Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Winner V The 1st Place Loser

This last weekend we had our 19th annual Student Recognition Banquet.  At this banquet, for the last 10 years or so, we invite the last few students that have not yet been invited to test for black belt who are ready.  That part is always cool.  This year we invited some people I have been hoping would make the cut for a test or two, and was very excited that they made it.  The one shown here is one of the best teaching assistant children students we have ever had.  We invited another who for two or three tests was physically ready, but his attitude was off.  At the last boot camp for red/black belts he had an injured ankle.  Rather than missing the class, which he could not perform in due to his ankle, he bowed in, and did push ups and sit ups for 90 minutes without stop, just to be with his class mates.  Love that awesome black belt attitude.  The list goes on.  I love that feeling when someone perseveres and arrives.  It rocks. They rock. 

However, every few years or so, there is someone who thinks they were robbed, and should be a black belt.  I know that happens in every school, but we try very hard to prevent the type of misunderstanding from their first belt on.  

This was one of those years, where the one person you knew who was going to get upset, got upset.  I hate when that happens.  This parent was teed off that her child was not invited, even though she was told he was up for testing at the next test in nine months.  This parent started attacking other parents and teaching team members on facebook chat immediately.  One huge complaint was that the young man mentioned above "sucked" compared to her son.  Apart from the fact that this is not true, and I could not find any black belt or staff member who thought it was true (I checked), we had already spent hours making sure she knew that we don't compare one student to another.  Never have.  Don't want to.  (I checked with others, because it is easy to lose sight of the facts when faced with certain attack, and I wanted to make sure we were not defending ourselves for the sake of defending ourselves.)  She attacked friends, fellow teachers, other parents...  they all told her the same thing.  He was not ready.  

Worse, they decided to quit, 9 months from reaching the goal.  The main reason was that we don't allow our color belt students to attend tournaments alone, and our team selected a circuit that has many teenagers his age in it, so he has to struggle to win.  This parent even went so far to ask us to falsify the age of her child, so he could fight in a younger division so he could get some experience as a winner, because it was unfair for him.  She likes the other circuit because he gets 3rd or 4th place there, in divisions for 2, 3 or 4 people. (I remember when that was cool ..  )

I get that.  However, this is his third season in tournaments, and a 3rd place in a field of 3 is the loser.  In the first few attempts it makes sense to look at it as you where there, and other were not, but after 3 years, marble and plastic are unnecessary.  Challenge is.  Defeating someone, anyone matters.  One of my instructors used to use a quote from a source I no longer remember: "2nd place is the first Place Loser."  I don't really believe that.  For sure, if my goal is to be the best, there is no other way to look at it, but if my goal is facing and defeating challenge, then beating anyone is a better than the plastic, so 2nd place in a division of 3 is ok.  2nd in a division of 20 is awesome.  1st is better.  At that same tournament I got 4th place in senior black belts.  I was happy I could do the form and face the music (judging).  I deplore getting 4th out of 4.  I lost.  I gave the trophy slip to a child whose trophy was broken by a bystander.  I learned what I needed to improve.  I am working on it.  I expect it to take 2 years or so to get my form back, since I really have not attempted tournaments for a decade or so. I work on it every day.  I hate losing.

She wants to feel the rush of winning without her son doing the work. She even told me he took 6 hours of classes a week, when he averaged 1 of curricular karate, and 2.5 of all classes.  I failed her.  I got a pretty cool kid for a 5 or 6 years; that we brought all the way to the door of black belt, and he was ready to jump through the door, and I did not know the words to use to prevent her from teaching her son to lose when angry.  

I hate this part of what I do.  We are supposed to be all things to all people.  The truth never changes, but we are supposed to be skilled enough to prevent this.  I have someone leaving our school thinking that being the 1st place Loser is good.  That almost doing it is acceptable.  I failed the child because I can't teach the mother.

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