THE BEGINNINGS




Why and how does anyone get started in the martial arts in the first place?  Would it be for the mystique of an easily misunderstood art.  Or, for the parents of a child, desiring some discipline instilled, that they by themselves are having problems doing.  What about the desire to be able to accomplish things that seem almost impossible on the surface to accomplish by the common ordinary individual.  Maybe, it would be for the physical conditioning that the true martial arts require.  Or, most of all, it is probably the desire to acquire the ability to defend one's self.  I have even had what I qualify as "Bullies" wanting to join classes, but after I explain the rules (Hansoku) and the dojo penalties for violating those rules, they generally are no longer interested.  Even if they do start and join for a short while, the inability to control anyone in the new environment is too belittling and one day they just fail to show up.  It's a real shame too, because these are the one's who could truly benefit from the participation.  The only problem would be controlling them during the change, and making them think that the "control" is their idea and desire.  For whatever, the reason for joining classes, it is generally not for the purpose of developing the proper attitude for today's society, for most individuals do not see anything wrong with their attitude as it is.  The problem must be with everyone else.  And most definitely, I have never had anyone say that "they wanted to join the arts to acquire the calmness and relaxation that is one of the final results of extended training.  For whatever the true reason, pride generally prevents the truth from being brought forth, in the beginning.  It's not that they don't want to tell the actual truth, but that they feel embarrassed sometimes to confess true intimate feelings to a stranger.  I can understand this very well, because I myself half-truthed my way in to the arts.  Pride is a very strong entity.  No one in general wants to admit to any weakness that they might have, especially fear or the ability to be easily intimidated.  When asked how this is overcome, I tell them that it is just a very gradual process of changing your attitude and developing a high level of self-confidence.  I went from (as a white belt) being extremely anxious about kumite, to almost looking forward to it more than anything else.  My opponents went from being different sized (actual) individuals, to appearing as only one size and all of them "smaller" than me.  I was in control, and that is doing something since I only average around 140 pounds in weight and blind in one eye.

Now the real "kicker"!    Why after getting started in the arts and advancing to the point of becoming an instructor, would anyone wish to teach something that takes "second fiddle" to everything else in the lives of most students?  If a young boy playing on a baseball team and "participating" in a karate class has home work from school to do, he will forget the homework and the karate class to go play ball.  If the same young man has home work and a karate class, he will forget the karate class and do his homework.  If this same young man has a headache, he will still go play ball instead of the karate class.  If there is no ball game, he will stay home with the head ache, instead of going to karate class.  If grandma is having a birthday party, the young man will go play ball , if there is a game.  If there is no game, he will go to grandma's birthday party instead of the karate class.  These examples and many, many more have proven out over the years that I and other instructors that I know have witnessed.  In most cases, it is the parents that make the above mentioned decisions.  If the martial arts classes aren't worth as much as the other things mentioned above, why are they even signed up?  I have asked this question and have gotten some really "off the wall" reasons.  One is, "that the team depends on him".  So I ask, "what about his martial arts team and friends"?  All I get is a shoulder shrug.  Here we are teaching a system that "preaches": courtesy, respect and brotherhood among friends and they throw this philosophy right in the face of the one's who should be receiving it. Now I could write a whole book on these examples and excuses for non participation in scheduled classes. But, neither you or I would have any better answers to the reasons for absenteeism.  It is just a fact of life.  The only thing we can do, is to just keep accepting the way it is and go on doing what we enjoy, almost more than anything else in life.  No matter what, it is a true joy to watch an awkward beginner advance up through the belt grades and turn into a "winning" martial artist.  There is a real sense of pride, you get, when they are no longer falling around, getting so winded that they aren't able to stand up and work into a full training session after which, they tell you that they feel a lot better now than when they came in that evening.  It's really great, when you run into some young man's parents on the street and they come up to you and say:  "I don't know what you do in that class, but keep it up.  "Johnnys" been going around the house saying thank you, excuse me, yes sir, no maam and etc.".  What we do, does "rub" off and if we can save just one person in our lifetime of instruction, the whole time has been worth it.

Now to get into why and how I started into the martial arts.  Growing up as a kid, I was a very small young man.  The fact of the matter was, I was the smallest boy in the class at school and quite shy.  These two combinations, can cause a lot of trouble, embarrassment and heart ache.  I was "picked on" quite a bit and would have just rather forgot about school and "hibernated".  I didn't though and continued on until graduation.  In 1960, I purchased a Karate book and tried studying it, but I might as just as well have studied a book on going to the moon.  After joining the Army in 1966 and going through boot camp, I was introduced to Jujitsu, which aroused my interest a little bit, but still was unable to do anything about it.  Time went by and a new community center was built in our town.  At about the time our son Chad turned 8 years old, a martial arts class was starting in this new center.  After Chad heard about the classes, he thought that he would like to join.  Considering the way things were getting at the time, we felt that it was probably a pretty good idea, so we paid the first month's dues and signed him up.  After about 2 weeks into the program, he decided to quit.  Well, I'm a very frugal individual, so instead of wasting 2 weeks of dues, I decided to finish out the month myself.  There was also another reason for me wanting to try these classes.  I was at the time partially paralyzed in the left arm, shoulder and hand.  Due to the same industrial accident that caused this, also left me totally blind in the left eye.  This looked like, possibly some very good physical therapy, as nothing else seemed to work, including therapy at the hospital.  I introduced myself to the Sensei (Sensei Robert Leisure), discussed my problems and to my surprise, he welcomed me to try it out.  He was very positive about the challenge.  Well one thing led to another and eventually after more than 4 years of training, with this Sensei, I acquired my 1st degree Black-belt (Shodan).  During this time frame, I was of course still blind in the left eye, but had acquired the use of my left hand, arm and shoulder.  This new experience in my life had made a believer in me and I continued on.  The martial arts and I have been inseparable ever since.