I came across a great article on LinkedIn by Kyle Poole.
It tells the story about how he was moving up from biking for fun to competitive racing. One of the threads of my commentary over the past few weeks has been my decision to try and pursue a master’s rank in Haidong Gumdo, but I have not “shaved my legs” so to speak in my own life.
Kyle Poole’s post talks about hiding behind his amateur status to make it all right if he fails, and how even with passion and dedication, if he wasn’t treating himself like a professional there was no reason for anyone else to, either.
And to try and become a Master is to try and become a professional.
The dream is flashy and fun, the end of the training montage in the films where we get to do crane stance in tournaments and not get knocked on our butts.
But here are the standards of true professionalism as I have received it.
A true swordsman practices two times a day. -Musashi, Japanese Sword God
The black belts in this school do every form three times every day. -Mr. Bill Hannah, Chil Dan Master Instructor, TKD
You want be strong, be healthy, that 200 situps, 100 push-ups every day. -Gwanjangnim Park Kiel Soon
After the first 3000 times you do your form, you start to see your enemy. After 10,000 times, your audience starts to see your enemies. – Sabumnim Robert Frankovich
“You go any Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do school, you do well. But first, you lose belly.” -Mr. Park Kiel Soon.
“That’s why I run five miles every other day, and I don’t get to eat what I want to. It isn’t any fun, but this is a warrior society that we have joined, and that black belt isn’t the end, it is the beginning.” -paraphrase of Chief Master Parnell.
“Uniform weight for your height is 208 lbs.” -The United States Air Force. (Let’s say I’ve got 40 pounds to go…)
“You want a new technique, a flashy new toy, but do you know how the Masters train? They spend an hour working on basic cuts.” -Chief Master Parnell
My unprofessional excuses: I’m old, I’m too set in my old ways, my poor legs are too crippled, it will be expensive, and I’m not sure I want to run a traditional dojang.
And the fact that if I want to be a professional, that means first overcoming my own obstacles. I can no longer run 6 miles a day like I did when I was 29? Well, my knees can handle the exercise bike just fine. I can’t do a low a stance as Archer? All right. I can do the best stance that I can!
Karate by Jesse has an excellent article called “The Black Belt Myth (What They Never Told You about Being a Black Belt)”.
Fundamentally, it means that once you finish your test, you realize that you are who you have already always been. It is a recognition of what you have achieved not leveling up or getting a new power in a video game.
Putting the two together, there is no reason for anyone to take me seriously about my goals unless I take my goals seriously. I can never expect to wear the blue dobak until I already am the sort of person who deserves one. It isn’t about paying the fee, or spending the hours, it is about being the sort of person who needs to have the blue dobak because he has already earned it.
It’s not a fun or immediately rewarding truth. It doesn’t look like doing splits, or cutting fruit while blindfolded.
It looks like paint the fence, sand the floor, to train until your arms barely move, and then come back the next day and train all over again. It isn’t glorious. It doesn’t involve a lot of idolizing students. I think it means spending most days limping and looking beat to hell, and being glad about it because that means I’m on the right path.
I like the original Karate Kid much more than the other, for two reasons. First, you can actually learn a functional set of blocks and counter-punch (some of the most effective techniques in martial arts for a reason) from them. They actually work. Second, training is pain, it’s frustrating, and like Daniel Laruso you can’t see yourself improve, or really see what you’ve become unless you spend a lot of time recording yourself, break your own fourth wall.
And to remember that the goal of pursuing mastery is mastery, not the rank, not the prestige, but for me it is the ability to do two things.
First, stand in a park and do the forms correctly, well, and know I have done so.
Second, to bring along those who wish, and make them better than I ever will be.