Yesterday my master showed me a picture of a black belt with my name on it, right behind the title master. It is not yet my belt, the title is not yet my vocation.
That belt is not the goal I have set for myself, not because the Nerd Posse chose me to teach, but because that belt, that title is not a goal.
The belt, the title, is the path I have chosen to pursue.
I recently watched an episode of Star Wars: Rebels which summed something up nicely: In effect, the Jedi tells his padawan that he will teach him. He may fail, or his student may fail, but he will not try to teach, he will do it.
In modern terms, this is the path to prepare to teach, and then to teach. Haidong Gumdo is worth the commitment because it is a soft style dedicated to self-improvement. I love its grace, fluidity, and beauty. I love the forms, stillness and self-discipline, and the progress. I love the fact that I get to train with arthritics, seventy-year-olds, and other middle-aged men and women like myself. This really is a martial art for everyone.
I love it. I love being part of it. I would gladly spend the time and effort to help share those wonderful bits with others.
But that isn’t enough.
Chief Master Parnell gave a great lecture (summarized by Master Frankovich here) in the fall seminar about the role of the black belt as a path, as a commitment to train harder, to live the martial way, a view of earthly virtue that is worth pursuing.
I have seen my name on a master’s belt, and I am daunted…
But I am daunted in the martial way.
When I stepped into a ring in sparring, I did not always win, but I did not back down from the challenge. I used to be better than average, and almost never the best (I have 1 first and 2 third places in my career as a martial artist, every other time I have taken second place in every competition I have ever entered). I did not know if I was going to prevail against my opponent, or if I would lose, but I knew that I would fight.
I may not succeed in my master’s quest. Obviously the world Haidong Gumdo Association, Range Martial Arts, and the nascent Northwind Martial Arts can find someone better than me. My ego and self-worth has never been about being unbeatable, or about being the best. We may not be able to attract enough students to be financially successful, and the business may fail. I remember Chief Master Parnell mentioning how he had friends who had failed morally and lost their position. I may grow sick, get a job in the cities, or aliens could invade the Earth.
None of that is within my control.
I believe I can succeed. I believe that I can learn enough to teach, to memorize the techniques, the talking points, and the lessons well enough to pass it on. I believe that mastery is more than that.
I believe that to truly follow a martial art contains physical fitness, self-defense, self-improvement, skill, and discipline, but it takes those things and incorporates them into something better, bolder, and more worthy than the sum of its parts. I don’t think that martial arts is the light of the world, but it adds a beautiful hue to the light that we are given, and helps us to shine in great ways.
In the words of my own personal faith, “Have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” -1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV. The beliefs are not in contradiction. Northwind Martial Arts has asked me to become an instructor, so that now follows under the command, whatever we find for our hands to do, we are to do it with all our might. Now I have found a sword in my hands, and I will practice with all my might, not just in self-love or ego, but because that is the best way to help share it with others!
I find much value in the physical training of Haidong Gumdo. The USA Haidong Gumdo Association has an incredible sense of fellowship. They physical training is simultaneously demanding and gentle enough that young bucks in the prime of their health can flip around like heavily-armed whirlwinds and the old and crippled can flow like quiet streams (with freaking katanas).
I love this art. I love being part of it. I want to share it with others. It has helped give me some direction and focus through some challenges over the past year, and I want to share all that it has given me with others.
Technically, I think I am capable of becoming a master. Financially, well… Ip Man used to teach on a roof by his apartment, and we’re starting in my buddy’s yard, but we’re starting. Mentally and spiritually, that is the tough question. Can I lead? Can I still inspire others to follow me as I once did? I spent seven years in outdoor ministries, professionally inspiring others. I even ran a Bible Camp once. To borrow the phraseology from the other side of the Mason-Dixon line, “I used-ta could.” Only time will tell if I still have that within me or if the season has passed.
That is my challenge, the uncut mat in front of me, the armored specter that lifts its sword and waits for me in the ring. I have stepped into the ring, and bowed in when I submitted my application. The potential reward of establishing a Haidong Gumdo community in the northwest is worth the risk, worth the challenge.
The first few cuts are coming soon: Training with Chief Master Parnell! Training with Master Kim! In fact, any chance to get together with the state-wide crew is a blessing and a challenge that I relish!
So my master’s quest continues!
Updates as events unfold!