May 17, 2018, Israel
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Sensei Lawrence is rebuking the class, insulting the students, no mercy! He is the Bad Ass, the Tough Guy, the ultimate warrior. Students are quitting, the class size is reduced to half.
And then he has a vision.
He sees himself as a 12 year old boy. Now he is the one on the receiving end of insults and abuse from a person in a more dominant and powerful position. Perhaps that made him strong, perhaps that made him resilient but it also made him bitter. He is traumatized by his past. It was not a positive experience. Ultimately this bitter abuse did not contribute to making him a healthy adult. He is not a yet successful adult. He still has lessons to learn and internalize.
He comes back to class, with a different attitude. Now he sees in his students himself, I was you. Now he understands them better. Yes, he wants to make them tough but he must take another approach. He sees their insecurities, their fears, their dreams. He understands that with the correct approach he can have a huge impact on their lives.
Now when he looks at them he sees himself. Now when he looks at them he sees a young person who is really trying but still struggling, still facing many obstacles. Now he understands that their lack of success, their lack of "Bad Ass" is not due to lack of desire. Even young artists needs grooming and guidance.
Most martial arts movies and Krav Maga advertisements tend to create this idealized romantic vision of the ultimate bad ass warrior. The brilliance of the film Karate Kid and the series Cobra Kai is that they look at the truly human side of martial arts training. They transcend the martial arts genre.
When I was young I thought that all those cool choreographed martial arts movie scenes were the real deal. As I advanced through decades of training I understood them for what they were; entertainment.
Let's get real.
I have trained with some of the "Baddest", toughest fighters on the planet. A list of these men would be a "Whos' Who" of martial arts legends. None were abusive to me. None were insulting, none ever deliberately hurt me.
Among the Japanese, Kyokushin Karate was known as the "hard karate". When I would be discussing karate training with other martial artists and they would ask, what style do you train in? I would answer, Kyokushin Karate with Oyama. The room would turn silent. Even the Japanese would back off and say...Respect, that is the toughest Karate.
And yet I recall my arrival. Sempai Terrao humbly greeting me and welcoming me to the dojo. Sensei Romero offering constant support and encouragement. Even the grand master Oyama himself always had a kind word. And these guys were tough, very tough.
And now as my students stand in front of me I remember. I was you. I was once standing where you are standing now. I too was a beginner, I was new, I recall putting on the white belt. I recall my first stripe on my belt. I was you.
I know that what looks easy for the instructor can be confusing for the student. I was you.
And I know how far I have come, and I know how far you can go. I was you.
When we look at our students we must remember that we were once standing in their shoes, we were them, and we must again put ourselves in those shoes.
Look at your student and say, I was you, and perhaps someday that student will be standing where you are now. He will become you just as you were once him.
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