, “This is how they learn to be leaders.” While that may be true, even leaders need guidance and supervision.

Leaders, well good leaders, are the ones who are constantly “paying dues.” They are the ones still out in the trenches and working to achieve a goal. They do not make excuses of why they are not working. They know if they do not work they will cease to progress. They also know that they can make other people do what they order them to do but understand that those people will only follow them out of necessity, not loyalty. Once the subordinates are presented with a better offer, you can best believe they will take it. Leadership is more than just being in charge. A good leader will never be afraid to get his or her hands dirty and show those underneath them that he or she can do, and is willing to do the work they have asked of others. This will have people follow you out of loyalty, not necessity. Because in the end, the old saying will always hold true;  “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

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