This is not a post about footwork. It is a post about position.
One of the great things about a martial arts community compared to individual study is that through our interactions with others we learn more about our own art as well as our lives. As another master’s training starts in another few weeks, I had cause to think about one of the great blessings I get out of the times the regional school heads get together.
Not only do I feel perpetually honored (and pleasantly exhausted) to have a chance to learn from KJN Kim, it is a great chance to interact with other heads of martial arts schools in the region. I find it a refreshing experience. I get to see how more experience masters like Master Frankovich and Master Boltz interact with the communities that they have built. I get to hear their own experiences about the business, and about the martial arts life.
And more often then not, I am inspired by their examples to get my act together and do better in one area or another. This week they challenged me to think about my own master, Mr. Kiel Soon Park. I potentially owe that man my life as he taught me enough martial arts to survive gang violence in my High School, but what I saw there taught me most of what I know about dedication, perseverance, and humility.
Mr. Park decided what his standard was, and he followed it no matter what the rest of the world had to say. Only as I have grown older have I gained a better understanding of how difficult this is to accomplish in the broader martial arts world. He decided who he would be and how his school would go, and then he went forward. He didn’t brag or boast. He just pushed ahead and let his art represent himself. A 9th-degree black belt in Judo, he went by Mr. Park, for starters.
So today I am gong to start with an apology. When I was a wandering martial arts bum I would think of myself a the least student of a great teacher. That holds true today. I have spent the day thinking about all the ways that I have failed to live up to Mr. Park’s example. Then I thought about how Mr. Park never gave up on anyone. He might kick you out for fighting, but he never quit on you. Even when I crippled myself, and had to relearn the martial art with a whole new set of physical limitations, he just pushed me to move forward.
So I wanted to apologize publicly to my students for failing to live up to my master’s standards. Then I am going to dedicate myself to changing that. Once I feel I am back up to what he would expect of me, I am going to start challenging my students to follow along. Then, maybe, I’ll feel better about telling you more about the martial artist who changed my life.
So first, I will figure out where I need to stand, as he did. Then I will stand there.
Then I will ask my students to stand with me.
-Special thanks to Master Frankovich for inspiring this blog post. Without martial artists like him, Master Koivisto, and the rest of the Midwest Haidong Gumdo Masters, Northwind Martial Arts LLC would still be a dream and not a reality.