Since 1976

Dec 2014

What is your Potential Quotient?

As we look towards a new year, I want all of your to strive to achieve your potential. Sounds kind of trite you say. That’s on everyone’s new year’s resolution list. Well, let’s examine what I mean by that.

First off, what IS your potential? How can you tell any individual’s potential? SAT scores? Family background? Money?

In a martial arts class it is equally difficult. Is the person who is naturally flexible going to be the first one in class to make brown belt? How about the student with those “fast twitch” muscle fibers that seem to make him or her the fastest puncher in the class? Will that person be the big tournament star?

Most people would say that your potential lies in the area of your greatest strengths. The outgoing personalities will be great salespeople. The intellectually gifted will become scientists. The athletically gifted the sports stars. If this is true then the only people who can become black belts will be the flexible, the fast, the coordinated. While I don’t doubt that these types have a better chance than the naturally slow and uncoordinated I also firmly believe that all students have potential.

How can we begin to live up to our unlimited potential? How can martial arts instructors help their students rise to the occasion? Did you ever notice how people, no matter how old they are, tend to act like children in front of their parents? Perhaps that’s because our parents still think of us as their kids rather than as the adults we are. We tend to act as others view us. If others see us as children, as stupid, as uncoordinated—then we might just act that way. If, however, we are expected to be responsible, to be able to remember our lessons, to act in a certain way—then we are likely to act in that infinitely better way.

A good instructor will help the student view himself or herself as a person with potential, not only in Karate but in all areas of life. Jhoon Rhee, the father of Amercian Tae Kwon Do and my teacher’s teacher, started the practice or requiring his junior black belts to be on the honor roll at school. He expected that the discipline learned in the martial arts classroom would continue outside of it. And the students responded.

How can we get rid of the bad influences around us? By trying to? Sometimes that works but sometimes it does not. If you are several years out of high school, like I certainly am, you have probably forgotten most if not all of your Algebra. How did that happen? Did you consciously determine to forget it? No, you just focused on other things over a period of time and the forgetting took care of itself.

You have to focus on positive things, not the negative, to achieve your potential. When I am correcting a student in class I don’t say, “You’ll NEVER make blue belt with those lousy forms,” but “Hey, if you can work on your stances to go with that good power of yours I’ll bet you can earn your blue belt soon.” Pat Reilly, the famous basketball coach, says in his book that “sometimes we need adversity to fathom our true depths.” He is talking about potential. The road to realized potential is not a straight one. Of course it can’t be too steep too fast or people will take the first exit. That’s why yellow belt should be pretty easy. The idea is we must be able to climb a few hills before facing the mountains.

That black belt test should be a mountain. And it should be more than a physical mountain. The classic three elements of the martial arts are physical, intellectual, and emotional. The black belt has power in or her life in all three areasIf you haven’t yet earned your black belt I encourage you to watch some black belt promotions if you can. Imagine yourself up there. Remember, the people who say, “I could never imagine myself doing that,” probably never will.

Here’s to you achieving your potential in 2015.

High Dan Black Belt

As you probably know, shodan (show-don) means first degree black belt. Well, actually, literally, it means the first “step” in your black belt journey. That examination for first black is a very physically demanding test, at least in the AKATO it is. My instructor, Allen R. Steen, the “Father of Texas Blood and Guts Karate,” made us go through several hours of, dare I say it, torture to earn that covetted piece of black cloth. But for higher dan ranks he made us develop what he called a “speciality,” some area of the martial arts that we didn’t focus on in our normal training. I did tonfa for my second black, a two man kata with James Toney plus sai for my third. The reason I bring this up is that we have a large higher dan promotion coming up this weekend. We’ll have seventeen martial artists performing for recognition. I say “performing” because it isn’t so much an exam where they might not pass (although I suppose if someone where to “freeze” that might happen) but rather a presentation of what they have accomplished in their many years of training. All these men and women have worked up their “specialities” from weapons to specific self-defense to advanced kata to showcasing their abilities in other arts. This will be an opportunity for them to physically demonstrate their dedication to training.

I would hope that you would be able to attend to join in the celebration of what years of dedicated practice can accomplish. But even if you cannot be present this weekend you will, no doubt, continue to be inspired by these AKATO instructors. I will be blogging more in the coming weeks and months about what a black belt means but if you don’t hold that rank yet—strive to become one, and if you have a shodan, or even a sip dan (look it up)—never rest on your past accomplishments but continue to improve in mind, in body, and in spirit.