Sunday, September 2, 2012

1....2.....3.... Juuuuummmmmp - Black Belt is Not a Reward

When I was in High School, I was within my service project and board of review of getting my Eagle Scout.  I wanted it badly, but my troop was in Texas, and for 9 months out of the year, I was in Indiana.

Sure, there was support for scouting at my school, but I had a giant sense of loyalty to my troop; they got me this far, and the deserved to see me through it.  Plus, the academic requirements were outrageous, and consuming all my time.  I was in danger of not getting my Eagle Scout.

My father sat me down during the summer break and told me of the giant sacrifice my family had made to get me this close to Eagle Scout.  He told me about how well recognized Eagle Scout was in the world, and still is today, for that matter.  He then told me how much he and my mother wanted me to get my Eagle Scout.  He also taught me that it was not shameful to fail at a task, but it was shameful to quit, for any reason, on something this important to my life, future and attitude.
Then he asked me what I wanted to do.


No he didn't.  

He told me I was going to do the work, and nothing else, if that is what it took to get me focus, until I either was either rejected and became too old or I got Eagle Scout.  There was NO decide for myself.  Never would have occurred to me that there was a choice. They required that I eat, dress, and now buckle down and finish what I started.  I succeeded.

They did NOT help with the project, as it was my eagle scout I was earning.  They supported my effort, and I finished what I had started.  I am grateful even now, though both of my parents are no longer living, for this guidance.  There are very few Eagle Scouts in the world.  I am one of them.  Richard Nixon signed my diploma.  A president of the United States noticed my achievement.  Thanks Dad!

I can say with absolute certainty that if I had jumped from the train 2 steps before it pulled into the station, and not gotten my Eagle Scout, because of the difficulties involved and the lack of support of the troop, I would have lived the rest of a much different poorer life.

Quitting is a habit that we learn in our lives, and it gets harder and harder to break as we age. 

If we were not taught to stay the course, we will most likely teach our children to teach our grandchildren to quit too.  We will build a nation of train jumpers.

What's this got to do with black belt?

for More on Function over Form in the
Martial Arts, See Click HERE.
At my wife's and daughter's school, we have made over 700 black belts in the last 20 years, and we have learned that the worst emotional times are when we invite people to test for black belt.  We don't invite them unless they have a solid chance of passing the test, so we we test them every month from the time they get our last color belt up to the date the first of 5 phases of our black belt test begins.  Since we believe that the final testing for Black Belt must be about function, rather than form, it is difficult and challenging and thorough. I can recall only 3 errors in the last 20 years, where we invited people who were not ready to test, and two of those stepped in up anyway. We got ready down pat.

Yet, when we make the invitations, there is always a few people who doubt our experience, and translate that doubt in to doubting our sincerity and desire for them to succeed.  To be fair, it has either never happened or rarely happened in the Adult Classes.  It is almost always the parent, or parent first, that objects.  This baffles my mind.  We express the difficult path that I had in getting to black belt, and the absolute assurance that no one who is wearing a black belt cares any longer about how long it took. And yet, we have to field the complaints.

We teach the journey rather than the destination.  We actually care about the students. Yet we have people who threaten to quit and actually do quit, right before they reach the goal.  I have never understood how they can do this after spending 3, 4 or 5 years listening and watching us teach.  Yet, this micro minority is always there.  I have failed to reach them.  It almost overwhelms the positive of those we are testing.

They jump from the train when every black belt in the house can tell they are but a few steps from the station.  It breaks my heart.


Today in church, our pastor was talking about Agape Love, God like love.  He encouraged us to emulate and follow our role model, God, in dealing with all people.  To know "when to be gentle and when to be strong."  In the Black Belt world, that means knowing when to invite someone and when to hold them back.  The very best I can do is communicate to the students, and the children's parents, that they have value, un-measurable value, unique value, to us and to the world.  Then invite them when they are ready.  This is one of those situations when you must do what is the best for the students, with Agape, and let it go.

To those of you who are Black Belts, congratulations, you stayed on a very tough train to hold on to, and you have joined a group of people who are even more recognized and few than Eagle Scouts.  I am proud of my Eagle Scout, yet I live my Black Belt.

To those of you who teach martial arts, and do not bend, and give the students your very best, even when it hurts, You are my heroes.  Keep it up, and we will change the world with the students you have taught.

To those of you who are still on the train, riding toward Black Belt, don't jump off, and join the majority of the people in the world in angry disappointment and mediocrity.  1 out of a 1000 who start training in the martial arts gets a black belt.  Be the one, and not the 999 who have learned how to quit. Don't jump.

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