To My Students and Their Families:
This posting is about a note written to me, from someone I respect, a teacher and friend of mine, Tom Callos. I’m including it here because it reveals, I think, the kind of training, advice, and direction that I’m involved with, as a martial arts teacher.
Usually, I’m sending notes or talking with all of you about what I want, but I don’t think I’ve shared with you the kind of things that are asked of me. So, as a sort of “for your information” item, I’m sharing this with you.
Instructions for members of the 100 and the UBBT, from Tom Callos
You probably know that my work isn’t about your black belt test or simply having a martial arts “association.” At first glance that is what the UBBT and the 100 might appear to be. No, my/our work is about re-crafting the mission, the purpose, and the intent of the martial arts “industry” –but wait, it isn’t just about that either.
The work, from a big picture perspective, is about re-crafting the role of the “martial arts teacher” in the world. It is about making the martial arts school a place where education about peace, responsibility, sustainability, environmentalism, compassion, and activism are taught, encouraged, and practiced.
This work is about taking all of the things the martial arts claims to promote –and seeing those ideas manifest themselves in all sorts of new, relevant, powerful, useful, and quantifiable ways.
All of the martial arts organizations that currently exist, like NAPMA, MAIA, EFC, The WTF, The JKA, and you-name-it, are valuable to the martial arts world. Each serves some purpose, whether it is to promote competition, distribute business resources and information, or collect tuition. The UBBT and the 100 aren’t in competition with these groups, as we are (currently) operating from a completely different place.
While business, competition, collecting money, and staying informed about trends and happenings within the martial arts industry are a part –and sometimes a big part –of our work, these things don’t adequately represent the soul of our work. We are here to bring peace, compassion, understanding, and awareness to the world –which, some might argue, is the potential and obligation of every man and woman on the planet.
Speaking personally, I am not a student of the man or woman driving the Porsche, wearing the Rolex, living in the mansion, dressing in Prada and Armani, and living a life focused on hording, consuming, and personal pleasure. While all of these things aren’t necessarily evil, I simply do not see them as outward signs of authentic achievement and success. But I am deeply moved, impressed, and inspired by men and women who hear a higher calling; people who take action to make the world a better place, people who act like you might expect Jesus or Buddha to act, if they walked the Earth today.
The point here is that I am calling on you, Mr. and Ms. Martial Arts Teacher, to be something more than a business-person, more than a self-defense instructor, more than a competitor, and more than a teacher of the art of __________ (fill in whatever you call your method). I’m asking you to be a role model for the modern and cognizant citizen. I am asking you and expecting you (if you’re drawn to the work) to:
Teach peace education, in all of its forms, to your students and community –and to do it alongside the things you currently teach. In the future, every school will teach as much about peace and with the same thoroughness and repetition that it teaches the intricacies of its various martial arts. I would think that it shouldn’t be much longer that you, the Master Teacher of your school, would be the most vocal and proactive peace education advocate in your community.
Teach Environmental Self-Defense. I am asking you, as a very first step, to require all of your green belt testers to perform and record 5 to 10 “acts of environmental self-defense” as a part of their testing curriculum. I think you should be a living example of someone who is fully aware of his or her impact on the environment –and as proactive about reducing their impact on the planet as possible. All it requires is self-discipline and awareness, which is something your training was supposed to give you –so use it for the good of mankind.
Engage in Project Based Leadership Training (PBLT). Leadership training in the martial arts world is all too often a sham. Schools that sell leadership courses are often lacking in any real, quantifiable program. The idea is right, but the methods are lacking, haphazard, or non-existent. PBLT is about taking what you teach on the mat and seeing it used in the real world. I expect each of you to engage and record your own projects so that we may prove their value, prove our intent, and inspire the next generation of martial artists to follow suit.
