Tuesday, February 16, 2016

It's Not camaraderie, It's Family

Yesterday we had the part of our Black Belt Testing life cycle were we test their understanding of their lineage, their ability under attack and most importantly, their understanding of the breadth and depth of the specialized community they have joined. This is not about how awesome our testing cycle is, though, it is awesome, but rather, it is about the realization that we have arrived at a destination we have been pursuing since we opened our doors over 20 years ago.

Our black belt testing cycle contains 5 sections, the first through third have been physical, with the first being the most emotionally demanding.  If you ask anyone what the hardest part of their journey to Black Belt was, they will tell you phase 1.  Everyone, literally, has a moment in phase 1 where
they really don't think it is worth it anymore.  We do that deliberately.  We want them to face that moment of doubt, and hopefully overcome it.  The 4th phase was, up until the last few tests, a written test on general knowledge of their art and their lineage, and an Oral test.  This was also the first phase that is "open" to the public, in that they can invite their family to the oral test, and they must invite a community leader that has influenced their life. We did this not so much to brag to the world, but to fight the 70's stereo type what martial arts is.  We have let the community see what our adult and children black belts think a black belt is, mentally and physically, so that they can help spread the news.  It's worked.

Non-the-less, we altered the test this time, by giving them a question in advance and having them
perform a weapons demonstration of their choice, fight off a senior black belt attacking them in a Red Man Suit, the Question and Breaking. I was surprised at the result.  We hope that what we have done to, for and with them would leave the feeling of family, or camaraderie.  We hope that they will carry this from our family into theirs, into their communities and into the world.  We seldom get a glimpse of whether or not we have succeeded. This time we did. Our question for this phase 4 was, "Describe how camaraderie had helped them to and through their black belt test thus far." One of the adult candidates told us that the question was not deep enough.  She went on to say that our teaching team, staff and owners had created an extension to their family.  We had helped her, and her teenage daughter, achieve in a time that was
difficult in her families life. That we had provided a safe place for success to grow. That we had provided, for lack of a better word, Love.  Wow.  But that was only one of 10.  The others echoed the same themed.  We encouraged, challenged, demanded, befriended, awed, grew and lead them to where they were now, strong enough to walk through the door, the tests, on their own power.  The recognized the contribution of all of their class mates and families as well.  One candidate even witnessed to her faith, and being a person of faith, this struck me deeply as well.

I was astounded.  I still am.  This is how you know that you are doing with your life what you were created to do.  Thank you to our instructors, our students and particularly our black belts.  As we help you change your life, you have helped us change ours.  Tang Soo.

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