Real Life Lessons From The Dojang

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Have You Accounted For Your Goals?

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

By Jeremy M. Talbott

It seems that while summertime is a slow time for most schools, here at Sharkey's Karate we seem to be constantly bombarded with events. This year is no different. From July 17-August 17 one of our school's biggest projects will once again be our Annual 30-Day Boot Camp. Each year we have kids, and some adults, traveling in from all over the U.S., Canada and Europe to train for 30 days at a live-in camp with world champion instructors in sport martial arts and extreme martial arts, as well as top notch instructors in traditional Karate, Kung Fu, Wushu, Kenjutsu and TKD.

With their training regimen usually running between 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day, I was once asked what kind of crazy kids would such a thing. I was quick to point out they are the same crazy kids that can be seen winning top awards on whichever circuit they compete. So is it the continuous daily routine of punching and kicking that helps them achieve such awards? Well, to a point, yes it is. However, there are two things that are instilled in these campers during their training time, which seem often to be lost in the daily routine of life; goal setting and work ethic. 

Now goal setting and work ethic are not some unique epiphany found solely in the martial arts. They have been around for centuries in the work force and at home, but at the same time are rarely seen in either. Sure we may get motivated on the first of January and put down those resolutions to get fit and those goals to achieve better financial situations, but come the first of March, are you still keeping track? The same goes for the martial arts. You know that in order to get a form down, you need to practice the motions consistently and correctly every day, if only for a few minutes. But do you choose to run that form at home for five minutes or do you switch on Oprah instead?

At the very beginning of the camp, the campers are given a three-ring binder notebook. They must fill the inside with what they hope to achieve by attending the camp. They list their individual goals in order of importance, as well as group goals. There are also log sheets to keep track of what they did for the day to help them reach that goal. Each day this journal is reviewed and each day the campers are held accountable for their progress. Instilling this fundamental practice not only betters their martial art training, but helps them achieve success in other areas of their life as well.

Martial arts teach you a work ethic from your very first class. In order to achieve your next belt you have to undergo countless repetitions of kicks, punches and blocks. Regardless of what your goals are in martial arts, or in life, you know as well as I that if you want to move upward you have to do the work. We also know that the temptations to lead you astray from those goals are plenty.

So take a tip from these crazy kids. Grab a notebook and write out the goals you wish to achieve. Set down a reasonable timeline and the steps you need to take in order to achieve the overall goal. At the end of the day revisit the notebook and write exactly what you did to further yourself in your goal. You will find, in time, that the one person you to which you are truly accountable is the one person who will not accept excuses for your lack of progress—You.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T : Find out what it means to me…”

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

by Jeremy M. Talbott

Some of the great things I enjoy most in martial arts, outside of the training, are the anecdotes that an experienced teacher or school owner has to offer. Now when you have someone who has been around the martial arts for as long as my instructor Sensei John Sharkey has, you hear some great ones. One in particular, that I would like to share, deals in a subject that we as martial artists, strive to practice daily; respect.

As the story goes, Sensei Sharkey walked into the school in his street clothes as a class was proceeding. He then moved across the floor, at which time, as rules would state, a senior student would bring the class to attention when a higher rank black belt would come on to the floor. Of course, this time, it was not done. He then asked why and the response was that he didn’t have his belt on. Sensei Sharkey then said “OK” and proceeded off the floor and into the office. All seemed fine until he returned from the office with his belt in one hand and a trash can in the other. He threw his belt in the trash and the only question he asked was, “AM I STILL A BLACK BELT?!”

Now most people may think or feel that Sensei Sharkey was on a power trip, commanding respect, that that was not his point at all. When I asked about what he was trying to teach he told me this: “A belt rank is a symbol of your status and identifies the progress of your training. Even though the lesson was on the unimportance of the belt, it was intended to only point out the unimportance of the belt compared to the person.” You see, we impress on the students that they should respect their seniors and their teachers, but what most of us seem to stress is not so much the person, but their belt. As a student you should discard the fact that your teacher is a black belt and ask yourself this: “If I met this person in the street without knowing his rank, would I still hold the same respect?” If the answer is no, then you are not really practicing true respect so much as just showing basic respect due to a position he or she has. 

In some cases this same mode of thinking happens in everyday work life or school life. How many people would say they respect their CEO? Now how many people have actually met their CEO on a personal level? What about your teachers or professors at school? Do you respect them because they are your teacher or do you respect them because they show true character that is worthy of respect? While most of us respect the title, we don’t really show the true respect to the person who earned the title. I was brought up and try to instill in our students and my own children that you respect all people regardless of their position in life, until they have given you a reason not to respect them. Once we begin to strip away titles and positions we begin to judge people by their character and actions. Through that, we begin to exercise the true meaning of respect that we talk so freely of in the school. 

“...the black belt serves as an assumption of respect and knowledge, the true worth of that respect is only solidified by the person’s actions.” – Sensei John Sharkey

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