Be a part of this movement. I expect you to engage in the team effort –despite your schedule, your obligations, your troubles, and your opinions. If YOU can’t reach out and connect, if YOU can’t make time, if YOU can’t do what most people can’t find the wherewithal to do…then WHO WILL? WHO CAN? If not YOU, who has the inner-strength, the heightened awareness, the self-discipline, the focus, and the perseverance to do it? With this message today, you have the opportunity to either demote yourself to the rank of fitness teacher/business owner/self-defense instructor, or you can promote yourself to Martial Arts Master Teacher of the 21st Century. We have a mission, a purpose, and calling to fulfill.
Note: I may be “the leader” of this “thing” at the present time, but I expect you to share the position in the near future. I expect you to take ownership of the ideas –and to stay connected in a way (a most difficult way for most people) that puts the work and the mission above business, above petty misunderstandings, above disagreements, above style and system. If YOU can’t do this, if WE can’t do it –then who can?
Specifically, I expect you to contribute, to be vocal, to help your fellow teammates, to support our activities, and to DO AND BE what it is we are working on. Start with our website, YOUR journals, and our activities. If you don’t participate, it’ could all go way –and you can then go back to the “conventions” to find your inspiration and team.
Eat like a champion. What you consume makes a difference in your own health and for the planet. I fully expect you to eliminate 90% (minimum) of any and all processed junk from your diet. We’ve accepted dietary mediocrity, for a number of reasons, for most of our lives, but the time is now to change. You must serve as a role model for a generation of people who are eating themselves sick. It is the very least I would expect from a real master.
Forget the current accepted business model in the martial arts world –as it is today. Our potential is so much greater than what we currently see. There are SO MANY tools we could be using, so much more we could be asking for, so much more we could be adding to the requirements of our various belt levels. We do what we do in the martial arts world at the moment because it was the best we could muster under the circumstances. We had no idea what the world was to become, what problems we would be faced with, what technologies would come to light. Our teachers didn’t always have a way to make us wake up to what they were thinking, learning, and experiencing –and we weren’t paying attention anyway, as there are some things that almost everyone tries to tell you –but that can’t be understood until you have enough experience.
We are NOT breaking tradition –we are doing the very work that those old men and women, those old masters, would be proud to see us do. When the founder of modern karate said, “The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of the participant,” wasn’t he talking to us? When the founder of Aikido wrote, “Peace originates with the flow of things — its heart is like the movement of the wind and waves. The Way is like the veins that circulate blood through our bodies, following the natural flow of the life force. If you are separated in the slightest from that divine essence, you are far off the path,” wasn’t he speaking of something outside of the dojo, outside of the ring? Of course he was.
I am asking you to BE the ultimate black belt. To redefine what it is to be a master teacher, a martial artist, and a leader. The UBBT and the 100 must be made up of people who are willing to put their martial arts training to work –to the test. ARE THE MARTIAL ARTS only about war and war-related issues, or are the martial arts about life? Is the practice of the martial arts supposed to bring about any sort of clarity –or is the UFC the highest manifestation of skill for the martial arts teacher?
I charge for these programs because this is all I do –and I must support myself and my family. But for me, this work is not my “model for financial success.” My “job” is to ask a whole bunch of martial arts people to take a small part of their time, energy, and resources and put them together to win the championship of a CAREER, A LIFE, WELL LIVED. In a big way, I am simply looking around the “classroom” and asking my classmates if we can tackle “this job” (whatever “this job” is). I think “this job” is making this martial arts journey of ours, this “thing” we have dedicated our lives to –something we can be proud of. I think it is about making this all mean something, something important, something that our most esteemed heroes would look at and say, “Hey, good work there, my friend.”
When I was coming up the ranks as a martial arts competitor and performer, I was all about pushing my body to its limits. Now, with 37 years of marital arts study –and being “a senior teacher” of the martial arts, I am all about expanding my potential as a teacher, a citizen, a man, a husband, a father, a part of humanity, a student of Parks of Gandhi of Schweitzer of King of Carson of Mandela of Hahn and of so many other people who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to do what it needed, what is right, what is within their/our potential.
This is what I am expecting of you, too.
You have it within you. This is our community –for support, for reminders, for help, and friendship. It’s almost nothing –and yet, it is, potentially, so much.
To My Students and Their Families: