Within my life I often find myself on the side where I have the least power, a lower position on a business totem pole, a student at a university, even a man asking a woman out I seem like I get to be the lower side of the equation with the power and control handed over to the other person.
Does this perhaps hold some sway as to why I feel a great sense of relaxation when I stand in changing rooms pulling on the karate uniform known as a Gi, and a great sense of calm and focused purpose when my hands run through the exact and controlled little pattern that binds my belt in the traditional Musubi or belt knot.
However it is odd because underlying this relaxation and calm, focus of purpose and knowledge that the lesson is under my control and guidance is a slow and steady river of concern and worry. Will I be a good instructor, will my students learn well, and safely or will I put my students at risk.
And to calm this river of concerns and worries is not as simple as saying the students can't fight, and demanding they learn, some students have learning difficulties, some come from broken homes, some had ADHD or physical conditions and so for these students to learn I must address each issue and problem not one by one but all at once as I run the lesson. And to keep the students safe I cannot simply deny them the rougher and more physically dangerous elements of the martial arts, because if I deny the students this crucial part of karate then they are not learning karate, they gain false confidence and false ideas of their skills and so they can endanger themselves outside in the world when they mention their art, and cannot backup that mention with skill.
So I learn, I focus my mind in times when I am not teaching to learn about ways to teach, way to control the students, way to address the medical problems and social problems the students come to me with. And so when I pull on my uniform the calmness, focus, and the relaxation cover the river like ice, sealing away the concerns and fears and worries that bubble away under the surface of that ice, forever present, but controlled and calmed, restrained by the ice of calm that coats the surface of the river.
So then with my knowledge and my control and my desire to teach, I step out onto the tatami (training mats), I perform a standing bow, known as a Rei, or Tachi-Rei and inhale the first breath from the dojo floor.
Then the chaos begins, all thoughts of calm and control are washed from the mind and I have a classroom of complete and utter chaos, focused chaos, chaos with a purpose but chaos none the less. I line up students and we bow in, then we warm up and get ready to train.
What training is it that day, do I focus on basic stance, or blocks, strikes or kicks...
Should I train them for the next tournament even if I don't like light contact tournaments...
Should I focus on self defence, strike hard and fast, break grips, and fight to survive...
Should I look to traditional fighting methods and ideas, or traditional kata and combinations...
Should I try and prepare them for their next grading, their next attempt to change the colour of their belt...
So now the class is underway, I have students of different levels practising different things, I have my assistant instructors working with individuals and smaller groups, and all the while I have to balance individual lessons, techniques and skills against the greater picture of the art, against the larger lessons and the physical methods that underpin groups of techniques.
Should I do a lesson on kicks and focus on hip rotation that is the key to half a dozen kicks and allot of punches, but that has nothing to do with another half dozen kicks... Or should I just do kicks...
And so now the lesson is over and I am back in the changing rooms, my belt is off and folded beside me on the bench, the Japanese letters of my name facing up. My uniform comes off one piece at a time and the chaos, the insanity and confusion of the class comes off with it, leaving an empty calm behind it, the river has run dry for another few hours of worry free living at least and the calm ice settles itself happily without the water to disturb it.
My students have left happy, having enjoyed the lesson, and some of them even managed to learn something, a couple asked interesting questions, and one grasped a new technique so much he was helping demonstrate it by the end of the lesson.
And so another class is a success and I am done for at least another day, and another day for the worry and concern about my skill as a teacher to build up, but that's ok, because without that worry about my ability as a teacher I wouldn't try to improve, and I wouldn't keep checking my choices and my reasoning, and so I embrace the worry, even if I cover it over and control it out on the Tatami I still embrace it.
If there is anything martial arts should teach it is that your feelings have a purpose, to give them that purpose is crucial, but to let them control your purpose, to let them have any sway over you is wrong, and so while I give my worry and concern for my students purpose and focus, direction and use, I still hold it under control, cover it in the ice of calm and focus and allow it to be held away for those times when it isn't needed.
Martial arts teaches balance, balance of Strength and Speed, Aggression and Passivity, Movement and Stillness, Rigidity and Flexibility, Calm and Fear, Worry and Control... so I try to hold myself in that balance, to learn the lesson martial arts has been trying to teach me from the beginning, and as I do, I hope my students learn that lesson with me.
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